Every year it happens. It just does.
Regardless of what college prospects we try to position into the draft spot of the Dallas Cowboys, you can always count on some great shining star falling to them. That sort of thing comes with the particularity of the NFL Draft as every team has their own way of looking at things, and for that reason players you might not think would be there end up actually being there. Every year it happens. It just does.
Last year, that said player was CeeDee Lamb. In fact, the Oklahoma star receiver was so far off the Cowboys radar that he just wasn’t a guy many draft pundits talked about. Sure, we pondered the idea of the Cowboys landing a wide receiver with their first-round pick last year and his name was mentioned, but not many people believed Lamb was a real possibility. In hindsight, we should’ve because every year it happens. It just does.
This year, the Cowboys hold the no. 10 overall pick in the draft, meaning there’s a very good possibility one of their top six players fall to them. Let’s see what a top 10 list might look like as we use the rankings from The Draft Network.
Let’s suppose that star player to slide was Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. After years and years of being patient and not drafting for need to replace the aging and now gone Jason Witten, could that patience finally pay off by having one of the most talented tight ends to come out of college in quite some time just fall in their lap?
Pitts is an amazing player. The size and athleticism already has him described as a tight end/wide receiver hybrid. He’s got great change of direction and explodes out of his breaks making him a huge mismatch for opposing defenses. And while he’ll make his living as a receiver, he’s also a solid blocker. Any team than lands him is going to add a dynamic playmaker to their offense. Just think of what Kellen Moore could do!
While the thought of such a lavish toy to add to this already loaded offense brings about much excitement, the idea of using the team’s top draft resource on Pitts might not be the best decision as there are a couple things we should consider.
The Cowboys must invest more into their defense
This team just fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after a dreadful season as the Cowboys defense allowed more points this year than they’ve had in their 60-year existence. Prior to this past season, the Cowboys defense finished in the better half of the league in points allowed for six straight years. The defense wasn’t great, but it was respectable. And while it was definitely an area the Cowboys needed to improve upon, the Nolan-effect was clearly not the right answer.
Mike McCarthy won over a lot of fans when he told the media he emphasizes talent over scheme, giving us hope that the defensive system in place wouldn’t waste the skills of their players. Of course, things didn’t go down that way as the coaching staff forced a scheme onto players who had all kinds of fits handling their assignments. Whoever this team chooses as their next defensive coordinator hopefully utilizes the talent of their roster more effectively than Nolan did this past year.
And while it’s easy to blame the coaches for such a huge drop off in performance, we must also remind ourselves that this Cowboys organization is completely lopsided when it comes to top-notch investments. Next season, the Cowboys six most expensive players will take up over 50% of their salary cap space. Five of those players are on offense. And that doesn’t even factor in the soon-to-come huge investment of Dak Prescott’s new deal.
The team just used a first-round draft resource on Lamb last season, so turning around and burning their 10 pick on another offensive player would further shift the talent distribution on the offensive side of the ball. While the Cowboys are still finding quality defensive contributors on Day 2 and 3 of the draft, the team will continue to hinder their ability to find real difference makers if they don’t make serious investments.
There are only so many targets to go around
Nobody would deny that adding a player like Pitts would make this Cowboys offense extremely dangerous, but would such an asset be utilized to their full advantage. The team already has a receiving group consisting of three talented wideouts who are all deserving of a healthy dose of targets. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Lamb are big pieces to the Cowboys passing attack. Those three combined for 225 catches and 2,892 yard this season. Even more impressive is if you prorate their numbers from just the five games they played with Prescott, they would have catch 272 passes for a total of 3,856 yards.
Now, it’s unlikely they would’ve sustained that explosiveness throughout an entire 16 game season, but it does give us an idea of what type of ceiling this group has. Throwing in Pitts will add some new numbers to the mix, but it’s going to come at the expense of someone else’s targets.
Not only do the Cowboys have three very able wide receivers, but the tight end combination of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz are going to eat some targets as well. The talent of Pitts is certainly higher than those guys, so that ultimately means those guys won’t be involved as much. Still, you have to ask the question - how much does adding Pitts improve this football team? And is that improvement greater than what they’d gain from adding one of the top defensive players from the draft?
We want to be clear that in no way are we suggesting picking a lesser talented defensive player over Pitts just because the team has a bigger need on that side of the ball. They should never settle. If the choice is solely between Pitts and another player ranked lower, they should select Pitts without hesitation and figure out other means of improving the defense.
However, what we are suggesting is that should the Cowboys be placed in that situation, they should do everything they can to drive themselves a few spots towards a defensive player. Trade back, find their defender, and acquire some additional draft capital in the process. The Cowboys have enough draft capital to move back in round one and move forward in round two to end up with two very good defensive prospects. There are so many offensive players expected to come off the board in the early part of Day 1 and that really leaves a lot of defensive talent available towards the back end of the first round. If the Cowboys could find a way to double up and collect more of them, then they could increase their chances of finding good defensive pieces to add to this team.
Pitts would be great to have, but so would a defense that better at stopping teams from scoring. It’s tempting, no doubt, but the team needs to get with it and be serious about fixing this defense or else we’ll be spending another year complaining about how bad they are.
Every year it happens. It just does.