How Important Will The 2013 NFL Draft Be For The Dallas Cowboys?

Jerry and Stephen have to get things right next April. - Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Cowboys need to have a good draft in 2013. Challenges with the salary cap make it especially important.

It's a little early to start my journey into the 2013 NFL Draft, but the other day I came across an interesting article on ESPN. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay teamed up for a very good article on the 2013 NFL Draft. When Kiper was asked which team can't "whiff" on the draft, Kiper answered that two teams need to hit it big next April. One team was the New York Jets, who probably do need a big draft in order to get them back to where they were a few years ago. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the other team that Kiper named was the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas needs to have a good draft. I loved the Cowboys' first pick in 2012 with Morris Claiborne, but this is a team that's had mixed results over the years, particularly lower on the board, and Jerry Jones' role as an evaluator is constantly a cause for debate. I don't think the Cowboys are in a bad situation overall in terms of personnel, but the spotlight seems like it'll be brighter than ever this season.

Kiper's credibility on the NFL Draft has taken a hit the past few years, but I still have a ton of respect for his opinion. The man has devoted his life to the NFL Draft, so he knows quite a bit about that side of football. Kiper does have a valid point here with the Cowboys.

KD recently broke down the problems that the Cowboys could face next offseason due to their salary cap issues. If the Cowboys are unable to acquire any significant talent upgrades via free agency, then that will place a heavy burden on the front office to acquire talent through the draft. Don't get me wrong, every draft is important. But the Cowboys need to start producing some better results on the field.

This team isn't in a terrible situation. The Cowboys haven't had a great season, but they do possess some talent to build their future around. The problem is, a lot of those players can't stay on the field. Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray are all building blocks, but each has had injury issues. If you add in Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant and Morris Claiborne, that is a promising future. Then there are the seasoned veterans like Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and Jason Witten. That's plenty of talent to compete with, but we all know that the window of opportunity will not last forever.

The real problem in Dallas lies within their offensive line (something a lot of teams in the NFL are suffering from). The Cowboys clearly cannot run the football no matter who is in the backfield at running back. We talk about it all the time, but imagine being able to watch Tony Romo actually get time to throw the football. Imagine watching DeMarco Murray run behind actual holes created by the blockers on the line. The offensive line is clearly holding this team back, and it's time to man up and attempt to fix it with real talent.

Not only does the offensive line need work, the defense has some holes, too. The defensive line boasts some talent, but they can't be disruptive enough to give quarterbacks problems. It may sound simple to some, but getting back to basics on the trenches looks like a solid plan for the front office next offseason.

Fortunately, the 2013 NFL Draft is going to be rich in offensive and defensive lineman. This draft also appears to be loaded with talented pass rushers. This is great for the Cowboys and that's exactly what they should be filling their draft board out with.

According to Todd McShay, this draft class is going to excite some NFL teams looking for a defensive lineman. Remember, if not for the Claiborne trade, we would probably have Michael Brockers in the blue and silver.

Defensive line is the deepest group in 2013. You could split hairs over defensive ends or defensive tackles, but if you're a team looking for a defensive lineman, you should be fired up over this group right now. As I count now, nine of the top 15 and 17 of the top 40 players in this draft are on the defensive line.

We need more pressure from the interior of the line. The NFL continues to see a lot more pressure come from the inside. Defensive coordinators around the league are running more stunts and blitzes designed to attack the center and guards. This is an area that the Cowboys must improve in.

While I would love to see this team go all out on the lines, we also could have some issues brewing at outside linebacker. There is the possibility the Cowboys lose Anthony Spencer to free agency. Believe it or not, replacing Spencer would not be an easy task because of what he means to the defense. Spencer's versatility to stop the run and generate pressure has become a key part of the defense.

Also, consider that DeMarcus Ware isn't going to be a dynamic threat forever. At some point, the Cowboys must consider finding his potential replacement. If the Cowboys were to lose Ware and not have a reliable pass rusher to plug in, the results could be catastrophic to the entire defense.

Another major problem with past drafts is that the Cowboys have failed to acquire depth players that can potentially develop into starters down the line. The Cowboys must start succeeding in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. Yes, the 2009 draft continues to be a major factor in why this team lacks depth, but the past few drafts should have offset some of that by now. This team can't afford to blow the picks after the third round, they must start hitting on players who can provide this team some depth and quality play out there on the football field.

When you think about all of that, it's a lot to take in. This team may not be in a full rebuilding mode just yet, but it does look like the 2013 draft is going to play a big part in the failure or success of the Dallas Cowboys.

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