Please no safety in the first or second....
So, why not safety in the first?
As much as some want to see Clinton-Dix or Pryor taken in the first, I can't agree. I love the idea of having a dominant safety in the backfield and I would have been happier trading up for Barron a few years back than getting Claiborne (full disclosure though, Poe was my favorite in that draft and I still thought the Claiborne move was a good one at the time...hopefully he turns around this year). At the time of that draft, when I would have been happy with Barron, we didn't have the youth we do at the position now.
We currently have one safety who started his first full season last year, we have two safeties that were rookies last year (one of which had one year of safety experience) and we have one safety who has less pro experience than any of them due to injury. Since we have so much youth, we have to give these players an opportunity to develop. What happens if Wilcox takes a huge leap in year two, Church continues to get better and we draft a safety in the first round. Now we have a log jam at safety and a deficiency somewhere else. I don't mind drafting a safety in the middle rounds (3rd and after) to compete, but the first two rounds need to play immediately and not stunt the growth of players already on the team. If we do draft one, I don't want to waste a late round pick on a guy who can't outperform the guys we have either. I'd want to use a pick in rounds 3-5 and land someone like Loston or Reynolds.
If not safety, what positions should we take?
Arguments for defensive line over safety:
At defensive tackle, we had Ratliff and Hatcher projected to start in 2013. Ratliff is gone and Hatcher is soon to follow. We have Ben Bass and Tyron Crawford coming back from injury, but we don't know if their big DEs, quality 3-techs or undersized 1-techs. At defensive end, we have our most prolific pass rusher breaking down right before our eyes with multiple injuries each of the last two years. There is even a possibility that he's cut. On the other side, we have Spencer who will either come back after undergoing microfracture surgery (how good will he be?) or he won't be back at all. We also have George Selvie who is very solid, but won't take over games on a consistent basis.
I'd want the following guys over a safety at pick 16/17: Aaron Donald, Timmy Jernigan, Rashede Hageman, Kony Ealy, Dee Ford
Arguments for offensive line over safety:
We can't sit back and feel good about this offensive line. Granted, we have a second team All Pro 22-year old left tackle and a first round center that played better than anyone expected. However, after that we have a young guard who is improving, but has gimpy knees and another guard who has been a backup most of his career. At right tackle, we have Doug Free who can't seem to put a great season together ever since getting paid. Drafting a guard in the first gives us an upgrade in the interior to protect our $100M QB and boost our run game. It also improves our depth as Bernadeau will give us a quality backup at guard and an emergency center. If we go RT in the first, that would be an upgrade over Free and designate him as a backup swing tackle. This move should also help protect our QB and improve the run game.
I'd want the following guys over a safety at pick 16/17: Greg Robinson, Zack Martin, Cyrus Kouandjio, Taylor Lewan
Arguments for linebackers over safety:
We have a middle linebacker that can't seem to stay healthy. I'm a huge Sean Lee fan: I even have a Lee jersey. However, you can't overlook the fact that he ends up on the sideline at some point every season. I thought we had a good one in Bruce Carter, but his 2013 season worries me. Did he not like the coaching? Did he not understand the scheme? Who knows, but whatever happened, we saw a former second round pick get benched. On the other side, Durant played decent, but he is what he is...a solid, unspectacular vet. Wilbur seemed to play well when given the strong-side assignment, but does anyone see him going to a Pro Bowl anytime soon? Holloman has some upside to his game and he may even be able to be a backup at middle or a starter on the outside, but there are too many question marks at this position to ignore it.
I'd want the following guys over a safety at pick 16/17: Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, C.J. Mosley
Arugments for wide receiver over safety:
Miles Austin is as good as gone. That leaves us with Dez and Terence Williams as outside receivers and that's pretty much it. Beasely and Harris are slot guys. Yes, we have options in free agency and we have a guy or two on the practice squad, but bringing in a Sammy Watkins (if somehow he falls, which he won't) or Marqise Lee would give us a devestating set of WRs. Also, a scenario I'd rather not thing about, it would give us leverage if Dez decides he wants to be the highest paid WR in the game. Everyone is talking how good Linehan will be for Dez. Well, if Dez becomes the top WR in the game, he'll want to get paid like one. If we have a guy like Lee, our feet won't be put to the fire as they would be if we only had Williams and a free agent.
I'd want the following guys over a safety at pick 16/17: Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee, Mike Evans
So, what do we do in the first?
With the amount of help needed, I'm all for a trade down if it presents itself. During the draft, I would be willing to bet the following players will be drafted before the Cowboys are on the clock.
So that's eight. Here's a list of players, in order of current CBS rankings, that I think fit what Dallas could use at pick 17 (assuming they're current luck keeps up and they lost the coin toss) or a trade down into the 20's.
Taylor Lewan, OT (10)
Anthony Barr, OLB (11)
Zack Martin, OT (12)
Mike Evans, WR (13)
Marqise Lee, WR (15)
C.J. Mosley, ILB (16)
Kony Ealy, DE (17)
Dee Ford, DE (18)
Aaron Donald, DT (22)
Timmy Jernigan, DT (23)
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT (24)
Kelvin Benjamin, WR (25)
RaShede Hageman, DT (26)
David Yankey, OG (31)
I left off both Safeties Clinton-Dix (20) and Pryor (28) and still came up with a lot of names that could work out quite well as a first round selection. As you can see, we could trade down in the the 20's and still land a prospect that could fill a hole mentioned above or we could stand pat and have several choices available without the need to consider a safety. I say, give the guys we have at safety a chance to season a bit before deciding they are career backups at best.
My overall choice would be to fix the trenches, particularly on the defensive side of the ball where the most questions reside. Out of the available players, I'd have to go with Donald at this point. We're losing our sack leader in the departure of Hatcher and that's production that has to be addressed. Donald's resume is undeniable. He earned the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award (both given to the nation’s top defensive player regardless of position), he won the Outland Trophy (nation’s best offensive or defensive interior lineman), and the Rotary Lombardi Award (country’s best lineman or linebacker). He led the nation last year with 28.5 TFL. You can't lose 11 sacks and expect to replace that with a mid-round selection.
I would also be very happy with the selection of Martin over the other defensive players as he simply has less question marks. He's a quality pick in the first round that will live up to the billing. The Cowboys could play him on the inside in 2014 and if they can't develop a tackle (Weems) or draft one next year, he could bump out to right tackle if needed. In fact, his biggest asset is his versatility and it's been reported that he can play all five positions on the line. He was arguably the best tackle in Mobile during Senior Bowl week and several draft analysts have said he would be a Pro Bowler at guard, but could easily make a living at tackle as well. That versatility is rare and knowing we have added security for our QB would make me feel much better about the money we gave Romo.
I can appreciate being tired of bad safety play and I totally get the frustration. If we didn't have so many other holes with less possible answers, I'd be on the safety bandwagon. However, we have a lot of youth there. It's time to build in other places.
Bring on the Combine!!