Cowboys must stick to draft board

IRVING, Texas – Let me start the post this way: I love Dan Graziano’s work. Somehow he keeps track of four teams in the NFC East and seems to be able upset fans of all four at the same time, so he’s doing something right.

But I think Dan is over the top in the view that the Cowboys must take an offensive lineman with their first-round pick. In today’s #bloggermock, Dan picked Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker with the 18th pick.

Fluker may well be the Cowboys' pick Thursday, but the vibe is they don’t have Fluker that high on their board.

Here’s what the Cowboys should do: take the best player regardless of the position.

If at No. 18 the Cowboys’ draft board has an offensive lineman as the 29th-best player -- and that’s not how they configure their draft board, by the way, but just go with it for now -- don’t reach on that player.

When you reach, you’re taking a lesser player and end up with a lesser roster overall.

In a draft that does not have the “sexy” skill players, I don’t see one of the team’s top line targets making it to No. 18.

The Cowboys have taken one offensive lineman in the first round since 1981 and that was Tyron Smith two years ago. They have found players like Larry Allen, Flozell Adams and Andre Gurode in the second round.

But the Cowboys' problems along the offensive line are not because they haven’t taken enough first-round picks. The problem is they can’t identify offensive lineman in the early and middle rounds where other teams have.

Despite the last year-plus, Doug Free (fourth, 2007) had a decent enough run, but the Cowboys have received nothing or next to nothing from David Arkin (fourth, 2011), Robert Brewster (third, 2009), James Marten (third, 2007), Jacob Rogers (second, 2004) and Stephen Peterman (third, 2004).

For months the Cowboys agonize over their draft board. They try to fit everybody in where they believe they should go. If you just skip that process on draft day, then you have wasted energy, time and money.

There is no doubt that the Cowboys have a need along the offensive line. There’s no doubt they should take an offensive lineman at No. 18 -- if he's the best player.

But “should” and “must” are two different things.

Here’s my must: stick to the board.