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Cowboys 2016 Draft: Quarterback Or Best Player Available? What If They Are The Same?

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There is a growing debate about how the Cowboys should use their pick in the first round. But the question may miss the real point.

To draft an heir or not?
To draft an heir or not?
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In the Sunday morning news links post, the theme was the different opinions about what the Dallas Cowboys should do with their pick early in the first round. One Cool Customer termed those who believe the team should use the opportunity to get a potential heir to Tony Romo QB Truthers. Those who feel the team should only seek to find the best player available at that position are dubbed QB Skeptics. As we go through the long weeks before the NFL Draft, we can expect the argument to rage back and forth as to which course the team should take.

But what if there is not a choice to make? What if the Cowboys go on the clock and the best player on their board is also a quarterback?

It is not a completely far-fetched idea. It all depends, of course, on how the Dallas coaching staff evaluates the players in the draft. But the quarterback position is a unique one. It is the most important one in today's pass-oriented league. A team without a viable passer has a very difficult time fighting its way to the playoffs. Logically, if there is one or more quarterbacks available in the draft that are indeed believed to be capable of becoming true franchise players, then they should rightfully be at the very top of any draft board.

But therein, as an English playwright once observed, lies the rub. Are there any such quarterbacks available this year? There are three names that are bandied about as possibilities, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, and Carson Wentz. The Cowboys will get a very intimate look at Wentz in the Senior Bowl, and it can safely be assumed that the scouts will pour over every available second of video on the other two. If one or more of these players is deemed a future franchise quarterback, even if it would take a season or two to get there, they are almost by definition worthy of being selected in the top five picks in the draft. If not, then they should be excluded and the Cowboys would have to look later in the draft for that elusive creature, the developmental QB that actually develops.

The truth is that the Cowboys should not reach for a quarterback. The question is whether there is gong to be one or more who are legitimately at the top of Dallas' draft board, which of course remains to be seen. If so, then the only question becomes the one of immediate impact.

That would come into play if there was a non-quarterback that was rated as highly. Based on information gathered by others here at BTB, the Cowboys don't so much rank draft prospects in a fixed order as in tiers - top of the round, middle, and bottom is thought to be how they handle the higher rounds. This does allow some flexibility. They should refine that down as the draft itself gets closer so they don't get caught in a last-minute situation such as they did in 2013 when there was a clear disagreement over Sharrif Floyd before they traded back to get Travis Frederick instead, but with the fourth pick it is not too hard to come up with four names that would cover all contingencies.

Romo makes it a delicate situation. He is hoped to have a couple of more good years in him, which means that a quarterback taken in the first round would sit behind him. While this would probably be beneficial for his development, the way it was for Romo and Aaron Rodgers, it is not the way a high first-round pick is expected to be used, which neither Romo nor Rodgers (late first round) were. A player like Myles Jack or Joey Bosa would be expected to start immediately, or close to it.

But as we saw last year, wanting or hoping for Romo to stay healthy are not sufficient. Injuries are subject to random chance, but there is still a concern that he may be getting brittle now that he is past 35. No one knows how long the Cowboys really have to come up with his replacement, and a rookie may get his chance to become the starter far sooner than expected.

This is not going to be a decision Dallas makes on draft day. They are going to have to figure out if there is one quarterback (or perhaps more) they want to target with that fourth pick in advance. It may go down to the wire, but they need to sit down in the war room with a firm plan. If they have found a QB that is believed to be capable of being a worthy replacement for Romo, they need to commit to taking him when their turn comes up. If there is any question about that QB being in this draft, or if he is taken ahead of them (the Cleveland Browns are obviously in need of a quarterback at the second spot), then there will be other very attractive options open to them.

It's not a question of reaching. It is one of making the right decision and following through. And at this stage, we really have no idea what the Cowboys are going to decide, no matter how hard we try to tell them what they should do.

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