Last year was a “make or break” draft for the Cowboys as they had a golden opportunity by picking so early in each round. And despite two of their top four picks not seeing the field last season, the team still produced remarkable results. Most of this can be attributed to landing the team’s new franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott. While many will claim the Cowboys lucked into that pick, he didn’t just fall out of the sky. The team made some tough decisions throughout the draft that enabled the picks to unfold as they did. It was a great display of scouting and patience.
In a couple weeks they get to do it all over again, however the Cowboys are now picking at the end of the draft. Trying to find a gem this late can be difficult and it could be compounded by the fact that it’s likely to be a defensive player. In the last seven drafts, the Cowboys have drafted five offensive players and all of them are All Pros. The two defensive players are far less impressive and one of them (Morris Claiborne) is no longer on the team. The team will by attempting to do something they haven’t done in a while - find a star defensive player in the first round.
To discuss some of the big decisions the Cowboys could be facing, I’ve summoned the help of my alter-ego and serial cynic, the Phantom Menace, to hash out some pros and cons of certain players.
Danny Phantom: At this time every year there is a player I love that I am wishfully hoping the Cowboys select in the first round. And this year that player is Takkarist McKinley. Do you think he can be the answer the Cowboys are looking for at defensive end?
Phantom Menace: One of the negatives on McKinley’s scouting report is that he plays at a high pad level and doesn’t effectively drop his hips, which inevitably will hinder his ability to bend around the edge. And his three-cone time, which is a crucial parameter for agility for an edge rusher, validates this concern. His speed is great, but his ability to sink those hips and change direction could be a good indicator as to how he’ll perform on the field.
And it doesn’t thrill me that he had surgery for a torn labrum and will miss some necessary development time in training camp.
Danny: While not a favorite of mine, T.J. Watt has been a popular choice of many fans. Do you see him as a good target for the first round?
Menace: You mix his last name and a great combine and suddenly you got yourself this buzz that many fans don’t know what to make of. Either they love him or they are skeptical that they are being tricked. But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find three things that make him very intriguing. First, his great scores at the combine come in categories that are important for an edge rusher. Conversely to McKinley, Watt’s three-cone drill is superb (6.79). Second, he’s just getting started. Some will pause because he’s only had one great year on defense, but he’s only just begun to play defense. Rather than a knock, fans should be intrigued by just how good he can be once he gets more reps under his belt. Finally, he’s one of those players that is going to max out his ability. This kid is going to work his tail off as he fights to get himself out of the shadow of his older brother. And that’s a good deal for whichever team drafts him.
Danny: If the Cowboys don’t like their edge rushing options, there stands a good chance that they’ll take a cornerback in the first round. My concern with this is that the second round could shape up to also have a corner as the best player available at pick 60. What do you think about starting off the draft with two CBs?
Menace: I’d be thrilled! The Cowboys just let two average guys leave in free agency and have a great opportunity to replenish them with great guys in the draft. This is a perfect draft to do this. If Dallas truly had a chance to get a legit RDE that could add to this team, then that’s the direction they should go. However, the last thing they want to do is settle for another guy that doesn’t stand out on the edge. People undervalue the Cowboys depth on the defensive line simply because they are lacking that one true play maker. But the reality of it is - the Cowboys aren’t in as bad as shape as people think. None of us have seen what SPARQ star, Charles Tapper can do. Benson Mayowa was producing some strong reps toward the end of last season. And I recently read an article from this good looking writer that reminded us that the Cowboys might already have a first round graded pass rusher on the team. Watching tape from college prospects is exciting, but if you look at the film from last year from all potential pass rushers that could help the Cowboys the most going forward, this guy stands out as the clear best player.
Danny: There is a lot of talk about “best player available” which seems like common sense, but with the Cowboys needing an impact defensive player would that override BPA when the chips are on the table? What would Dallas do if a player like O.J. Howard was still on the board when they picked in the first round?
Menace: Are you kidding me? They’d pick him in a heartbeat. For starters, Howard is not sliding that far, but to the point of your hypothetical scenario - the Cowboys aren’t passing up a star caliber player just because he doesn’t help them on defense. A player like Howard puts a huge burden on opposing defenses and could you imagine how much Dak Prescott would love him? If the Cowboys ended up with Howard, then the Dallas Mavericks would be honoring Jason Witten this time next year.
When it comes to talent disparity of the first round, BPA isn’t just a best practice that you should sorta try to do. It’s a commandment. The Cowboys bread and butter has been picking the most talented player remaining when they are on the clock. They should keep doing that.
Sometimes it’s good to step out of your normal way of thinking so you can see things from different angles. Do you align with any of the points the Phantom Menace made?