We’re just a little over a week away until the NFL Draft is set to begin and there is still no consensus on how the Cowboys will approach this draft. We know that the Cowboys will be heavily focusing on the defensive side of the ball but where will they go first? What will be their end game in this year’s draft? Will they go edge rusher first? Will they decide to go cornerback at 28 instead? That’s the question we’re all debating.
There are those of us who look at the Cowboys’ stable of edge rushers and think it’s lacking elite talent. Then there’s the other side who see the exodus of former secondary players and think this may be the perfect year to hunt for help on the back end. The closer we get to draft day the more and more the feeling of a secondary overhaul seems likely.
The one place in this draft that seems to have the most NFL-ready talent is in the secondary and the Cowboys have a ‘help-wanted’ sign clearly placed in the shop window. When it comes to the defense for the Cowboys, they need help all over, so why not start with the back end and work your way forward? Those of us that truly want a ‘war daddy’ edge rusher at pick 28 need to come to terms that a ‘war daddy’ most likely won’t be there. Pass rushers are only second to quarterbacks in terms of their value in the draft.
Depending on how the draft shakes out, the best option may be taking the second or third-best cornerback versus taking the fourth or fifth-best edge rusher. Especially when considering rookie pass rushers outside of Joey Bosa and DeMarcus Ware don’t always produce big numbers in their first year. Looking at the way the Cowboys’ 30 visits have gone, it points to the Cowboys using this depth as their motivator to rebuild their secondary in its entirety with this draft.
Dallas has some solid players to work with already with Orlando Scandrick, second-year corner Anthony Brown, free agent acquisition Nolan Carroll, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and the athletic-freak Byron Jones. However, of all those names, what’s lacking is a true playmaker in the secondary. This year they may be able to net themselves more than one on the back side.
The Cowboys were able to up their takeaway totals from 11 in 2015 to 20 this past season but the interception total only went from 8 to 9 picks last year. If you ask Rod Marinelli he would probably tell you that’s not good enough seeing how they had 31 takeaways in 2014. Also, in 2015, the cornerbacks only accounted for four of those interceptions. In 2016, again only four interceptions were accounted for by the cornerbacks. The leader in the clubhouse last season was Barry Church, who signed a lucrative deal with the Jaguars this offseason. Needless to say, the Cowboys want to get better at creating those opportunities to get their juggernaut offense back on the field.
The fact that they haven’t been so good at picking off quarterbacks most definitely plays a part in why many of the former defensive backs were not re-signed this offseason. Still, that leaves some holes not only in leadership on the team but in production. With the aforementioned plethora of quality defensive backs in this draft, the Cowboys have every right to believe they can double-dip and really come away better before the start of the season. There are a lot of variables that can lead them to go this direction and have confidence.
After all, this is the team that drafted Anthony Brown in the sixth round and all he did was play Morris Claiborne out of a job. Also, looking at the last few drafts and it shows that you can expect some production out of rookie defensive backs. In 2014, cornerbacks Kyle Fuller (started 14 games, 64 tackles, 4 INT, 10 PBU) and Bashaud Breeland (started 15 games, 66 tackles, two INT, 14 PBU) had solid rookie years. In 2015, Marcus Peters (started 16 games, 60 tackles, 8 INT, 26 PBU) and Ronald Darby (started 15 games, 68 tackles, 2 INT, 21 PBU) had great rookie campaigns. The list doesn’t just apply to cornerbacks as Landon Collins, Adrian Amos, Keanu Neal, and Sean Davis have had good rookie years for safeties.
This draft offers up incredible depth in the secondary that these past few drafts didn’t even offer. It is very possible that this front office could land another later round defensive back that fell due to oversaturation of the market. If the Cowboys can find a cornerback like a Gareon Conley in the first round, target a safety in the middle, perhaps another late-round cornerback, they’ll be sitting pretty to start the season.
We’ve all been entrenched in this draft process since the day after the Green Bay loss in the divisional round. By this time, we have hashed and rehashed every single idea we possibly can. Now more than ever, it’s time that we subscribe to the Nate Newton way of thinking; just add a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. More than anything else, the Cowboys just need to add defensive talent to their roster. They got plenty of bodies at certain positions but this draft will lend its services in the talent upgrading department. Focusing so heavily on one area may be hard to fathom but not when the talent pool is staring them in the face.