The Dallas Cowboys want to win a Super Bowl this year and they want it badly. Now before you point out the obvious that every team in the NFL wants the same thing, the Cowboys have an exceptional circumstance that puts them just a degree ahead of other teams in this quest. Mainly, the imminent departure of Bill Parcells. I believe that fact will be the driving force behind the Cowboys draft pick in the first round.
Before you can accept that as the truth, you have to accept the idea that the draft will belong to Parcells and not Jerry Jones. Jones is going to be the owner of the Cowboys for years to come so his motivations have a slightly different flavor than Parcells' motivation. Of course he's got the same desire to win the Super Bowl this year, but he also has to contemplate Dallas' future and the draft is all about the future. So for argument sake, I say Parcells' is the master of this draft, mainly because Jones has ceded control of personnel decisions to him.
The Terrell Owens signing is indicative of Bill's `win now' attitude, in the past it would've been unlikely for him to agree to take on a player with Owens' baggage if he hadn't coached him before - witness Keyshawn Johnson. So while Jerry may have been the driving force behind the Owens' acquisition, Parcells signed off on it for one reason only: Owens can help him get to the promise land this year.
Which brings me to the #18 pick in this year's draft. Bill Parcells is going to base the pick on the player who can help him the most this year. He's not worried about the potential a draft pick may have three years down the road. That's for another coach on another day. No, the only thing he'll care about this coming Saturday is who can help him in 2006.
When you're thinking about that first pick this week, every player that comes to mind should be judged on one criterion: How much can they help on the field this year. If you do this, certain players don't fit the mold. For instance, there's been talk about drafting a WR (Santonio Holmes or Chad Jackson). Not going to happen because either of those players would see the field on a limited basis. TNT will be manning those spots this year and Patrick Crayton is a serviceable #3.
There's been speculation about RB LenDale White ending up at Valley Ranch. Under normal circumstances this might be a possibility. Parcells has always liked having at least one big, bruising running back to use in short-yardage situations, especially near the goal-line. But again, any new RB would be sharing time with JJ or MB3 making his contributions somewhat limited this year.
The offensive line is a place where new blood could get a chance to contribute immediately. Kyle Kosier is an unknown quantity and Jason Fabini, while a known quantity to Parcells, is aging and coming off an injury. This opens up the possibilities of drafting a lineman but only if Parcells thinks they could step in and help right away. Winston Justice may be that kind of player. Unfortunately, he most likely will not be available to the Cowboys. Other players like Marcus McNeil or Eric Winston are quality guys but whether they could step in right away remains a question mark.
When you evaluate the positions on the Cowboys roster that have questionable starter material, you come down to two spots, FS and SOLB. These are the two spots that are the best candidates for a new player to step in and make a difference this year.
When you look at FS, the Cowboys made two moves in the offseason, re-signing last year's starter Keith Davis and bringing in a former Parcells' player in Marcus Coleman. So unless they can get someone like Michael Huff, Parcells may be content to go with what he has instead of grabbing a Jason Allen or Ko Simpson in the first round.
Which brings us to SOLB. With all the Cowboys wheeling and dealing in the offseason, one position they made no moves at is SOLB. Heck, they went so far as to sign an OLB - Akin Ayodele - and promptly moved him inside. This leaves last year's starter Al Singleton as the most likely candidate to man the position on opening day. Singleton has his own issues, he's getting up there in age and is coming off an injury. The fact that they didn't attack this position in free agency leaves me with one conclusion: They will attack it in the first round of the draft.
Readers of this blog will not find this news particularly revealing, we've been discussing it for weeks. In fact, it has led to some of the liveliest debates on the blog. So at the risk of sounding like a broken record I will bring it up again. But this time I'm going to look at it from the Parcells' prism, a view prejudiced with the idea that Parcells wants someone who can immediately contribute on opening day.
The top three candidates in the draft for SOLB appear to be Kamerion Wimbley, Manny Lawson and Bobby Carpenter. I've argued that Bobby Carpenter in the guy we should draft, mainly because I think he has the correct skills for the position. I won't go down that path again today but will look at it from this angle, who is most likely to be able to step on the field from game one and contribute? Again, I think that player is Bobby Carpenter.
Manny Lawson and Kamerion Wimbley are talented guys and may one day be better players than Carpenter, I won't concede that point but it is surely a debatable question. They have one problem though, both would have to learn a new position and that transition time is an issue. I know that last year DeMarcus Ware had the same issue, but last year Dallas was desperate for a WOLB who was a pass-rushing specialist. Ware fit the bill. As much as I like Ware, it took him a while to get comfortable in his new position, and he won't reach his full potential until sometime this year. Lawson and Wimbley would have the same problem. Bobby Carpenter wouldn't. He's ready to step in the first day of training camp and be that SOLB the Cowboys covet.
All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that Bill Parcells' desire to win this year before he retires will alter the way he normally drafts in the first round. Besides talent and position played, he will be looking for the guy that can step in and help Dallas win this year. When I add it all up, Bobby Carpenter fits the Bill.