Part One of Cowboys Nation's weekly chat with The National Football Post's Wes Bunting looks at draft rumors involving Dallas' first pick, players with medical and character concerns, 2nd and 3rd round options and the top fullback prospects:
Cowboys Nation: I want to follow up on the Aldon Smith rumors. On the weekend you tweeted that you've heard the Cowboys really like Aldon Smith. Yesterday, I saw Michael Lombardi say the same thing on the NFL Network. Can you say more about what you have heard?
Wes Bunting: I've heard they have some interest. They like Aldon Smith and they like Tyron Smith and those are the two players who could be the pick. That's about as much as I can say. They like a pass rusher and they like an offensive tackle and I agree. I think they're both excellent players.
CN: You've talked about Aldon Smith for a while. I think you mentioned back when the underclassmen declared and DaQuan Bowers was the hot name that you liked Smith's rush better. That gets me to question two. Bowers re-tested his knee and it does not seem to have gone as well as he expected. Can you add more to what's already on your site?
WB: People are worried that's it's a chronic knee, an arthritic knee, and that it could affect him long-term. That's the big concern. I don't think he falls outside the top 20, but I think he falls outside the top 10 now, and Aldon Smith and Robert Quinn will be the beneficiaries.
The Cowboys think Aldon Smith has some Demarcus Ware in him, and that's why they're so intrigued, and I've heard they like him more than Robert Quinn. I'm not sure Quinn would be there anyway at pick 9.
CN: Did another other players re-test besides Bowers, who had a lot riding on their new medicals? Are there any other big medical risks?
WB: I heard one, but I don't have a name for him. I was told there's a top 100 rated player who has a career-threatening back injury, but I could not get a name for him.
CN: Are there any other wafflers, for medical reasons or character reasons?
WB: Jimmy Smith continues to be the guy. He's not going to fall as many people has suggested. That's a bit inconvenient for the Cowboys. Ben Ijalana's fine. His legs checked out. The one player still iffy is Deunta Williams, the North Carolina safety. He had a severely broken leg in their bowl game and that's still a big concern.
CN: Where does he rate now, because of the injury, 4th to 5th round?
WB: I'd say that's pretty fair, 4th to 5th.
CN: You had your two round mock and I have to say I liked the picks, but it left me shaking my head. You had the Cowboys taking Tyron Smith in the 1st and Brandon Harris in the 2nd, and I'm okay with those two selections.
I was shaking my head because a lot of the players we've talked about as potential 2nd rounder or as potential 3rd round options at pick 71 fly off the board. In the 10 selections after Dallas takes Harris at 40, Martez Wilson, Aaron Williams, Christian Ballard, Mason Foster, Stefan Wisniewski and Jon Baldwin all go. They're all gone by pick 50. You even have Kenrick Ellis, a defensive lineman we've talked about for a long time, going at pick 37.
Then, in the 51-60 range, Marcus Cannon, Will Rackley, Titus Young, Rahim Moore all go. Man, give us some hope for the third pick! Who do you have in that next 10-12. Who were the names you considered for the back of round 2 who didn't make it in?
WB: Let's see. I have Ricky Stanzi, the QB from Iowa; Quan Sturdivant, the linebacker; Stephen Schilling and Jon Barnes, two interior offensive linemen. Marvin Austin, the DT from North Carolina; Johnny Patrick, the CB from Louisville; Quinton Carter the S from Oklahoma; Rodney Hudson, the interior lineman from Florida State; Dontay Moch, the LB from Nevada. That's the next tier, starting off.
CN: I want to ask about Stefan Wisniewski, because I've seen him all over. Some mocks push him into the 3rd, and there's one big list that doesn't even rate him in the top 100.
WB: I've heard from most scouts that he's the 1st or 2nd interior lineman on most teams' boards, either before or after Mike Pouncey. There may be a shot that he falls into the early 3rd, because he's not the most sexy of players, but if he's the number two, I can't really see him falling into the 3rd if Pouncey is going somewhere in the 15-20 range.
CN: I want to return to the fullbacks, which we discuss about once a month. I was looking at a photo from the Cowboys war room last year, when their pick came up in the 4th round, the 21st in that round, and it shows Jerry Jones pointing to fullback John Conner's card. At that time they had three names at the top of their board -- Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Conner and tight end Clay Harbor. They had an offer were weighing trading down or picking in that spot. In the end, they moved down seven spots and took Owusu-Ansah. They went with their board, but they were clearly considering a fullback in the late 4th.
This is a strong fullback class this year. You've talked it up since November or so. How do the top guys, the Owen Marecics and Henry Hynoskis, compare to Conner, whom the Jets took eight picks into the 5th round? Dallas has to be considering fullback at that same spot, because it appears they came close to drafting Conner last year.
WB: I'd say they're on the same page. I gave Marecic and Hynoski the same grade I gave Conner last year, a 7.0. I think these guys can both start for you and it's a matter of figuring out when you're going to go after your guy. If the Cowboys had taken Conner in the 4th last year I don't think anybody would have had any qualms about it. I think Conner is going to be a Pro Bowl fullback in the NFL. I think Marecic and Hynoski are both 4th to 5th round picks who are going to contribute on run downs and help you out on special teams.
They're similar players. I think Conner is a lower lower, has a little more thump. Hynoski is bigger and he'll just grind you and finish you. Marecic is the most technically solid of the three. He's more fluid and changes directions better.
CN: If you're looking for a lead blocker, and you're Dallas and you're chasing the ghost of Daryl Johnston, the player (the real guy is still very much alive) which player or two would you prioritize?
WB: Hynoski and Marecic. Those are the two best lead blockers. I think Anthony Sherman can get a look late but those are the two guys I'd want. Honestly, I'd take Marecic first, because he's more flexible, but I think they're both solid 4th to 5th round picks.
Tomorrow: Part II of the Wes Bunting chat looks at the scouting calendar and Wes answers readers' questions.