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Cowboys Draft 2020: A dynamic playmaker for defense seems very possible at 17

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The Cowboys will likely have a great chance of landing a playmaker for the defense in round one.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

[Most NFL teams will feed the overused line of best player available but the league is just not setup that way. It’s really more of a best player available at a position of need unless there is something too sweet to pass on. In this series, we’re going to look at each of the Cowboys’ slotted picks in the draft and compare it to their positions of need to see where the two might align.]

PICK 17 ANALYSIS

When picking in the middle of the draft, where the Cowboys currently sit, the hope is that one blue-chip player makes his way to you. If for any reason you feel wiped out, your hoping there is a quarterback or something of value that will aid you in a trade-back scenario, while also nabbing another day two selection. However, this year’s draft will be very unique and it’s likely to cause more conservatism overall, making for less trading than past drafts.

So, what will the board look like when Cowboys step up to make their pick? A betting man would say that the Cowboys will have a chance to land an impact defender.

K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU

Why he would be there: Chaisson is giving teams concerns about the lack of production. He had a slow build in 2019 until really coming alive in the latter portion of LSU’s championship run. Chaisson has been working on his maturity as a pass rusher while still maintaining a pretty high ceiling as a prospect.

Why he won’t be there: A guy with his measurables, speed, bend, and athleticism just don’t fall outside the Top-10 very often. Chaisson will be an immediate impact player though he is still ascending. His ability to convert his speed to power make him an excellent pass rusher and that’s going to be difficult for teams in the Top-15 to pass on.

CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Why he would be there: Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah is the top prospect but Henderson is without a doubt CB2. Now, what will help him get to 17 is some offensive needs of other teams ahead of the Cowboys. Quarterbacks, tackles, and receivers could have runs in the first round that would allow Dallas to land their man, who most believe could be their top target.

Why he won’t be there: The 49ers and even Falcons could teams that snag Henderson just ahead of Dallas. Henderson is an outstanding perimeter cornerback with a shutdown corner’s mentality and exceptional press corner’s skill set. He’s a favorite of the Cowboys and the fan base but Henderson has been riding waves of momentum since the pre-draft process began.

This would be a dream scenario for the Cowboys to be staring at two players they probably love but they will have to decide on pass rush versus coverage? Now, with the top two names covered, here are a few more options that we’re more confident with their availability at 17:

Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

Why it makes sense: Despite what the Cowboys did in free agency to get Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on the roster, safety is still arguably a position of need. What the Cowboys need more of is playmaking ability on the back end. Xavier McKinney can play both safety positions but his versatility extends past that too. His coverage skills are very good and most importantly, McKinney was asked to do a variety of things at Alabama and he executed them well, no matter the ask. He’s a defensive weapon and one that would make the Cowboys instantly better.

Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Why it makes sense: Though so many would shake their fists at the Cowboys taking a linebacker high with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith under contract for the foreseeable future, it’s not the worst idea. We witnessed the Cowboys linebacker corps take a drastic step backwards in 2019, even prior to Vander Esch’s injury. They could very well bounce back but Kenneth Murray is worthy of first-round consideration. Murray is physical, smart, fast, and productive. His tape shows a guy with tremendous range and he’s relentlessly attacking the football to make the play for his defense.

Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin

Why it makes sense: The first thing his detractors will point out is the lack of length but you can’t argue with the man’s production. Baun was an all-around beast for one of college football’s best defenses last season. He put up stellar numbers: 75 tackles. 19.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and a pick. Maybe he’s better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker but the Cowboys look to be much more scheme-flexible under this new coaching staff. Can Baun help the Cowboys put the quarterback on his backside? Can he help the Cowboys take the ball away? Can he help improve the run defense? The answer to all of the above is a resounding yes.