The NFL draft is less than a month away now and with all the changes that have happened due to coronavirus - such as prospects being unable to attend pro days and having to have virtual interviews with teams - there’s even more uncertainty around the draft this year than ever before.
The fact that the draft itself will be held virtually as well only adds to the strangeness of it all. With the Cowboys having used free agency to somewhat address their needs, they’re not in a position where they necessarily need to reach for any particular player. That sets things up for some potential mayhem on the Cowboys’ end. Here are five bold predictions for what could happen to the Cowboys on draft night.
1. Oregon QB Justin Herbert is available at 17
Aside from concerns about the health of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert may just be the most divisive quarterback prospect in this class. Some think he’s ready to be a star, and others think he’s primed to bust, with a litany of other opinions in between.
Between that and the few number of teams still looking for starting quarterbacks in the top half of the first round, Herbert could suffer a huge drop if he doesn’t get selected in the first six picks. While Dallas wouldn’t have any interest in Herbert, don’t be surprised if he’s still on the board when the Cowboys are on the clock.
2. The Cowboys trade out of the first round
Whether or not Herbert is still available, this seems to be more and more inevitable each day. Most of the prospects the Cowboys have (virtually) met with thus far (that we know of) have been fringe first-round, early second-round types of players, including Wisconsin’s Zack Baun, TCU’s Jalen Reagor, and Alabama’s Raekwon Davis.
It seems like the Cowboys are preparing for the possibility that all of their top targets - such as Florida’s C.J. Henderson and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw - could be off the board by the time pick 17 comes up. If a high-value player like Herbert is also still available, then Dallas will definitely be offering up the pick to the highest bidder.
3. Dallas doubles up on wide receivers
The Cowboys are clearly interested in getting at least one more receiving weapon for Dak Prescott; the fact that they went after Emmanuel Sanders at one point shows that. But Dallas also (rightly) isn’t interested in paying too much for a third receiver between how much Amari Cooper just made and how much Michael Gallup will likely make after the 2021 season.
Thus the draft becomes a perfect opportunity to add just that. And in a deep receiver class, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys double up on the position. They can find an immediate contributor in the early rounds and also groom another draft pick in the event that Dallas decides not to pay Gallup or if they want to move on from Cooper down the road. Taking advantage of a stacked receiver class gives them flexibility down the road and bolsters the offense now.
4. They still don’t take a safety high
Some felt that the signing of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a sign the Cowboys were finally valuing the safety position. But Clinton-Dix was signed to a cheap one-year deal, which doesn’t necessarily equate to suddenly valuing the position more.
The notion that the team’s disposition against drafting safeties high was a Jason Garrett preference doesn’t have too much validity; the Cowboys have only drafted four safeties in the first two days of the draft since 2002, and two of those draft picks (J.J. Wilcox and Matt Johnson) were under Garrett’s regime. It’s much more likely that the aversion to investing in the position is a philosophy of Jerry and Stephen Jones, meaning the Cowboys won’t be spending a premium pick on the position this year.
5. Only one cornerback
The Cowboys lost Byron Jones in free agency and next year will have to make decisions about both Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, whose rookie contracts will expire. Naturally, some have assumed Dallas would double up on the position to prepare for that, but not so fast.
The Cowboys seem to be trying to load their roster up with as many cheap options at the position as possible given the signings of Maurice Canady, C.J. Goodwin, and Saivion Smith. The sheer numbers of cornerbacks that Dallas has amassed seems to signal a change in approach geared towards just getting as many bodies at corner and seeing who’s the best. While they’re still looking for a player in the draft, Dallas might just be content to only grab one rookie and bet on their other signees going forward.