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Aaron Donald, Tim Jernigan being looked at by Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys pick right in the middle of the first round -- No. 16 overall -- and conventional wisdom is that the Cowboys will try to grab a defensive tackle for coordinator Rod Marinelli to mold into a star.

But which defensive tackle?

Dallas has met with the consensus top two players at the position this week. Pitt's Aaron Donald was in Dallas on Monday and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan is scheduled to visit with the Cowboys on Tuesday.

Dallas signed free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton in March, but putting a young tackle next to him makes a lot of sense, especially when you look at the other tackles currently on the roster. (A hint: You'll be looking a long time to try to find someone who can become a standout. A long time.)

The knock on Donald (6-foot-1, 286 pounds) is his lack of size. You certainly cannot ding him for a lack of productivity: He had a nation's-leading 26.5 tackles for loss in 2013, an incredible amount for an interior lineman. He also is versatile, having played tackle, nose tackle and end. He had 11 sacks playing end in a 3-4 set as a sophomore in 2011 and 11 playing tackle in a 4-3 alignment as a senior in 2013. He fits best as a tackle in a 4-3, where his quickness stands out.

Donald ranks 17th on NFL Media senior draft analyst Gil Brandt's list of the top 50 prospects; that's a jump of 24 spots from his previous ranking.

Donald is the No. 1 defensive tackle in analyst Mike Mayock's position rankings and the No. 1 tackle and No. 14 player overall in analyst Daniel Jeremiah's ranking of the top 50 prospects.

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Jernigan (6-foot-2, 299 pounds) is the No. 2 tackle for Mayock and Jeremiah, and he also is Jeremiah's No. 18 player overall. Brandt isn't quite as high on Jernigan, who is his No. 4 defensive tackle and No. 30 player overall.

While Donald has the build of a squatty run-stuffer, his pass-rush ability sets him apart -- and likely greatly appeals to Marinelli, who wants his tackles to be able to get into opposing backfields (think back to when he was the defensive line coach with Tampa Bay). Jernigan definitely fits the mold of the run-stuffing tackle; he has good quickness but never has shown much in terms of a pass rush.

The New York Giants at No. 12, Chicago at No. 14 and Pittsburgh at No. 15 would seem to be other teams interested in grabbing defensive tackles early. But the Giants and Steelers have bigger issues, which means Chicago might be the only team that picks in front of the Cowboys who could draft a tackle.

Adding more intrigue: Chicago and Dallas both should be in the market for a safety, too, and then you have to add Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor into the "potential pick at No. 14 (and No. 16)" mix.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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