With the announcement of the compensatory picks, the Dallas Cowboys now have six overall for the 2019 NFL Draft. But they won’t be making one on the first day. That has already been traded for Amari Cooper (which worked out pretty well). Their first shot at getting rookie talent comes late in the second round, where they currently hold the 58th overall selection. The draft has been the cornerstone for building the roster in Dallas for years now. This time just puts more emphasis on getting the best player they can despite the late positioning.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, they don’t have any glaring needs. Almost all the starting jobs are filled, and with the expected new deal for DeMarcus Lawrence, they will only have the slot receiver job that really has to be addressed. That could well change by the draft, as they could re-sign Cole Beasley or Tavon Austin, or pick up a free agent to plug that hole.
But while the needs may not be glaring, there are still definite ones that must be handled. Depth is crucial in the NFL, and there are plenty of places for Dallas to find value.
Where, though, is the question. While the idea of best player available will no doubt come up, that is actually something of a myth. The position played is crucial, especially early in the draft when you are looking for someone who can contribute early.
Here is a rundown of the positions that the Cowboys could address, and the ones where they should be looking at 58. We’ll go with a process of elimination to get to the priorities.
With the plan to re-sign L.P. Ladouceur, the Cowboys just have to decide if they want to bring in someone to compete with kicker Brett Maher. But you don’t spend high draft picks on kickers, despite what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have thought a few years back.
Dak Prescott is the starter, and is going to be locked up with a lucrative deal. No need to spend a day two pick for someone to compete for a backup job.
Interior offensive line
With Connor Williams expected to improve over a full offseason, Travis Frederick looking like he will be back at or near full capacity, Zack Martin holding down his position, and Joe Looney still in the fold as a very capable backup, this can be crossed off.
They have a young and talented group under contract. They may want to be on the lookout later in the draft, but not here.
They have the best duo in the league by just about any measure, and Sean Lee is planning on playing. If they can handle his contract or work out a more affordable deal, and with Joe Thomas still in the fold, this won’t be part of the equation.
Those are the quick ones to eliminate. Now on to where they have more pressing need.
Cooper and Michael Gallup give them a solid one-two pairing, but after that, they have possibilities but no clear answers. As mentioned, free agency may help plug this, but with Allen Hurns’ health a question and Cedrick Wilson a real unknown after missing his rookie year on IR, this certainly deserves consideration. It could really come into play if someone they are high on starts to slip down to them.
They have no depth here, with only Darius Jackson backing up Ezekiel Elliott. And now Elliott is reportedly considering holding out unless he gets a big extension.
The second round has been a place where some very good backs have been found by many teams, including 2018 1,000 yard producers Joe Mixon and Derrick Henry. If someone like that is available at 58, his name has to be in the conversation.
Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz both had pretty good years, but weren’t really potent threats as receivers. And this is a draft class rich in tight end talent. With Kellen Moore now in the OC seat and hopefully bringing some new ideas to the table, the team has to consider adding someone who not only bolsters the depth, but can challenge right away for the starting job.
The Cowboys have a deep group, especially if they don’t blow the Lawrence situation, but Taco Charlton has not lived up to his first-round status yet, and Dorance Armstrong is still a work in progress. And a really good edge rusher is gold in the NFL, especially if he is also strong against the run. If one of their best prospects is still there, it would never be a bad investment.
The interior of the D line is the opposite of the end position, with a real need to add to the rotation that Rod Marinelli uses. It is another position that is seen as pretty deep this year. And Dallas can use both a true run-stopper at the 1-tech or a really strong 3-tech. A definite spot to watch, if the Cowboys can get over their tendency to undervalue the position in the draft.
Unless they can make an offer that keeps Cameron Fleming, this is something they need to look at. We know from 2017 just what can happen if you don’t have a capable fill-in. The starters are set, but this may be a crucial depth call.
This is one that could really change in free agency. Earl Thomas is the mad crush for many, but the free agent safety class is loaded with good players. And Xavier Woods can play as either a free or box safety very well, so the options are wide open for Dallas.
But if they don’t find a free agent answer, this goes right up there at 58.
Ranking the needs
Six picks (at the moment) and seven positions of need. It’s not a good situation in that respect. Here is how those should be stacked (for what it’s worth).
- Tight end. Fixing the offense is the big job this year, and a top TE would be arguably the best way to help that.
- Defensive tackle. Looking at the talent in the draft, at least pre-combine, this is the second best place to use 58, and would be the fallback if the tight ends don’t fall the way the Cowboys like. Again, they have to modify their approach to the position, but the second round may make that easier to consider.
- Wide receiver. The need to make the offense, particularly the passing game, work makes helping Prescott out with more targets valuable. It would take a real gem falling to them, but this remains an outside consideration.
- Running back. Now we are getting into a lot of conditional things. I think there is some fire behind the smoke of the holdout rumor with Elliott, so this is an important thing to watch. But good RB talent can be found in just about all rounds, so that argues for holding off on this one a bit.
- Swing tackle. It is a need, but can they justify the second round? That just doesn’t seem likely.
- Edge rusher. They go here if a real monster falls to them, but this seems a long shot.
- Safety. It comes in last based on optimism that they can find someone good in free agency. If not, this could be right up there with TE and DT.
There is my take. Let us know how you rank them.
The most important position for the Cowboys to draft in the second round:
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