The Dallas Cowboys sit at an interesting point in the 2018 NFL Draft. With their 9-7 record, the Cowboys currently own the 19th overall pick in this year’s upcoming draft. Dallas’ front office has made it known in recent years that they are going to stay committed to the draft to improve their roster.
The Cowboys will of course look into free agency to add players around the league, but they are not going to overspend on free agents. Instead, they are going to be active with the mentality of bargain-bin shopping. In recent years, the Cowboys have added players like Terrell McClain, George Selvie, and Jeremy Mincey with this logic.
But for the most part, the Cowboys are going to work the draft to bring in starting-quality talent to continue to transform their roster to one with an abundance of young talent. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott look to have promising futures, but Dallas also hit it on three defensive backs in last year’s draft, all of whom had more positives than negatives in their rookie seasons.
As the young Cowboys continue to grow and gain more experience under their belt, their front office has to continue to add talent to match that growth. There are needs across the roster and if the Cowboys want to compete for the NFC East and beyond in 2018, some re-tooling of the roster will need to be done.
There is a notion in football that only teams with higher draft picks can bring in elite talent via the draft. While teams with higher draft picks may have a better chance of bringing in the elite talent, that should not take away from teams being able to acquire elite talent elsewhere in the first round. Look at some of the Cowboys’ picks over the past few years: Zack Martin was drafted with the 16th pick in 2014, Travis Frederick was drafted with the 31st pick in the 2013 draft.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, quarterback is one of the positions that is the most top-heavy in this draft. And if you look around the league, it is easy to see why that position will be in high demand for many NFL teams. That’s good, scratch that, great news for the Cowboys.
The more quarterbacks taken ahead of the Cowboys’ draft selection, the more opportunities the Cowboys will have to bring in an elite-level prospect that is sliding down the first round.
Could the Cowboys look to potentially trade up a few spots if an elite player is getting close, especially with tradeable compensatory picks? Could a jump of two or three spots in the first round be palatable for the Cowboys front office?
The purpose of this article is to highlight three names that could slide on draft night due to the number of quarterbacks that will likely go in the first round, and might be enticing enough for the Cowboys to move up a few spots to grab.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
With the addition of Kris Richard to the Cowboys’ coaching staff, there should be a huge level of excitement for this defense going forward. Despite there being a number of injuries to key players and clubhouse issues, Richard was scapegoated as the reason the Seahawks struggled defensively.
Dallas has a number of defensive backs that could explode under the tutelage of Richard. However, the Cowboys could look to add another toy for him in the draft.
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, James is one of the bigger safeties in this year’s draft class. Despite being taller and bigger, James is a sure tackler who plays with a range from the center-fielder position of the defense. He’s exactly what the NFL is looking for now in safeties.
By adding James, the Cowboys will all of the sudden have an extremely talented secondary filled with younger players with a ton of upside. When you look at the takeaway numbers over the past decade, the Cowboys have never really been at the top. With this group, expect a lot of takeaways and short fields for the offense.
Check out this awesome piece my colleague Cole Patterson put together on James.
Vita Vea, DT, Washington
What is the weakest position on the Cowboys’ defense? My answer is defensive tackle and it may be many of yours as well. And while I understand that a 1-tech defensive tackle isn’t the most sought-after position in Rod Marinelli’s scheme, adding an explosive DT at some point in this year’s draft could make the rest of this defense better.
That is exactly what Vea can and will do for an NFL defense. At 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, Vea is clearly a monster of a man. He explodes off the football, has extremely active hands, and he can take on double teams on running downs or can rush the passer on passing downs. He is just a physical specimen that Marinelli and Leon Lett could do wonders with. Here’s what Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had to say about Vea:
After catching five contests from Vita Vea’s 2017 season, I’ve realized it’s time for my report to change. He’s a much better pass-rusher than I expected from a 334-pounder and is the best in the class at splitting double-teams to make splash plays in the backfield. Vea is a solid first-rounder.
Imagine a defensive line consisting of Demarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, and Vea. Again, the Cowboys are building something special with the talent they have on defense. Adding a player of Vea’s talent and presence could put this unit over the top.
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
There is a chance that Anthony Hitchens cashes in this offseason in free agency. The numbers don’t really stand out to you, but Hitchens had an impressive 2017 despite playing in just 12 games. In the event that Hitchens goes elsewhere in free agency, the Cowboys will need to find a player to rotate with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith.
There are players on the roster that the Cowboys could use for the job, but the Dallas should be open to using their first-round pick on a linebacker, and that is where Smith comes into the picture. Especially when considering the injury history of both Lee and Smith.
For anyone who followed or watched the Georgia Bulldogs this past season, it is easy to see why Smith is getting all of this first-round hype. Smith was an absolute stud all season long for the Bulldogs.
With the direction NFL defenses are going, linebackers with range and speed are becoming a hot commodity. Players such as Deion Jones, Myles Jack, and Telvin Smith excelled in 2017. If he falls, Dallas could draft their own athletic linebacker in Smith.
Roquan’s movement skills can’t be real. Look at him run around this block tracking Rodney Anderson’s every move pic.twitter.com/34IeDyqQx0— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) January 30, 2018
Would you consider trading up for any of these prospects? What about another prospect?