The offensive coaching staff is now set for the Dallas Cowboys, so it is on to free agency and the draft. The former is usually a matter of signing their own and then finding what the team sees as good bargains (although they have a lot more cap space this year, so may take a plunge on a top talent). The draft is more certain, in that we know where the Cowboys are set to pick (pending the expected award of a compensatory pick, likely in the fourth round, and of course there could be trades).
- Round 1, traded for Amari Cooper (which is basically a first round-level talent already locked up)
- Round 2, pick 58
- Round 3, pick 91
- Round 4, pick 122, plus expected compensatory pick
- Round 5, pick 155
- Round 6, pick 186
- Round 7, pick 219
Compensatory picks will push everything after the third round down, but for now, this gives us an idea of what they will have.
The team has some needs to address with these. Although this is preliminary, and may also be adjusted by free agency, here are the priorities I see for the team.
- First tier: Running back, offensive tackle, tight end, wide receiver
- Second tier: Defensive end, defensive tackle, safety, linebacker
- Third tier: Guard/center, cornerback, quarterback, fullback
We’ll leave the third tier out for this discussion. So how do they address the top two tiers in the draft? One approach is to look for the “sweet spots” for each position. Since it is early, this is very tentative, but just to keep it simple, this will use the position rankings from Drafttek.
Drafttek breaks the position down into feature and change-of-pace backs. The Cowboys can go either way. If they want a player who will be more of a backup to Ezekiel Elliott, there is a bit of a gap around the Cowboys second round spot, but plenty of talent from the third round on. If they want a change of pace player, there aren’t any real candidates until the fifth round or later. But I would expect them to go for a player that can fill in for Zeke if needed, so this seems a good day two target. And running backs tend to be undervalued, so they might find someone falling to them in the second.
This draft has a good selection of talent in rounds two through five, then not much after. They will need to look on day two or early on day three for someone.
This is seen as one of the deepest positions in the draft, and there is a good fit for Dallas’ picks in every round. The staff loves to grab someone they are higher on than most, and have had good success with players like Xavier Woods, so tight end is a position they may try to do just that.
Whether the team wants a player who is good from any spot in the formation or needs to address the slot (depending on what happens with Cole Beasley), there are again good choices at all places the team picks.
Defensive end (Edge)
Again, there is a good distribution. And it helps that this group has a lot of potential first round picks, since that means a lot of teams will address this early. That means there will likely be good value when the Cowboys get their shot, whichever round they decide to pull that trigger.
Like tight end, this is a strong part of the draft, both at the 1T and 3T spot. Lots of options in all rounds.
A little thin at the top, but day three has some appealing opportunities.
Definitely looks like a day three position for Dallas, especially if they keep Sean Lee as a backup (which would likely require a new, less costly deal for him).
Putting it all together
Here is my take on how things match up for the Cowboys, combining their needs with what looks to be available in given rounds.
- Round 2 - Offensive tackle or running back
- Round 3 - Whichever they don’t pick in round 2
- Round 4 - Use the compensatory pick and get a tight end and a wide receiver
- Round 5 through 7 - take the best you can get of the other four positions in each round.
That is all very tentative right now, and the NFL Combine will certainly change some things. But right now, that looks like the best way to get the talent Dallas needs, to me at least.