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Five potential first-round prospects that can bring the explosiveness back to the offense

The offense needs a boost; can one of these prospects help the Cowboys return to 2016 form?

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Texas A&M Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys’ offense took a step back this past season. As explosive as the unit was behind rookie phenoms Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in 2016, it was practically the opposite in 2017. Some of that can be attributed to Zeke’s six-game suspension and Tyron Smith’s nagging injuries, but some of it was also due to Dak and the receivers struggling and some stale play-calling from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

Whatever it was, the offense wasn’t the same. Going from top five in the NFL to middle of the pack is not a trend you would like to see. So while many would like to see the staff and front office continue building the defense, going the offensive route early in the draft wouldn’t be opposed — especially since the Cowboys are committed to building the offense, and team, around Dak.

With that said, here are some names that could help bring the explosiveness and excitement back to the Cowboys’ offense.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide

The most obvious choice on the offensive side of the ball for the Cowboys would seemingly be Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley; however, the question is if whether or not the recently crowned National Champion is still on the board when the 19th pick comes on the clock. That’s the biggest issue concerning Ridley.

But if Ridley is still on the board when the Cowboys come on the clock at AT&T Stadium this April, his selection would make sense.

The star Alabama receiver was the go-to playmaker for the Crimson Tide throughout the majority of his collegiate career in Tuscaloosa. Ridley played with Florida State transfer quarterback Jake Coker in the 2015 season as a true freshman, and he 89 passes for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. Coker was not drafted. Then, Ridley played the next two seasons with Jalen Hurts — a good college quarterback who isn’t known for his arm. Ridley totaled 769 yards and seven scores on 72 catches last season and 967 yards and five touchdowns on 63 catches in 2017.

Simply put it, Calvin Ridley is a big play threat that would be welcomed in Dallas.

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M Aggies

Since the season ended, we have heard the term “Dak-friendly” a lot. The front office and the coaching staff are both fully committed to building around Dak Prescott. After all, he was the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl quarterback at the age of 23 and was still one of the game’s youngest and brightest stars before the offense collapsed earlier this seasosn. Obviously, Dak takes some of that blame, but he still has more than enough talent to be a franchise quarterback.

One of the best prospects in the draft that would fit a “Dak-friendly” offense would be Texas A&M do-it-all playmaker Christian Kirk.

Christian Kirk, all 5-foot-11 and 201 pounds of him, was consistently one of the most electrifying talents in college football during his three-year career in College Station. His ability to take a five-yard slant route into a touchdown, combined with his deadly return skills, made him a threat to find the end zone on any part of the field.

Cole Beasley was Prescott’s favorite target during his historic rookie campaign in 2016. The two connected 75 times for a team-high 833 yards and five touchdowns during Dak’s first professional season. Kirk seems to have similar skills in the slot, but also has the ability to line up on the boundary as well. He caught at least 71 balls each season for the Aggies, while averaging 952 yards and nearly nine touchdowns per season at the wide receiver position. Although the Cowboys spent a fourth-round pick on Ryan Switzer in last year’s draft, Kirk could also help him in return duties as well — totaling 814 yards and six touchdowns as a punt returner.

Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma Sooners

When you think of the term “explosive”, you rarely picture a big offensive tackle; however, any great offense needs protection to do the things that they do best. We saw that first hand when Tyron Smith struggled with injuries throughout the season and the offensive line wasn’t up to its usual standard.

With Tyron Smith in his late 20’s and constantly dealing with injuries, it may be time for the Cowboys to grab insurance at the left tackle position. Will that be in the first round? Who knows, but if they do want to address that need on day one, Orlando Brown would be an ideal prospect to pick up.

Dane Brugler is one of the best in the business and he had this to say about an elite offensive tackle falling to the Cowboys at 19:

Question: Is there a first-round prospect who could drastically alter the Cowboys’ strategy if he surprisingly fell to No. 19?

