NFL teams prepare two draft boards in preparation for the NFL draft, a horizontal board and a vertical board. The horizontal board shows not only a round grade for each prospect but their rank within the position. This helps a team understand alternatives available at various points in the draft. If they pass on a cornerback in the second round, can they still find someone they like in the third or fourth? The horizontal board helps clarify where there are groups of similarly-ranked talent and where there are “cliffs” where the talent drops off, helping identify “sweet spots” for each position they plan to draft.
Cowboys Horizontal Board
|Grade||WR (14)||OG (9)||OC (3)||DT (10)|
|Round 1||Cordarrelle Patterson, Tavon Austin||Jonathan Cooper, Chance Warmack||Sharrif Floyd, Sheldon Richardson, Star Lotulelei|
|Round 2||DeAndre Hopkins, Terrance Williams, Justin Hunter||Justin Pugh||Travis Frederick||Sylvester Williams, Kawann Short|
|Round 3||Markus Wheaton, Stedman Bailey||Kyle Long||Bennie Logan, Jordan Hill, Everett Dawkins|
|Round 4||Quinton Patton, Josh Boyce, Kenny Stills||Dallas Thomas, Brian Winters||Khaled Holmes|
|Round 5||Cobi Hamilton, Aaron Dobson||Earl Watford||Brian Schwenke||Akeem Spence, Josh Boyd|
|Round 6||Marquise Goodwin, Tavarres King|
|Round 7||David Quessenberry, Alvin Bailey|
Most teams rely on a horizontal board for most of the draft. Draft day photos through the years have shown the Cowboys’ draft boards, and savvy fans have reconstructed near-complete horizontal boards based on these photos. This helps shed light on their decision-making. In 2013, he Cowboys had the opportunity to select Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, whom they had a first-round grade on according to their reconstructed board, but instead they traded back and chose Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, who had a second-round grade.
Pundits criticized the team for passing on Floyd, but Frederick makes sense in the context of the horizontal board. He was the only center Dallas graded out in the first three rounds, and they put a draftable grade on only three centers. Had they passed on Frederick, they would have had a tough time filling that key role, but with eight other defensive tackles getting a round 1 to round 3 grade, they had more options there (though, as it turns out, they did not select a DT).
With few other options and a need at the position, the team pulled the trigger on Frederick, who has since become a key member of a great offensive line. The horizontal board helped the Cowboys identify the need to strike early at center, and solidify one of the top position groups in the NFL.