Well, Super Bowl LII is finally over with. I’d say congratulations to the winner, but I’m petty and wish both teams could have somehow lost. Now it is time to really start to focus on the NFL Draft and how the Dallas Cowboys should use the 19th pick overall.
I am not a real football executive or true draft expert. I just play one on the interwebs, and not very convincingly. However, that has never stopped any of us before, now, has it?
The Cowboys have long talked up the idea of taking the best player available in the draft, but as we have seen over the years, BPA is not exactly a hard and fast policy. A more accurate way of looking at it is to take the best player available at a position of need. That, too, fails to capture all the factors and influences in play, but it comes a bit closer.
This year, when the Cowboys host the draft, they have a lot of needs to address. The question is whether those needs are also worthy of a first-round selection. Given that there may only be about 20 or so true first-round players in this year’s class, 19 is a spot that requires a lot of thought and a good bit of finesse to get the best value.
In looking over the needs of the team, there actually aren’t that many places that you can justify using that first-round pick on. This seems to be placing a lot of emphasis on that need portion of things, but the state of the Dallas roster is such that it pushes them in that direction. They have a lot of quality starters, but not much depth at most positions. If you have a starter locked up, you really are not using your draft capital wisely by taking a player in the first round that will be fighting for practice reps and playing time. A first-rounder should be able to come in and start on day one. Right off the bat, that eliminates most of the positions.
- You have your starting quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver (it will be shocking if the team does not work something out with Dez Bryant), and four of your offensive linemen.
- There are some who make a case for taking a wide receiver to complement Bryant, but Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are not likely going anywhere, so again, a wideout would be fighting just to get reps.
- Defense is a little less certain, but right now, you have one true stud pass rusher. The bookend for DeMarcus Lawrence is less certain, but between Taco Charlton, often forgotten Charles Tapper, and the serviceable Tyrone Crawford, that doesn’t look like a wise place to invest a first-rounder (barring a truly outstanding player falling unexpectedly), especially after using a first-round pick on Charlton last year.
- The starting linebackers are Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, whose health seems on track to take up the MIKE job this year. Since the nickel is the de facto base defense for the Cowboys, this is not a likely place to go at 19.
- There is a strong group of young defensive backs, and a highly-regarded new secondary coach in Kris Richard to mold and develop them. Add in the tantalizing idea of getting Earl Thomas from the Seattle Seahawks to reunite with Richard, and this is also a place that would only seem a good investment of a first-rounder if someone really slid down the boards. And in any case when a player is available past where it seems he should have been taken, you always have to wonder what caused that and be cautious.
So that really leaves only two positions where a first-round pick makes much sense: Guard to fill the LG spot (where Jonathan Cooper was serviceable but hardly outstanding, and is a free agent to boot), and DT. In the case of the latter, the Cowboys, despite public statements to the contrary, really need to find a way to lock up David Irving, a true monster at the 3-technique position. What Dallas doesn’t have is a true 1-technique who can eat up the run while still not being a liability on passing plays.
Those are the two positions that the team should really be focusing on finding a player capable of coming in and starting right away. However, both positions are not ones that are normally looked at as first-round-type positions. In the Cowboys’ case, they have been extremely reluctant to spend any real draft capital on a 1-tech.
But the Cowboys had not taken an offensive lineman since Jerry Jones bought the team until the 2011 draft, when they made Tyron Smith the ninth overall selection. And then they took two more first-round linemen in the next three years. It is notable that the change in philosophy coincided with the start of Jason Garrett’s tenure as head coach. Now with Richard on board, there may be another sea change in how the team uses first-round picks.
That is, of course, highly speculative. But for the moment, let’s assume the team is open to both offensive guard and defensive tackle in the first round. Now the question becomes whether the right player is available for them when they go on the clock.
While there are some names that should be strongly considered by the Cowboys, including Will Hernandez and Isaiah Wynn at guard and Vita Vea and De’Ron Payne at DT, that does not meant the team will be happy with what is available.
That opens up the idea of trading back. This is another draft that looks fairly deep at a lot of positions - and once you drop back, you can start looking more at players who will be backups, at least to begin their careers. Once you get into the second round, now wide receivers, linebackers, and many other positions start to make a lot of sense.
The choices, at least to this guy, seem to be taking a guard, DT, a stellar player you didn’t expect to see at 19, or trading back. Of course, I have zero input into what the team is going to do. But that’s how it appears at this early stage.
What do you think? Give us your ideas for the first round in the comments.
[Editorial note: This article was originally published with a typo of OT instead of DT in the second to last paragraph. My apologies.]