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Cowboys 2018 draft: Three first-round targets that you might not like, but will eventually love

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The Cowboys first-round picks usually don’t excite you at first, but over time, we learn to love them.

NCAA Football: North Texas at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The draft is almost here! It’s an exciting time for us die-hard fans as we can’t wait to learn which new players will be joining our beloved Dallas Cowboys. What the team does in the draft will have a huge impact not only for the upcoming season, but for years to come. But no pick should make more of an impact than the player they select in the first round. There are several players many of us love at 19, however - they only get to choose one guy. That means many of our favorites will be passed up on so prepare yourself for a disappointed fan base on Friday. And while the player the Cowboys select might not be your first choice, he still might be a pretty good selection. Here are three players who might cause you to pause at first, but could turn out to be very good picks.

DE, Harold Landry, Boston College (BTB rank 14th)

Why waste the pick on another pass rusher?

The Cowboys already have invested $17 million into DeMarcus Lawrence and for all intents and purposes, he’s the team’s pass rusher of the future. The team also invested their first-round pick in Taco Charlton last year so they already have two young up-and-coming edge rushers. And when you factor in they are still giving Tyrone Crawford a lot of money to fill in at defensive end, plus the possible return of Randy Gregory - why in the world would the team consider drafting another defensive end with their precious first-round pick? This team has so many other needs!

Well, that’s the type of logic that will get you in trouble as it’s been well documented that this team doesn’t make decisions solely on need. They are looking to collect the best players in this draft and when you are picking that early - you better make sure it’s a good one. And make no mistake about it - Harold Landry is a good one.

Landry led the nation with 16.5 sacks in 2016, but decided to return to school to finish out his senior year. Since 2005, Von Miller is the only other player to opt to go back to school after leading the country in sacks. Landry’s senior season was far less impressive, but that had to do with facing many double-teams due to having no defensive help from his team. He also suffered an ankle injury that cut his season short. All these things have allowed Landry to be flying low on the radar in this upcoming draft. He’s really a top 10 pick, but the “what have you done for me lately” syndrome has allowed him to slide a bit.

The Boston College edge rusher isn’t the prototypical build the Cowboys look for on the edge, but that’s okay - he’s got a lot of other traits that meet their criteria. For starters, he’s explosive off the snap and has great flexibility to bend around the edge. And while his speed and agility are impressive, he’s also improved his fundamentals and can win with technique.

Having Tank and Taco on the team is a great start, but a player like Landry could be even better. Just on draft cost alone, Landry is going to be selected higher than both of those guys and that’s even factoring in his discounted price due to his 2017 production. For years, we’ve been balking at reaching for an edge rusher and trusting our board. Well, this season it might line up perfectly and you cannot pass up excellence like Landry.

The Cowboys wouldn’t bring him in for an official 30 visit, if there were serious about him.

DT, Da’Ron Payne, Alabama (BTB rank 15th)

Drafting a 1-tech defensive tackle early is a waste of draft resources

We’ve all heard people downplay the importance of a 1-tech defensive tackle as it’s an underrated position that doesn’t ever show up in the stat sheet. But having a great player in the middle of the defensive line is important. All Pro players like Ndamukong Suh, Damon Harrison, and Fletcher Cox have been disruptive pieces to their defensive fronts and have bolstered the overall effectiveness of their defensive line.

The Cowboys don’t have that. And for years, there haven’t been players worth going after when the team was on the clock to help strengthen the middle of their DLine. Better talent has always taken precedence so there have been good reasons for passing up on defensive tackles in the draft. That may not be the case this year. Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne are two of the most talented big guys in the draft. While Vea is expected to be gone at 19, Payne has a chance to make it. Some people will make a case for targeting solid DTs later in the draft, but in doing so, they are passing up on a great player in Payne.

During his time in Alabama, he stuck to his role, which consisted of absorbing blocks and allowing space for his teammates to shine. Payne is a big guy at 310 pounds, but is extremely athletic and demonstrates great movement for a player his size. His combination of power and quickness make him a force in the middle. While his ability as a pass rusher is just labeled as “potential” at this point, he is the best run-stopping DT in the draft and can have an immediate impact in the NFL.

Draft expert Dane Brugler had this to say about Payne:

Overall, there are only so many humans on the planet with his mix of fluid athleticism and brute power, and his blossoming understanding of how to best use his gifts in unison suggests continued ascension under NFL coaching.

Personally, I love the thought of having a run-stopping ace in the trenches. Let Tank, Maliek Collins, and David Irving do all the quarterback chasing. Someone who can take on blocks at the line of scrimmage and help preserve the health of their fellow linebackers is a big plus for this team. And as a bonus, I also hear he’s “Dak-friendly.”

After Payne picked off a pass in the Sugar Bowl, the team capped off the drive by rewarding him with a touchdown. That means he caught more touchdown passes last year than all the rookie wide receivers taken in the first round of the draft.

Payne is also an official 30 visit, so despite the bad rep of 1-tech DTs, the Cowboys are at least interested in him.

C/G James Daniels, Iowa (BTB rank 16th)

Using another first-round pick on an offensive linemen is a waste of resources

When I first started doing draft research, I immediately fell in love with Daniels as a potential second-round target. Any inclination that he’ll be there at 50 is long gone now. Daniels is first-round player and could very possibly be the second interior offensive linemen taken in the draft after Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson.

Some people are against the notion of taking a guard at 19 and I’m one of those people based on the simple logic of - he’s not the best player on the board. There stands a chance, however, that he is. And if that’s where the Cowboys find themselves, then he’s got to be the choice.

The team may look to address the offensive line later in the draft, but they need to be careful about that. If they get one at 19, they’re sitting in great shape as they land a great player and shore up the offensive line for years to come. If they don’t, it might be tricky to find a good one later as the talent starts dropping.

There are a handful of offensive linemen that you could make a case for at 19. Isaiah Wynn or Will Hernandez may be your favorite. And while both of them are great players, Daniels could be more of the type of player the Cowboys look for. He’s a team captain, has great athleticism, and moves smoothly down the field to execute blocks in the second level. He has good agility and is aware of his surroundings in pass protection. Daniels is also only 20-years-old and has yet to reach his full potential. Not only does he have a higher ceiling, he’s every bit as good as the other mid-to-late first-round guards in this draft.

He’s athletic, fundamentally sound, smart, and he’s just getting started. What more can you ask for from a top collegiate linemen?

Would you be happy if the Cowboys took one of these players at 19? Is there anyone on this list that you want them to avoid?