The NFL is a copycat league, it always has been and always will be. That's what makes teams like the New England Patriots such a success story to marvel at. Building a consistent winner in today's NFL with salary caps, free agency, and parity has become more difficult than ever. The Cowboys have seen that first hand after having almost everything go right for them in 2014 then the exact opposite in 2015. So amidst all this talk about what the Cowboys should do with their fourth-overall pick, the Denver Broncos, and Carolina Panthers may have just laid it all out for them.
Slowly but surely over the past two weeks I have been moving away from the "draft a quarterback" scenario. As I said last week, it's about the right quarterback. I just don't believe with conviction that any of these signal-callers are worth the fourth-overall pick. So what that means is that the Cowboys need to rally around their stars and come back swinging harder than ever in 2016.
If the Broncos' magic season was any indicator, one would believe that the Cowboys need impact players on their defense. That is the truth, but it's not the whole truth. The Cowboys need impact players, period. Whether it be defensive or offensive, the point is to win. When you have a franchise quarterback, it sometimes is too hard to overlook him for the future. A lot of the talk coming out of the media that closely covers this team seems to agree with those sentiments. Dallas needs players that can come in and help them win now. If Tony Romo and Dez Bryant were to be healthy, this is a division that vastly favors them. That is the exact approach they need to take again in 2016. So who are the "impact players" that I'm talking about. At the fourth pick, it's not too hard to decipher.
LB Myles Jack, UCLA (CBS 5th Overall Prospect)
Analysis: Jack is one of those players that jumps at you from the word go. He's a freak of an athlete and it may be just that Rolando McClain has overstayed his welcome. The Cowboys need defensive playmakers and it's hard not to believe Jack doesn't check those boxes. Jack had an innate ability to get turnovers and he comes from an excellent UCLA program that has consistently been putting good linebackers into the NFL. Jack has every trait needed to be a huge success in the NFL. He can also play any linebacker position and running back too. Defensively speaking, it would be hard to find another player with his instinctual fortitude and cerebral attributes for the game. Jack is going to succeed no matter where he plays, plug him in the middle next to Sean Lee and be happy for years to come.
CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (CBS 3rd Overall Prospect)
Analysis: Sure, taking a cornerback this high leaves some folks with an uneasy feeling in their stomach. Where Morris Claiborne was a product of good partners around him, Ramsey is clearly the most outstanding player for the Seminoles. His instincts matched with his ability to cover make him the clear-cut secondary option. He has the versatility to play safety too but keeping him at corner will allow for further development of Byron Jones as the free safety. Make no mistake with looming decisions to Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, Ramsey will be an upgrade over either. The Cowboys need corner help and I've suggested even taking two. Ramsey is in a class of his own and there is a reason the next cornerback checks in at 11th. The Cowboys liken themselves to the Seahawks, well here is the chance to take a phenomenal player to build with.
OLB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame (CBS 27th Overall Prospect)
Analysis: Here we have a player that has fallen due to injury, but there is little doubt that he won't be a fantastic player in the NFL. Early reporting suggests that his checkup is going to show that he's healed and ready to rise up the charts. Like Jack, he's an incredible prospect with the instincts to be an instant hit on any roster in the NFL. Smith is hands down one of the best prospects in the draft and if all checks out, he'll be going pretty early on April 28th. Smith has impeccable closing speed and rarely takes poor angles, something that the Cowboys sorely need in the middle of their defense. They also need guys that can get turnovers and he fits the tenacity that Marinelli covets. Though Smith is seen more as a weakside linebacker, his skill-set can translate well for him wherever he's lined up. Smith at one point was on of the can't-miss targets in this year's class if all is well at the Combine, expect Smith to stay that way.
DE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (CBS 29th Overall Prospect)
Analysis: Pay little attention to the 29th ranking that Spence has as it is in large part due to his prior issues with drugs. In many cases, that could take a player off the board entirely. However, with Spence, many are starting to see that he may be the best pass rusher in the draft. While at Ohio State, he lit it up and did so again, of course, at Eastern Kentucky. The Cowboys ranked 25th in sacks even with Greg Hardy. If rumors ring true, don't expect Hardy back which puts another hole at pass rusher. Denver showed that sacks matter and the Cowboys don't get enough.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State (CBS 13th Overall Prospect)
Analysis: Though running back is secondary to the first two positions in this post, Bryan Broaddus has stated that Elliott is perhaps the prospect with the least amount of questions. He's perfect for a zone-blocking scheme in the NFL and has all the tools to become an elite playmaker for them. Just because Darren McFadden had a decent year, I would urge you to not get so wrapped up in him. He's on his way to 29 and has virtually been an inconsistent and oft-injured player in his eight seasons. The Cowboys need a running back that can take all the pressure off Romo, Elliott is that and then some. The offensive line did a good job at changing their style to a power-run with McFadden but their athleticism is made for success in the ZBS.
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (CBS 6th Overall Prospect)
Analysis: Again, not particularly a position of extreme need, but think back to what happened in Bryant's absence last season. Treadwell is an exceptional talent that could give the Cowboys something better than what Chicago tried to do with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. One way to keep Romo playing at an elite level is to continue to pour in a supporting cast. Treadwell is a dynamic receiver that could take this offense to the top of the league. It so ridiculous that folks are saying they don't need two Dez Bryant's. Excuse me? If you can get two elite receiving targets, why pass that up? Sure, a receiver with elite speed to burn a defense would be nice, but an athletic specimen at WR2 with the same attributes as your WR1, I'll take it.
The Cowboys have a ton of pieces to work with and build around. They have a star quarterback that is still capable of excellent play, a star receiver that can dominate a game, and the best offensive line in the NFL. The list goes on too as they have a very young defense with building blocks already in place, what they need is an exceptional player to compliment all of this. The fourth overall pick allows them to get all but three players in this year's draft. Though preferably a defensive player may be best, there are skilled players that can make an impact at four. The Cowboys must find an elite player there and build their roster through the rest of the draft.