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To 3-4 to not to 3-4?

... that is the big question for Dallas in round one. All the mock drafts that have Dallas picking Shawne Merriman or Demarcus Ware are premised on the belief that Dallas is shifting to a 3-4 base this year. The signing of Jason Ferguson enabled that belief. But there is one key point to consider as you rifle through the options at picks 11 and 20.

Dallas is a lot better suited, personnel wise, to staying in a 4-3 than a 3-4. Greg Ellis and LaRoi Glover are 4-3 guys. Ferguson, though he has played nose tackle in a 3-4, was a vital member of the Jets four man line last year and stated his preference to playing in a four lineman scheme. If the Cowboys stay in the base defense they've run the past fifteen or so years, they are only one rush end from finishing the job.

If Dallas wants to move to a true 3-4 scheme, they need at least two players for their front seven, a big, rush OLB and another beefy 295 to 315 lb. lineman to play one of the tackle positions.

This could make things tricky on draft day, because it would force the Cowboys to consider their picks in tandem, rather than individually. Suddenly, the Cowboys are no longer betting straight up, but are playing a draft parlay, where a poor initial selection can wipe out the whole first day.

Let's assume Dallas is planning on staying put at 11 and 20. And let's assume that when their pick comes up, the rush ends, Merriman, Ware, David Pollack, Dan Cody and Justin Tuck, are there. Furthermore, let's assume that the two big DE/DTs, Marcus Spears and Travis Johnson are available. Which need do you fill first?

This is complicated, because Dallas will be followed by four teams, the Chargers, Texans, Panthers and Chiefs, who could all select defensive linemen the Cowboys covet. Three of the next four teams, the Bengals, Vikings and Rams, also have needs on their defensive lines and could make the Cowboys miserable. Let's say, for argument's sake, that Dallas picks Spears. Can the team be confident that one of the DE/OLBs it invited to its banquet this past week will still be around at pick 20? If one is, the Cowboys have hit the jackpot. If not, they're almost forced to play 4-3 next year by default.

This is probably one reason why the Cowboys brought in as many as six of these so-called "tweeners" last week for face-to-face interviews. If the green light has gone on for the 3-4 in the Valley Ranch war room, the Cowboys will need lots of options in order to fill that scheme's needs.

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