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Why trading down still remains the Cowboys best option in the draft

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All aboard the Cowboys trade down train.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night the National Football League will host their first ever online draft. These are unprecedented times for the league, and also something new for the Dallas Cowboys. For the first time in a decade, the Cowboys will conduct a draft with basically a completely new coaching staff.

Since draft season started back in late February, we have seen stretches of names mocked to Dallas at pick 17. It started with LSU safety Grant Delpit, then turned to Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. Right before the combine, C.J. Henderson of Florida started to gain some steam. For a minute, CeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs shared a turn being possible options, but most recently the man linked to Dallas the most has been LSU’s K’lavon Chaisson.

All these names would be solid fits in Big D, but there are serious questions about if more than the two safeties will be available when the Cowboys get on the clock at pick 17. You can put Henderson, Lamb, and Ruggs in a different category than Chaisson, Delpit, and McKinney. The former are widely considered true first-round picks, while the ladder group is considered by some, but not all, as first-rounders. This does not mean they all won’t be taken in round one, it just means most teams usually have around 20 true first-round grades on players in any given class.

For argument’s sake, let’s be realistic and say only Chaisson and the two safeties are still there when it is the Cowboys turn to pick. If they are sticking and picking at 17, the 6’ 3”, 254-lb edge rusher would likely be the best option, but Chaisson is about as boom or bust of a prospect there is.

In his first two years of college ball, he registered just three sacks and played in only 11 games. Thoughts of being a first-round pick were far from reality, but we saw a different player in his third and final season. En route to a helping LSU win a National Championship, Chaisson was a solid presence on the Tigers’ defense, registering 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

When things mattered most, in the final three games of LSU’s season, Chaisson recorded three tackles for loss and three sacks.

Some may look at the redshirt-sophomore and see the perfect addition to the Dallas defense. Chaisson could help rush opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and replace some of the production of Robert Quinn on a much cheaper contract. Others see Chaisson as the next Taco Charlton. But no matter what side you are on, ask yourself this. Even if Chaisson defied all expectations of a pass-rushing rookie and is what Quinn was last season, is that alone fixing the Dallas defense?

The obvious answer to that question is no, and that’s why you have more than one pick in the draft, but the answer to that question should provide some input into how the Cowboys approach the first round. Let’s say a team like the New Orleans Saints come calling on Thursday night. They want to move up in the first round to take quarterback Jordan Love. They offer Dallas pick 24 (first round) and 88 (third round) for pick 17.

This would give Dallas a decision this make. Do they have enough trust in Chaisson, Delpit, or any other prospect they could take at 17, to forgo a top 100 pick in a very deep draft? If the Cowboys were to acquire that extra pick, they could use one of their first four picks on a position that is not a huge need, but still can be upgraded, like wide receiver or center. Or they could use the extra third-round pick to package with their second-round pick at 51 and move up higher in round two, and hey, there is at least a chance the guy they wanted at 17 is still there in the mid-twenties.

As a team, the Cowboys lack depth at a ton of positions. At wide receiver behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup there isn’t much else. At cornerback, Dallas replaced an All-Pro with two guys, Anthony Brown and Maurice Canady, who are serviceable at best. Linebacker and defensive end both come with their own concerns, injury and availability. For the past few seasons this has been the issue that has plagued Dallas, true positional depth.

The Cowboys have always had the star power on their roster, it’s the rest that has been the issue. You could make a solid argument Dallas has four or five positions they must address in this draft. Acquiring another pick while moving down just seven or eight spots would be almost a perfect outcome to help address this.

Sure, K’Lavon Chaisson could turn out to be the next great pass-rusher, or Grant Delpit could be the NFL’s next great safety. The entire process of the draft is a risk, but trading back in the draft would give Dallas a chance to add possibly four players in the top 100, and give them their best chance to improve the depth of their top-heavy roster. It may not be as exciting, but if Thursday night when pick 17 comes up the Cowboys trade back, it might just be the smartest thing they could do.

Now how much this will really change the Cowboys drafting strategies remains to be seen, but regardless, Thursday night will be something we have never seen before.

Since draft season started back in late Feburary, we have seen stretches of names be mocked to Dallas at pick 17. It started with LSU saftey Grant Delpit, then turned to Alabama safety Xaiver McKinney. Right before the combine, C.J. Henderson of Florida started to gain some steam. For a minute, CeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs shared a turn being possible options, but most recently the man linked to Dallas the most has been LSU’s Klavon Chaisson.