The Dallas Cowboys need help on defense. After finishing in the bottom five in points allowed as well as bottom 10 in yards given up, it’s pretty clear that this group has a lot of work to do if they expect to be competitive. A new year will provide a new opportunity to address some of their deficiencies, and many will cling to the hope of some quality young college prospects coming in and helping out.
While the draft will offer up plenty of good defensive talent that the Cowboys will capitalize on, it might not be so rewarding right out of the gate. The Cowboys pick 10th in the first round of April’s draft, but most of the very best collegiate players are offensive studs. That could leave the Cowboys in a problematic situation. What if the top ranked player on their board plays offense? Do they draft another offensive player or do they slide on down to the best available defensive player? This is a very real dilemma the team could face when they are on the clock on Day 1.
Let’s take a look at some of the top ranked players. In fact, I’ll let you have a peak at my top 10 list with some quick notes I’ve made about each player:
Now, this is my personal stack. There are a couple things that go a little against the grain. For starters, I’m big on North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. And you may notice that Ohio State’s Justin Fields didn’t make the list. It’s more likely to be Fields and not Lance who comes of the board first. In either case, it’s still QB heavy early on and it’s not unimaginable to see four quarterbacks come off the board before the Cowboys are up.
Patrick Surtain II is ahead of Caleb Farley on the list, which is slightly against conventional thinking, but both these guys are usually really close to each other.
The point here is that you’d have to go all the way to the eighth spot before finding the first defensive player. Unless the Cowboys scouting team is really enamored by one of those two corners, it’s very possible the Cowboys board looks similar. And that brings us back to the original question - what do they do if the top player is an offensive player?
I took to Twitter to pose a hypothetical to test the waters by offering up a wide receiver who is typically ranked in the top five against a cornerback who is closer to the ten spot. The results were not close.
While the intent was to compare two players ranked significantly apart in terms of draft value, it’s very possible that some people have these two players ranked relatively close, or maybe even have Farley high in some cases. To remove that out of the equation, let’s try two proven NFL players with a more agreeable distinction between them.
Once again, this was not the expected result. While this poll was much closer, do fans really want a player like Byron Jones (who is very good, mind you) over one of the league’s most talented wide receivers?
Well, the answer is right in front of us, but this speaks to just how important it is for the Cowboys to help the defense by spending a top draft resource on a defensive player. It seems like a sensible way to view it, but when you’re talking about players this early in the draft, they can’t be giving too much weight to how badly they need players at a position. That’s fine if you’re talking about two closely ranked players on Day 2 of the draft, but this early in the draft, teams have to prioritize talent over position.
When pick 10 rolls around, there’s a reasonable chance that one of their top six ranked players is still available. This should make the war room extremely happy as once again it would mean they’d be getting remarkable value for their pick. Nobody has interest in drafting another wide receiver with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup on this roster already. Having a such a deep receiving group to go along with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz doesn’t really make you want to go out and select Kyle Pitts. And the Cowboys certainly are not in the market for a quarterback, right?
As much as none of those positions are anywhere on our wish list, it would be absolutely negligent to pass up on an elite talent to select an inferior player at a position of need. The Cowboys don’t have any control on what positions the new top talents play, and it just turns out that this year isn’t laced with elite defenders at the top. That’s an unfortunate break. But the Cowboys shouldn’t make it worse by settling. They just need to take the best player, be happy about getting a potential star, and then let everything sort itself out later.