When it comes to the NFL Draft, there is no such thing as a safe pick. Each year teams weigh production versus potential. At the top of last year’s draft the Miami Dolphins opted for the "safe pick", taking Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long with the draft’s first overall selection. The year before, the Oakland Raiders chose LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell’s huge arm and potential over a supposedly more safe and "NFL-ready" Brady Quinn (Notre Dame).
The Cowboys’ free agent moves have put them in position to roll the dice a bit for the sake of upside. However, depth is limited up and down this roster, so the Cowboys could do themselves a favor by bringing in guys who can be solid contributors right away. Another draft class like last year’s ought to suffice.
Here is a look at a few of this draft’s safer bets who may draw the Cowboys interest:
Juaquin Iglesias, WR, Oklahoma - Iglesias looks and plays a lot like another former Oklahoma wideout who once wore the same #9 jersey, Baltimore Raven Mark Clayton. Like Clayton, Iglesias enters the draft as a fairly polished prospect. While his explosive abilities are somewhat limited, you know what you are getting with Iglesias. The guy is going to come in, run good routes, catch everything near him, and contribute as a solid punt returner. Iglesias would be a great value as early as round three.
Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State - Son of Atlanta Falcons receivers coach Terry Robiskie, Brian enters the draft well versed in the position’s nuances. Growing up around the NFL, Robiskie has a first-hand perspective on what being a pro is all about. Impute his ideal size, speed (6-3/209, 4.46 forty) and natural hands, and you have yourself a legit NFL wide receiver. Robiskie is by most accounts climbing up draft boards, and may not be available when the Cowboys first make a selection.
Max Unger, C, Oregon - Unger is a safer pick because of his versatility, and because of the fact that first-day centers have had a pretty high success rate in recent years. Unger is a heady player whose size (6-5/309) allows him to provide a team with viable depth at all three interior offensive line positions. Not exactly a position of need for the Cowboys, but he would offer great flexibility along the offensive line.
Ron Brace, DT, Boston College - Ron Brace is a safe pick as long as the team who drafts him has no misconceptions as to what he is. Brace is not the guy for you if you are looking for a nose tackle who will make a lot of plays in the opponents backfield, or hustle to track down a running back 25 yards downfield. What Brace will do is clog the interior gaps and compromise running lanes. His arsenal of pass-rush techniques is pretty much limited to his patented "try to push the center into the quarterback" move. Brace would be a great fit in Dallas because a two-down clogger is all the Cowboys really need behind Jay Ratliff.
Scott McKillop, LB, Pittsburgh - Not huge. Not overly strong. Not exceptionally quick or dynamic. Just real good. McKillop will not wow you physically like a Patrick Willis, but he’s pretty good at knocking down the guy with the ball. Who knows how many highlight reel type of plays he has in him at the next level, but he seems like a pretty safe bet to make 100+ tackles and a minimal number of mistakes.
Patrick Chung, S, Oregon - People seem to be down on Chung for some reason. Maybe it’s hard to shake the images of Chung being stiff-armed to the turf by Marshawn Lynch a few years back. Either way, Chung is a solid (not spectacular) safety. What you see is what you get. Chung has good size (5-11/212) and is a reliable player against both the run and the pass. Chung was not exactly a fixture on the Oregon highlight reel, but you didn’t often see him in chase position on the highlight tapes of any Pac-10 receivers either. After seven years of watching Roy Williams, that is a refreshing thought.
Jerry Jones has had a propensity for rolling the dice in the past, but we have begun to see a different side of Mr. Jones of late. If last year was any indicator of how the combination of Jones and director of college and pro scouting Tom Ciskowski will operate, then we should expect the Cowboys to save the gambling for the later rounds.