INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Dallas Cowboys select David DeCastro with the 14th choice, the Stanford guard will have Tyron Smith to thank.
Before last year, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had never selected an offensive lineman in the first round. But Smith, the ninth overall choice, played so well that he might have changed Jones' philosophy toward spending first-round picks on offensive linemen.
Jones said the selection of Smith won't preclude the Cowboys from using a first-round pick on another lineman this year. In fact, Smith's play might encourage Jones to continue the rebuilding with DeCastro.
DeCastro is the popular choice for the Cowboys on most early mock drafts.
There is a connection: Stanford offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren worked with new Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan for three years when both were assistants with the New York Jets.
"[DeCastro] has a good reputation," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He comes from a great program. Everything about him that you hear is positive both as a player and as a person. He seems to have the traits we are looking for."
The Cowboys' needs are obvious: The interior of their offensive line was shaky last season; they are expected to release cornerback Terence Newman; outside linebacker Anthony Spencer could leave in free agency, if the Cowboys don't franchise him; and safety Abe Elam is a free agent.
South Carolina outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and Alabama strong safety Mark Barron are other players who have been linked to the Cowboys in early mock drafts based on the team's needs.
But DeCastro is the popular choice for Dallas, though guards generally aren't drafted that high.
Only 12 guards have been selected in the first round of the past 15 drafts. Only two were top 14 choices, and that includes Leonard Davis.
The Arizona Cardinals drafted Davis with the second overall pick in 2001 with plans to turn him into a tackle, a position he played three seasons. The New Orleans Saints used the 10th overall pick on Colorado guard Chris Naeole in 1997.
But NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said DeCastro is worth the Cowboys' 14th pick.
"I call it a plug-and-play guard," Mayock said. "I think what's happening today is that when you're picking somewhere in the teens and the 20s, it's less about what your specific need is whether that's a 'value position,' and more about getting a good football player.
"I think with DeCastro, when you get him, you're going to plug him in Day 1, and he's going to be your starting guard.... He could be your starter for the next 10 years. That's what the Cowboys need. They need to get younger and more athletic in that offensive line. They started it last year with Tyron Smith. The [Bill] Nagy kid is not bad. They need to continue that."
DeCastro is 6-foot-4, 316 pounds, and he had 34 reps in the 225-pound bench press at the combine. Scouts, Inc. called him the "most impressive interior offensive lineman during drills."
"He was smooth and quick, posting the best three-cone time (7.3) since 2008, as well as the third-best short shuttle (4.56) and fifth-best broad jump (8-foot-2) among 2012 linemen," the website said. "His 291/2-inch vertical jump was also well above the average for guards (261/2) over the past four combines."
DeCastro remembers giving up only one sack in his career, a reason he earned all-conference honors each of the past two seasons.
"Brian Price of UCLA in my freshman year," said DeCastro, who will graduate this spring with a degree in management sciences/engineering. "I set outside, and he came back and countered inside. He sacked Andrew [Luck]. Yeah, memories."
DeCastro will remind Cowboys fans of future Hall of Famer Larry Allen in at least one way: He isn't big on talking.
When asked what his best characteristics are, he said, "Oh, I don't know. I guess teams would have to see that. I'm aggressive, I'm a hard worker, but I really don't like talking about myself, so..."
A reporter followed by asking him what he does best, he said: "Um... play football. Play football better than anyone? That's what it's about. I work harder."