The Dallas Cowboys have a great opportunity to select one of the top college players as they hold the 10th overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. There will be a lot of prime choices available when the team is on the clock, but not every choice will have the same appeal because a player at one position may not be as valuable as a player at another. The talent distribution on this roster varies by position group, so it could take a little finessing to come away with a player who makes a strong impact right away.
For today’s exercise, we want to run through each position group and take a glance at the players the Cowboys currently have under contract (figures courtesy of Spotrac). Then, we’ll take a look at prospects who could potentially be drafted with team’s first-round pick and examine what would have to happen for the team to make that selection. Upon completion of this exercise, we’ll get a sense of certain players/positions who are, for all intents and purposes, “off the board” for Dallas. It could also open our eyes to possibilities that we might’ve otherwise not given serious consideration.
To help us determine who might be available, here are the top 20 prospects according to The Draft Network’s updated rankings:
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft a QUARTERBACK?
Simply put, it would take the Cowboys to not believe that Dak Prescott is their quarterback for the future. And sure, it’s understandable how you can conjure up that notion considering the team has failed to lock up their young star, but most still believe it’s a forgone conclusion that Prescott will get re-signed.
Even if this comes down to another July 15th deadline, the Cowboys will tag him, meaning they’ve already committed to Prescott. This makes it very hard to imagine a scenario where they would entertain the idea of drafting one of the top quarterbacks, even if one of them slid to 10.
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft a running back?
Alabama’s Najee Harris or Clemson’s Travis Etienne could be Day 1 picks, but they won’t be picked by the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott is under contract for the next six years with an escape clause after the 2022 season. That’s also when Tony Pollard’s rookie deal is up.
The Cowboys have no need for a running back, nor is there one who would be a great value pick for them at 10, so we can completely rule this out.
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft a wide receiver?
The 2021 season will likely be the last year that the big three of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup are all on the same team as Gallup’s rookie deal expires after next season. But even if Gallup leaves in free agency, the team is left will two really good receivers for many years to come. So, does that mean that wide receiver is out of play for them?
It seems highly unlike that the team would spend additional premium draft resources at the position, but we weren’t expecting the team to score Lamb last season either. If say, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith is number three on their board and he somehow falls to 10, then the idea of landing yet another huge offensive weapon can’t be ruled out.
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft a tight end?
We touched on this earlier in the week when we advocated against selecting Florida’s Kyle Pitts, but it still remains a possibility. Pitts is ranked right in that area where the Cowboys pick. Similar to wide receiver, if he’s really high on the Cowboys board and similar graded talent at more needy positions are already taken, then the Cowboys could pull the trigger.
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft an offensive lineman?
This is the first time we have to give this some serious thought as health has completely shaken up this position group. We may look at this group and feel pretty good about what the team has, but as we learned last season, the battle wounds are taking their toll. Fans would prefer to use a premium pick elsewhere and just bank on better health from Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Zack Martin, but that doesn’t mean we should turn away from this position completely.
Oregon’s Penei Sewell won’t make it to Dallas, and if he somehow did we would just spend the next several weeks after the draft talking about how they have too much invested into the offensive line because there’s no way they’d pass him up. More realistically, players like Texas’ Samuel Cosmi or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater should be there when the Cowboys pick. Drafting a swing tackle in the first round doesn’t seem like the best use of resources, but we’ll be singing a different tune if Tyron Smith continues to have problems staying healthy and his NFL playing career comes to an abrupt halt.
You don’t pass up a top-notch tackle and even if they don’t think they’ll need him now, they may need him later. And with a huge financial quarterback investment coming, keeping Prescott upright is of upmost importance. This puts the tackle position in play this spring.
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft an edge rusher?
The Cowboys have both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory under contract in 2021 and who’s to say they don’t bring back Aldon Smith. While they have abled bodies there, they should always be on the look out for more talent along the edge.
If players like Michigan’s Kwity Paye or Texas’ Joseph Ossai are valued high by the Cowboys, then they could be guys they target.
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft a defensive tackle?
The Cowboys need some big help along the interior, and that’s a song we’ve been singing for years now. Both Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore have promise, but this is a position group that needs to be strengthened if they’re going to have any real chance to be competitive on defense.
The bad news is there aren’t any elite defensive tackles in this draft, and they won’t likely come off the board until late in the first round. For the Cowboys to take one with pick 10 would be a reach and a misuse of draft capital. Should that be the position they are targeting, then they should look to move back in the draft and pick up some extra draft capital.
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft a linebacker?
Some aren’t too fond of using premium draft capital for an off-ball linebacker, but the Cowboys don’t fall into that group as they selected Leighton Vander Esch with their first-round pick in 2018. The Cowboys have some questions at the position with the disappointing performances of LVE and Jaylon Smith, but the team is hoping new DC Dan Quinn will correct some of the team’s defensive deficiencies.
Linebacker is in play at pick 10 as Penn State’s Micah Parsons and Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are two names to remember. If the Cowboys are high on either of these guys, the team could look to hit the reset to shore up the position. Ideally, it would be great if Vander Esch and Smith reestablished themselves as the defensive forces they were a couple years ago when the Cowboys could use their draft resources elsewhere. But will they be willing to wait and see how things play out or will they choose to reload at linebacker?
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft a cornerback?
Cornerback becomes a position of need for the Cowboys this offseason as both Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis hit free agency. It’s possible the team re-ups on one of these guys, but we should prepare ourselves for their departure.
The team did a great job finding Trevon Diggs in the second round last year, and they’ll likely continue to build through the draft. Pick 10 is sitting right in the perfect spot to land one of the nation’s top two corners, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. Scoring two great young corners in back-to-back drafts is one way to fast track this team’s growth at the position, and this draft could be lining up to do exactly that.
What would it take for the Cowboys to draft a safety?
Similar to corner, another 2017 defensive back draft pick is set to hit free agency. Xavier Woods has served as the teams starting safety the last three seasons, but he could be playing somewhere else next season. Second-year safety Donovan Wilson is turning out to be another six-round safety gem that the team still has under contract for the next three seasons. Darian Thompson will still be around, but the Cowboys should still look to the draft to find another safety.
Of course, that’s not going to happen on Day 1 as there are no reasonable safety targets in the first round, let alone pick 10. The team should be able to find options later in the draft.