Lost amidst the all the talk surrounding young quarterbacks is the Cowboys need at cornerback. Say what you will about the return of Orlando Scandrick and Byron Jones, but realize that Jones has practically bought real estate as the Cowboys' new free safety. Scandrick is coming off full tears to this ACL and MCL, we need to wait and see how everything goes for him this offseason. Assuming he's ready to roll, Dallas still has major questions to answer at cornerback. Questions like, does the team want to continue paying Brandon Carr well over market value for serviceable at best production? Does the team want to re-sign Morris Claiborne to an extension, when he has missed multiple games and hasn't shown the results desired since taking him sixth overall? Does the team want to look to the free agent market for perhaps another starter, but may have to risk paying significant dollars?
With all this is mind, the Cowboys may decide to take Jalen Ramsey, the consensus pick as the best cornerback and overall secondary player in the draft. Ramsey is a top five prospect and his physicality shows as a defender - without drawing attention from the officials. He's been fantastic in both zone and press coverages and has played all over the defense. Ramsey is an athletic specimen with all the tools to become a shutdown corner in the NFL and could quite possibly be the best defensive player in the draft. However, at four, the Cowboys have a really good chance to take a franchise quarterback of the future. If Ramsey isn't the target, the Cowboys still have options. The Cowboys should look at cornerback early and possibly often. Here are a few names to think about. Cornerbacks are a premium position in the National Football League and with that comes premium resources to get them. So, let's look at rounds 2-4 at some possible help for this secondary that needs a lot of work.
Eli Apple, 6'1, 200 lbs, Ohio State (32nd CBS Prospect)
Apple could very well wind up being taken in the first round after the Hargreaves and Alexanders of the world are long gone. Apple is a long, rangy cornerback that plays with physicality and is skilled in both zone and press coverages. He's got great hip motion and is a very coordinated athlete to stay in the play. He uses his length well enough to keep receivers anything but comfortable. He's played against top receivers and has done well with his opportunities. He's still learning what he can and can not get away with at the next level, but Apple is a physical presence that NFL teams yearn for in their secondaries.
Kendall Fuller, 6'0, 197 lbs, Virgina Tech (43rd CBS Prospect)
Much like his older brother Kyle (drafted 14th overall), Kendall is a finely-tuned athlete with all the range and tangibles to become a great corner in the NFL. Fuller had meniscus surgery that ended his season early, but that doesn't stop him from entering a draft where cornerbacks will be a solid class. Much like Apple, Fuller knows how to use his length to his advantage with receivers. He plays like a veteran and has a great attitude. He's not going to make many mistakes but still has the mental capacity to get better and correct any mistake he does make. Fuller would have been a first-round consideration, if not for the knee surgery. Fuller has all the physicality and skills of his brother but could become an even better prospect with more work on consistency.
Artie Burns, 6'0, 193lbs, Miami (63rd CBS Prospect)
Burns is an intriguing prospect due to his supreme athleticism, he broke a 38-year record as a hurdler in track. Burns has excellent speed which has helped him playing the sport of football. He's got good hip movement and is a very fluid athlete. Miami even used as a safety before and it worked as well. Burns has the ability to play zone and man coverage due to his ability to turn and run with the receiver. He's not as physical as you would like but he's a willing learner. He has some of the better ball skills of all the corners beside Ramsey and Burns knows how to tackle in the open field. Brugler has stated that he's not the 'sum of all his parts' just yet, but could turn out to be a solid NFL starter and is competitive as any corner. His athleticism will turn some heads at the Combine.
Xavien Howard, 6'1, 200lbs, Baylor (92nd CBS Prospect)
Many scouts thought Howard would project better as a safety but he's got the confidence and athletic ability to stay on the outside. He doesn't have great speed but his acceleration is good and he can turn and run with receivers to remain in play. He's got great hips and his frame for the position is ideal. He's a physical defender in press coverage and knows how to rip the ball out upon delivery. He might be a little too physical at times and will need to learn how to be disruptive but not grabby. He's well-versed in run defense and is a willing tackler with agility to remain as a cornerback prospect. He's a top corner for the Big 12 and has developed better skills in each year at Baylor, recording ten interceptions in only two seasons for the Bears.
Maurice Canady, 6'1, 191lbs, Virgina (117th CBS Prospect)
It's all about awareness with Canady, who turned some heads at the Senior Bowl. He has an intensity about him as a player and can be physical with receivers without losing sight of the task. Canady can accelerate and change position in order to make the play. He plays with excellent vision and his motor never stops which is something Marinelli loves, see Peanut Tillman. Canady still has work to do on his technique as well as cleaning up his footwork, but his speed and physical traits will get him drafted.
Eric Murray, 5'11, 198lbs, Minnesota (129th CBS Prospect)
You would be hard-pressed to find many teams that had a better one-two punch at cornerback than the Golden Gophers. Dane Brugler of CBS describes Murray as a very well-rounded athlete with good size and is comfortable in both press and zone coverages. Murray has only one interception in his collegiate career, but he had 18 passes defended over his 26 starts too. He was a physical presence for the Gophers in both run defense and as a blitzer. Murray has been lauded by his coaches for his character and never-quit attitude. He's not flashy, he's just consistent. His scouting reports remind me of Orlando Scandrick, without the grouchy demeanor.
As previously discussed, the Cowboys aren't forced to take a cornerback with their first pick, but they certainly should take one early and perhaps another in the later rounds. The secondary needs some help.