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After free agency, exploring trade-up opportunities for the Cowboys in the draft

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Does what the Cowboys have done in free agency change their approach in the draft?

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The Dallas Cowboys have done a good job addressing needs in free agency. They’ve signed depth for their offensive line, a solid reserve guy at linebacker, and they’ve traded to replace their fullback at a cost of almost nothing. They’ve also added a couple wide receivers to help add some spice to this position group. The great thing about these signings is that they are filled with young players, many of which were stuck behind some good players. They are good enough players to provide the Cowboys with a high floor for depth, but could also offer up a little bit of upside should the opportunity present itself.

As a fan that knew free agency spending wasn’t going to be exhilarating, these acquisitions have to make us feel better about the depth on this team. That’s fine and all, but now it’s time for the good part.

What are the Cowboys going to do in the draft?

I imagine that Will McClay and company have looked at this college draft class and asked themselves, “what can we get from this group that can really help this ball club?” Picking all the way down at 19 means that their shot at a first-round graded player is a little iffy and for that player to fit a position of need - it gets even trickier. That leads me to believe the Cowboys are going to be aggressive and go get their guy.

Trade up

There are two impact players that should be on the Cowboys radar in the first round - Florida State safety Derwin James and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. Both of these players are blue-chip guys who are capable of being a star at the next level. It’s almost a given that neither of these players will be available by pick 19. For the Cowboys to land one of these guys, they are going to have to trade up.

I have a tough time seeing James making it out of the top 10. The Cowboys should wait it out and if one of these players are still on the board after the first 12 players are gone, they need to start making phone calls. Smith is the most likely of the two who has a chance to slide that far. It might be tempting to be even more aggressive and get a player like James at around pick 8, but that would cost too much draft capital. Trading away a third-round pick for a defensive star is a great deal, but a second-rounder - not so much.

If the Cowboys are able to pull this off, let’s examine their situation. Assuming it’s Smith, they are now stacked at linebacker. Some might think this is a misuse of resources (especially if you give up pick 81) seeing as you already have Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith on the squad. And considering the team is in their nickel defense a majority of the time, someone’s wasted on the sideline. Maybe so, but it won’t be Roquan Smith. Being really strong at linebacker is never a bad thing and adding an extremely athletic player who is great in coverage is a big boost for the defense. The health concerns that go with both Lee and Jaylon can’t be overlooked. But more than anything else, if the team has a chance to get a great defensive talent in this draft, you pull the trigger.

If the Cowboys finished Day 1 of the draft with Roquan Smith on their team, that’s a big win, but the team has their work cut out for them the next day. With only one pick on Day 2, they really have to make it count. How should they use pick 50 now?

The ideal scenario would be to grab a player who can be a day-one starter at a position of need. They could use a starting left guard, 1-tech defensive tackle, and a safety. It might be tempting to decipher which of these positions are the biggest need for Dallas and drive yourself in that direction, but that’s not the way to go about it. Trust the board. Find the biggest talent remaining that can help the team the most. Stanford’s free safety Justin Reid would be a great target to pursue in the second round.

Would you be happy with those picks? The great news is that you leave the second day of the draft with two of the most athletic players at their position, both who are great in coverage.

The bad news is, the team doesn’t have a third round pick and is now left figuring out how to address the guard and 1-tech position on Day 3.

Offensive Line

How important is it to for that last link of the offensive line to be a top-tier talent? Can a viable player be found at this point in the draft be for the unit? Some choices still include:

Wyatt Teller (Virginia Tech), Sean Welsh (Iowa), Mason Cole (Michigan), Jamarco Jones (Ohio State), and Alex Cappa (Humbolt State).

Trade-up opportunity - the team might consider packaging their two fourth-round picks into getting back into the game late on Day 2 to grab a player who is sliding in the third round. Frank Ragnow (Arkansas) and Braden Smith (Auburn) are a couple of targets should they fall.

Defensive Tackle

If the Cowboys don’t place an emphasis on big-bodied 1-tech defensive tackles, then they might be okay waiting to address this position. Maybe it’s not the best idea to invest premium draft resources for this spot, but do they want to wait this long? Isn’t there a happy medium or will this team continue to just chase it’s tail and settle for average talent at this position?

Some choices still include: Foley Fatukasi (Connecticut), Nathan Shepherd (Fort Hayes State), Kendrick Norton (Miami), and Poona Ford (Texas).

Trade-up opportunity - the team might consider packaging their two fourth-round picks into getting back into the game late on Day 2 to grab a player who is sliding in the third round. Deadrin Senat (South Florida) and Derrick Nnadi (Florida State) are a couple of targets should they fall.

If the Cowboys came away with Roquan Smith, Justin Reid, and either Frank Ragnow or Deadrin Senat - that’s three starting-caliber players added to the roster, with two of them being strong defensive talents. That’s a good draft.

Do you feel comfortable with any of these options available later in the draft? How would you feel about this type of approach?