Sitting in a late slot and missing a fifth-round pick (at the moment), they face an entirely different situation than last year. There are far more variables in play, particularly in the first through fourth rounds. And the expectations are that defense is the major focus, where in 2016 the two most significant picks were Ezekiel Elliott in the first round and the incredibly fortunate selection of Dak Prescott at the end of the fourth.
The interwebs are being flooded with mock drafts, but trying to figure out what names will be taken at a given spot is virtually impossible, especially when everything is so dependent on who is taken by the other 31 teams involved in things. However, there are some tea leaves that indicate some of what the team may do as far as positions. So here are some predictions on what the team will do. In a couple of weeks, we can look at these, and while the most likely outcome is going to be derision for these ideas, this is going on record. Feel free to have as much fun with these as you wish (and please understand that this is done as much for your entertainment as anything in your comments here and later.)
Here goes nothing.
The Cowboys will draft at least three defensive backs.
And that is if they don’t take four. Right now, the biggest voids on the roster are at cornerback and safety, and this is nearly an ideal draft to address those. The most likely haul will be two corners and a safety, because the corner class is just flat loaded. There is a lot of talent to be had, particularly in the first three rounds.
If you are looking for a defensive end early, prepare for disappointment.
Yeah, this one is going to raise a few hackles, but there is a simple reality that is being undervalued (at least in this guy’s opinion): The defensive end room is already well stocked, and there are players coming back from injury. Charles Tapper is poised to prove why the team took him in the fourth round. DeMarcus Lawrence has been recovering from surgery (and gaining a lot of weight, from photos of him), but now he is going into the offseason program. Benson Mayowa had a solid if unspectacular year. Damontre Moore is an intriguing reclamation project with a lot of talent if he can just get his head straight (with some help from Rod Marinelli).
And then there is David Irving. As we have covered, he was evaluated by NFL writer Lance Zierlein as worth the twelfth overall pick in 2015. Now, that is just one analyst’s opinion, but Zierlien is a pretty credible guy, and that is some rich territory.
In a recent three-round mock for the entire league, ESPN draft guru Todd McShay passed on defensive end for the Cowboys, going corner, tight end, and safety. And that is more likely (not taking a DE, not the exact positions taken) than most think. What the Cowboys may be targeting is a high SPARQ player later in the draft. Rookie defensive ends are seldom productive in the first year, and the need is for more rush now. It is a move that will no doubt grate on many, but don’t be shocked if that is exactly how it plays out.
Dallas will take a quarterback in the seventh.
Just like last year, the Cowboys have a need for a backup/developmental quarterback. Prescott was supposed to be that, but he disappointed us all in filling that need by becoming a stunningly successful rookie starter.
OK, maybe disappointment was not exactly the way we felt as his inaugural season unfolded. Nonetheless, we are once again going into a season with Kellen Moore as the QB2, and most are probably no more excited by that prospect than we were last season. Dallas needs to go back to the well for someone to challenge for the backup job. Given the relative weakness of the quarterback class, it is very unlikely that the team will want to spend a draft pick before the last round.
Looking at the Dallas Day invites, the team may well be targeting the UDFA ranks for that backup QB. After all, they did find a pretty decent one of those a few years back. But if they have their eye on one in particular, there is a lot of value in spending a seventh-round pick to make sure they get him. It is the same logic they used in drafting Rico Gathers with their last pick in 2016. Lock up the guy and don’t risk someone snatching him away in the UDFA whirlwind that starts as soon as Mr. Irrelevant is taken at the end of the draft.
They are going to draft a tight end.
Maybe not in the second round, as McShay mocked. But somewhere along the way, and probably earlier than most will like, they will take one. There are just too many questions at that position.
Jason Witten is an almost certain future Hall of Fame selection, but he is also 34 years old. He seems ageless at times (he never was what you’d call blazing fast anyway), but we all know that Father Time wins eventually. And every other tight end with the team is either coming off injury or, in Gathers’ case, just a huge unknown. James Hanna missed the entire season with the dreaded bone bruise, and that casts a huge shadow on his future. Geoff Swaim is also coming off injury. Gathers was tearing it up in practices last year according to all reports, but he is still as raw as can be. Dallas will take a tight end to make sure they have enough options for this season, despite the difficulties they have had in recent years making that work. Let’s just hope McShay is wrong about the second round, because that just seems like it would be a bad, bad omen.
There you have it. Four predictions. On record. We will know before too long just how accurate they are - and how much anguish they may cause.