Brugler: If one of the offensive tackles (Connor Williams, Orlando Brown, Mike McGlinchey) fell to No. 19, the Cowboys need to be ready. Dallas seems confident to move forward with La’el Collins at right tackle, but will they have a high enough grade on one of these tackle prospects that could change their thinking? Or do they believe one of these tackles can make the move inside to guard? The debate about the value of another first-round offensive line is valid, but it is something Dallas needs to be ready for if Quenton Nelson is the only OL prospect to go in the top 18 picks.

Could Brown be the choice at 19?

Connor Williams, OT, Texas Longhorns

In addition to Brown, Texas’ Connor Williams is another intriguing prospect at the offensive tackle position. I have seen some mock drafts have his name coming off the board within the first ten-or-so picks and others that have the 6-foot-6 tackle waiting until the late-teens or early-20’s.

The first-round prospect opted to enter the NFL Draft over returning back to Texas for his senior season. Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller is very high on Williams, calling him the “draft’s best tackle’. In his his most recent mock draft, Miller has Williams in the top ten.

Texas’ Connor Williams is the draft’s best tackle. He’s a natural left tackle with very good athleticism, a high football IQ and the tools to be a Day 1 starter on the blind side. He did struggle against Maryland; but as he told us on the Stick to Football podcast last week, that was the worst game of his career and he battled to make improvements off that tape.

SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, however, has Williams going off the board just one pick prior to the Cowboys, and he says that the former Longhorn can play either tackle position — something that would certainly help his value in the eyes of the Cowboys’ decision makers.

If trades were being made in this mock, one would happen here because the Seahawks need to recoup some capital after trading out of the second and third rounds. If they stick here, adding talent on the offensive or defensive line is possible. Williams could play on the right side of the line and eventually replace Duane Brown on the left.

If he is still on the board at 19, the Cowboys need to think about selecting Connor Williams.

Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

Tight end is a position that the Cowboys need to address in the near future. With “The G.O.A.T” Jason Witten nearing the end of his legendary career, Dallas needs to find his long-term replacement. Many are hopeful that his replacement already lies on the Cowboy’s roster: Rico Gathers. A concussion ended the former Baylor Bears hoops star’s regular season before it even started.

There is certainty a lot of potential in Gathers, but there also some question marks, too. Can he block well enough to fit in this offense? Is he consistent enough to become a legit factor? While there is a lot of hope for the 2016 sixth-rounder, there is some uncertainty.

Another possible candidate is wide receiver Noah Brown — another late-round selection. The seventh-round pick battled for a roster spot before making the active roster for nearly every game in his rookie season. The 6-foot-2, 222 pounder proved to be a solid blocker all season long and may potentially make a move to the tight end room.

But, if the Cowboys want to get Witten’s replacement in the draft, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews is an ideal candidate. It remains to be seen if the Cowboys want to select a tight end on day one, but Andrews will likely be gone before the Cowboys make their second selection. Regardless, Andrews proved to be a reliable tight end throughout his college career. NBC5’s Newy Scruggs says a package of Andrews and Gathers would give the Cowboys an advantage.

It’s hard to say in January that Rico Gathers will make an impact for the Cowboys this fall. If Dallas has a chance to draft Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews they need to look into it.

Baker Mayfield won a Heisman Trophy finding him open all year long. I think he has some talent and Jason Witten can’t get down the field like he did for yards after the catch like he used to.

The Cowboys would be wise to have Gathers and a player like Andrews ready to replace Witten.

Andrews won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and led the Sooners in receptions.

Imagine a 12 package of Gathers and Andrews in 2018. I think Dallas could do some things.

The 2017 Mackey Award winner caught 62 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns while being Heisman winner Baker Mayfield’s favorite target during his junior season in Norman. The former Oklahoma tight end has drawn Travis Kelce comparisons and would add another element to the Cowboys’ offense. Kadar has Andrews going 27th to the Saints in his most recent mock draft.

Which one of these prospects would you like to see in silver and blue the most, BTB?

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