It’s draft season in the NFL, and even though the NFL Combine is yet to come, rankings of players are already coming out. While there are frequently very different opinions among them, it is always interesting to see what they may tell us about the talent available for the Dallas Cowboys. Our Dave Halprin has already taken a look at a top five by position ranking from well-known draft guru Mike Mayock. On the same day, Rotoworld put up an offense only breakdown, going ten deep instead. While the author, Thor Nystrom, is much less famous than Mayock, his lists have some interesting things of note for Dallas.
The Cowboys are not equally interested in all positions, but they have needs at several spots. Here, in rough order of priority (from my point of view), are the takeaways.
The Cowboys have a big need with Jonathan Cooper going into free agency and the team needing an upgrade over him anyway. And this is simply a great class to find a new, long-term starter that would fit right in with the talent already on board.
Nystrom sees no fewer than four players in this year’s class that could be day one starters in the NFL, Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame), Isaiah Wynn (Georgia), Will Hernandez (UTEP), and Braden Smith (Auburn). Nelson may be the best player at any position this year, so would likely be out of the picture for Dallas at 19. But Wynn and Hernandez could well be on their radar, and they and Smith might even be in play in the second round, especially Smith.
Even better, if more than one is still around at 19, it may make for a perfect situation to trade back and still get a guard you really want while garnering an additional pick on day two. As I have opined, the only real considerations in the first round for the Cowboys should be guard or defensive tackle, and we all know how reluctant they are to spend much capital for a big 1-tech, which is what they really need. This strong group of guard candidates could line up to make for a very successful first day for Dallas.
The article had an eye-catching comment about this group.
This receiver class stinks, though it does have a few second- and third-tier guys who could surprise at the next level
This just reinforces the idea that the first round is not where you should look for a wideout, other than a truly transcendental talent, and there doesn’t appear to be one of those. The Cowboys would be better served waiting until day two or three to shop for a WR - but they need to get one somewhere. With Brice Butler seemingly on the way out of town, the questions surrounding Dez Bryant, and some writers out there believing that Cole Beasley is expendable for cap space, they certainly have a need here. It just should not be too early. The third round may be the time to start looking hard at this group. Some intriguing names that may (repeat, may) be around at that point are James Washington (Oklahoma State), Anthony Miller (Memphis), and Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame), but one to really watch is Michael Gallup (Colorado State). This could also be somewhere the team double dips and takes a player in the sixth or seventh round to compete in camp. The expected haul of compensatory picks makes that doable.
The Cowboys still look set at the starting positions, but it would be a highly questionable move to bank on Chaz Green overcoming the issues that beset him in 2017. He could, but it may well be time to forget the third-round pick spent on him and move on.
The problem for Dallas is that offensive tackles are one of the premium positions in the draft, and they would possibly be forced into waiting until day three to take one (unless they did trade back and wound up with an extra third-round selection). This means the Cowboys would be looking more at the end of the list given in the article. One that might just wind up in the right spot is Jamarco Jones (Ohio State). Dallas loves that B1G pedigree. There are also a couple of small school names, Chukwuma Okorafor (Western Michigan) and Desmond Harrison (West Georgia). Both would require some major coaching to turn them into effective pros. This could be where we find out what new OL coach Paul Anderson really brings to the table with his reputation for coaching to optimize players’ skill set.
As much as we all dread the thought, the Jason Witten era cannot extend indefinitely. And James Hanna is another possible cap casualty, while no one knows if Rico Gathers will pan out or not. Again, this is looking like a day three situation. Fortunately, only truly outstanding tight ends tend to get taken high, so there may be some good options to sort through. A couple of players who may have the rounded skills that the Cowboys still favor as both receiver and blocker are Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin) and Dalton Schultz (Stanford).
No one is going to come in and challenge Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris seems to destined to play elsewhere in 2018, so this would be for a player who would compete with Rod Smith for the RB2 job. Unfortunately, the list given is not as deep as it needs to be for the Cowboys to work with, and some of the names have some bad characteristics, like not being good at pass protection or catching the ball (like Rashaad Penny of San Diego State). Look for a late-round pick from deeper in the draft here, and Dallas may also opt to pick up a low-cost free agent as well. If you are replacing Morris, why not go with the same basic formula that brought him to wear the Star?
There is a belief that you always should draft a quarterback, and the Cowboys need competition for Cooper Rush in camp, anyway. Still, this is a quarterback group with no real superstars. Maybe someone will fall to them (unlikely, given how the position is so often overdrafted), but more likely they will go with a late-rounder who has some intriguing traits and a solid college record, or a UDFA. And they will probably bring in a veteran as well, at least for camp. There is a need for at least four arms in camp.
This is one position that has hardly been talked about. The possible need is if Dallas wants to look for an upgrade at backup over Joe Looney. Two names that have decent college resumes and a background of playing multiple positions that could be considered are Coleman Shelton (Washington) and Scott Quessenberry (UCLA), but they would probably have to be around fairly late on day three.
The Cowboys seem set with Keith Smith, and only three names show up on the list as draft worthy players. This seems one position the Cowboys would likely not bother with in the draft.
That is a lot of options - and it doesn’t address defense at all. Realistically, not all these positions will be addressed in the draft, with UDFAs and free agents rounding out the roster for camp.
So what do you think? There is a lot of time to look at prospects, and as free agency unfolds (including who the Cowboys re-sign), things could alter. Give us your thoughts in the comments.