It’s not often the Dallas Cowboys are picking in the top 10. Since 2005, Dallas has picked in the top 10 just two times (2011 and 2016). With those picks, they selected star left tackle Tyron Smith, and former All-Pro running back, Ezekiel Elliott.
This year, this unique opportunity has presented itself once again. With a defense that gave up 29.6 points per game and 158.8 rushing yards a game last season, it seems obvious that Dallas should select a defender with their top pick. But if their top defensive options are off the board, should Dallas still feel forced to go the defensive route?
John Owning of the Dallas Morning News wrote an article pointing out pitfalls the Cowboys need to avoid in the upcoming draft. The first he mentioned was reaching for a defender with the 10th pick.
While cornerbacks Caleb Farley and Patrick Surtain II sit atop most Cowboys wish lists, there’s a real chance both are gone by the time Dallas goes on the clock. This would put the Cowboys in quite a pickle if they’re too focused on improving the defense at No. 10.
To me, there’s not a defender in this class worthy of the 10th overall pick outside of Farley and Surtain.
Owning brings up the very interesting point of what the Cowboys’ strategy would be if the top two cornerbacks are off the board. He also mentions how in the past Dallas has been guilty of “window-dressing” their board, or selecting a player based on need rather than the best player available.
Former Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus has told stories over the years about how Jerry Jones and Co. have fallen into the trap of “window-dressing” their board by selecting a player based on need rather than taking one of the best available. Reaching for need can be warranted at times, but because there are larger clusters of prospects with similar-ish grades later in the draft, there’s too much risk in doing that at the top. If the player filling a need was really worth the selection in the first place, the team wouldn’t need to “reach” because he’d already have a grade worthy of the draft slot.
The Cowboys shouldn’t allow themselves to fall into that trap this year. They have to be prepared to take the top-rated prospect on their board at No. 10, even if it’s an offensive player.
So let’s say Dallas is on the clock at pick 10, and cornerbacks Caleb Farley and Patrick Surtain II are off the board. Where do the Cowboys turn? Well, the first and most obvious choice may be a trade down. If a top quarterback is still available, Dallas could look to take advantage of the situation and make a trade with a team wanting to move up, possibly the San Francisco 49ers. But if they don’t get any intriguing offers and are forced to stand pat, then what?
Let’s continue on this hypothetical scenario and say Dallas is forced to make their selection. Remember, Farley and Surtain II are gone. The Cowboys’ draft board has tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle ranked as their best players available. Should Dallas trust their board and go offense? Owning seems to think so.
And although Dallas is strong at wide receiver and tight end, it can’t be afraid to pick someone like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle if either is the top player available on their board. It’s important to not lose sight of the fact that teams are drafting players for what they can do in the future, not just Year 1. It may be hard for either to maximize their impact in Year 1 given the way the roster is currently constructed, but in Years 2 and 3, contracts for players like Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz will expire, opening up many more opportunities for a Pitts or Waddle.
Owning also makes a great point about what Tampa Bay and Kansas City did with an excess of weapons this past season. Granted, both of these teams have defenses that are clearly more productive than Dallas, but the Cowboys may be able to fill some needs in free agency to make their defense at least serviceable entering the draft.
As things currently stand, Farley or Surtain II falling to the Cowboys at 10 would be an ideal scenario. It would eliminate the aforementioned conversation of where to turn if offense is at the top of your board. But if their top choices are gone, Dallas may be better off trusting their board than picking strictly based on need.