I know, it's insane. I'm with you there. Why wouldn't we draft according to our needs, especially in the first round?
Our D-Line was not, to put things lightly, overly effective at rushing the passer in 2013. In my opinion, this is a VERY LARGE REASON why the Cowboys' defense was not just bad, but historically bad. All things being equal, in a vacuum, we would NEED to pick the absolute BEST D lineman in both the first, second, and even third rounds to stack the deck in our favor of finding the right one, or maybe hit on two or all three!
However, a look at the very nature of supply and demand shows that this is not necessarily true when strategizing for maximum value in the NFL Draft. What I mean to say is- what the crux of my argument is- is that while supplies are limited on a commodity, in this case D Linemen, purchasing that commodity early and often does not necessarily maximize your ability to corner the market on said commodity, in many ways it may even limit it.
Our need for D Linemen is so glaring, so obvious, that I have failed to find a team with similar need. I really am scratching my head trying to find a similarly ineffecient and undermanned group, so conventional thinking dictates that it would be foolish not to select a D Lineman. And in many cases, this conventional, conservative thinking is actually wrong.
Say there are ten teams interested in acquiring a DT/DE within the first two rounds. Now, this number is strictly arbitrary, so there's really no need in arguing it, but for arguments sake lets say ten teams are feverishly interested in taking a lineman in the first two rounds.
IF before the Cowboys pick at #16 there were two or less D Linemen taken (not as unlikely as one might think), the Cowboys could slow the culture of defensive need by trading down with a team likely not to address its D-Line, such as the Patriots as some have suggested. Or they could thwart the needs of a divisional rival and add value to the remaining safeties by selecting Clinton-Dix or Pryor. Or we could draft an OL or a game changing WR.
Stop rolling your eyes, let me explain.
Last year, we saw a run on the offensive line. This year, who knows? That run might be on the defensive line, and in that case, yes, LORD YES take the best defensive lineman available.
However, based on supply and demand, the smartest move is often times to ignore your greatest need in the first round, hoping to maximize your value with later picks and to INFLUENCE the market away from your area of need.
Let's say we take a safety with our first pick. Are we not making our defense stronger, as the BtB thirst for Defensive line help tends to suggest is the Cowboys' strongest desire?
There are only three play making safeties in this draft, making it a very shallow draft for safety. However, when looking down the line, key teams picking after our pick have both a need for DLine help and a need at safety. Couple this with teams who safety is a priority position, and quickly you may have a run on safeties that leaves Pryor taken quickly by the Packers and leaving the Eagles having to take a swing at either a nose tackle or a linebacker, neither of which tends to get in our way.
I know I know, I'm just rehashing my argument before. My main point is this: while Defensive line is a need, IF presented with a unique situation of teams not addressing their D Line needs early, we are put in the driver's seat, not to take the BEST defensive lineman at 16, but instead granted time to be able to address other less pressing needs with impact players.
It doesn't just have to be a safety. It could be a WR. It could be an OL. Taking a player who does not fit our most pressing need actually INCREASES demand for the position we picked because teams will begin to make runs for the best remaining player at that position if that is a position of need for them as well. Which allows us to trade down with less attractive picks (trade down in the 2nd round for two 3rd rounders?) and still have depth at the position of greatest need that was created by our "diversion tactic" misdirecting teams towards taking their needs..
Bottom line: The "Sweet Spot" for stock piling play makers on the DLine in my opinion is in the third round, or could BECOME the third round through us slowing the culture of demand in a draft that is rich in D line talent. Should we try to trade our fourth and sixth for an extra third rounder, we might find ourselves looking at a player who should have been second round talent, simply because we INFLUENCED the draft.
Simply put, we could forfeit the assumed Donald pick by taking a player in an area with less immediate need (WR, OL, S, LB) and hope to influence the market AWAY from the D Line, even if only a 5-6 teams are affected by our move we would run into much more attractive third rounders because of it. Heck, we might even run into Donald at pick 47. Some are scared of this gamble, but sometimes you gotta RISK IT for the BISCUIT!
My point is, sometimes the obvious way of arriving at a solution isn't the optimal way.