Defensive line is seen as the best thing for the Dallas Cowboys to draft in the first round. If there is not a suitable player available, then a solid offensive lineman is considered by many to be a good option.
But what if the Cowboys go on the clock and find themselves in no-man's land between the lines. Suppose there are no good options for either. Where do you go then?
I have already looked at two players the Cowboys might get if they don't have a shot at the fan's choice, Aaron Donald. But those two were an OL, Zack Martin, and a player expected to put his hand down on the DL, Anthony Barr. Now, let's look at the potential first round selections and consider someone who is not nearly so big, either in size or in the attention he has gotten here.
Although the interest has waned of late, there were some early mock drafts that had Dallas going with a safety. But looking at the list, there is actually a cornerback that would be higher ranked (and therefore possibly higher on Dallas' board, the assumption I am going on here). In that case, it would seem that the Cowboys would go for the better player.
Our candidate for this post: Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State
CBS Sports Draft Prospects rank: 14
Position ranking: 2
I considered doing one of these on Justin Gilbert, but I think he is almost certainly not going to fall to 16. Having said that, some of the arguments are much the same, so anyone who wants to apply this to corners in general can, for sake of argument.
How he is available for the Cowboys: He sits at just the right place to get a little bump down the board to be sitting at 16 as the best player left. Nothing major here, just a couple of teams having a little different priority incorporated into their boards.
Why the Cowboys should draft him: The defensive line was not the only issue for the Cowboys. Cornerback play was, at times, totally underwhelming. In Dennard, they get a press corner who can bring it to the receivers. He gets good marks from some for his play against the run, too. The words "good, muscular build" seem to keep cropping up in profiles of him.
More importantly, you can't have too many good cornerbacks. And, based on last year, Dallas does not have too many good cornerbacks. The problem is that they have too many underperforming ones. While there is hope that former first-round pick Morris Claiborne will start living up to his draft position this year, that is not a given. Even if the Cowboys can improve their pass rush, they still need coverage downfield. Dennard looks like a solid bet to greatly improve that issue.
Why the Cowboys should look elsewhere: To borrow a line from one of his evaluations, he is not the second coming of Deion Sanders. He is a good cover corner who is not afraid to tackle, but can Dallas really afford to tie up two first-round picks and a $50 million free agent contract on three players, none of whom may be able to show they are better than Orlando Scandrick? This is way too many resources to tie up in an area that really is way down the list of needs for the Cowboys. If he was a truly superior defender then there may be an argument to be made, but he is not that much of a standout. You can't even be sure he could crack the starting lineup. This year, the Cowboys need to wait until later in the draft to address any needs at corner.
This may seem dismissive of the idea of best player available, but the simple fact is that a cornerback is not best for Dallas. It doesn't solve any real problems, and if Claiborne and Brandon Carr get more comfortable, then he becomes a bit of an odd man out.
Can you see an argument to take Dennard and bolster the secondary, or is this just pouring resources into the wrong place?