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Should they stay or should they go: Cowboys first-round draft strategy

Studying how to use that tenth overall pick for the Cowboys.

NFL Draft Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have the tenth overall pick in the NFL Draft. They also have a bevy of needs that could be addressed with it. And in a year where many, many teams are hungry for a quarterback, there could be an opportunity to trade back.

So what do they do?

We are not the brain-trust of the Cowboys, but we like to play like we are on the internet. Here are some of the things the team should be considering going into this. This assumes that the team will not make a splash free agent signing (outside of a certain quarterback) because that really isn’t their brand.

Are there players worth taking at 10?

Well, yeah. This is certainly one year where the demand for potential franchise quarterbacks far outstrips the supply. Many expect four to be taken in the first round, and it is possible they could all be in the top ten. That means that non-QB players might well get pushed down the board to Dallas. And wide receiver could be another hot commodity at the top of the draft with Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith all candidates to go in the first ten names called. Since neither of those is at all likely to be a position that the Cowboys would be taking at ten, that should help push needed talent down to them.

But there are really only two positions that should be considered, cornerback and offensive tackle. While there are so many other positions that they need, such as defensive tackle, safety, and arguably defensive end, there are not many prospects that can be justified so high. Linebacker also is a need, but as will be mentioned later, that is not a place to spend a first-rounder.

Cornerback is probably the easiest to build a case for at ten with both Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis hitting free agency. Offensive tackle is a bit dicey because Tyron Smith and La’el Collins could both come back from their injuries and lock down the starting jobs. However, based on recent history, it is almost certain Dallas will need a replacement, or at least a fill-in, for one of them before the season is over.

Furthermore, there are only two offensive tackles in this year’s class that seem to be worth the tenth pick, Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater. Sewell looks almost certain to go well before the Cowboys go on the clock, That leaves Slater, who according to most big boards out there is a bit of a marginal top ten talent.

Cornerback, however, is what was referred to in Top Gun as a target-rich environment. Both Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley are seen by many as top ten talents, and Jaycee Horn is also in the conversation. The numbers brought up above make it very likely one or more of them will still be available for Dallas.

However, there is hardly a consensus this early in the process. Things can certainly shift, and the only evaluation that matters is the one going on inside the Star. Still, if the Cowboys want to use that tenth pick for themselves, corner just seems the way to go.

Further arguments to stay at ten

With the projected compensatory picks they should have, Dallas will still have nine more shots to acquire new talent. That should include five in the second, third, and fourth rounds, which are still considered premium picks. There just isn’t a really pressing need to gain more picks this year.

And the earlier you select a player, the better your chances should be of getting a good one. While there are myriad examples of making a bad choice this early in the draft, the Cowboys need their scouting department to dig deep and make sure they get the right one.

Still, a trade back has a lot to recommend it

This is a draft that is not heavy with clear first-round talent. A trade back that nets some more day two ammunition may be the way to go. It will depend on how the first nine picks play out, but there may be some suitors that make an offer the Cowboys feel they can’t refuse. That is especially true if, say, Trey Lance is still on the board and some team has decided they have to go up to get him. With the huge contingent of QB needy teams out there, this might just happen. If the phones start ringing in the war room, it could be an exciting time.

Now, to have a plan

Only one team can really be sure who they will take before the draft starts, unless the Jacksonville Jaguars go public with their decision early. But for Dallas, there have to be contingency plans set.

There are three players that should be targets at ten: Surtain, Farley, and Sewell. If the latter is still there, which is highly doubtful, he is just too good to pass up, even if they don’t plan on starting him day one. But that may not be something the team would be prepared to do. That leaves the corners. If one is available for Dallas, it still should not preclude entertaining trade offers. They do have to have a certain value they require to pull that trigger, however. If all three are gone, then the Cowboys need to start working the phones themselves to see if they can find a trade back partner. And they have to have a list of options they can fall back on if an acceptable deal doesn’t materialize.

What they need to avoid is reaching, or reverting to their old habit of over-drafting some positions. Tight end Kyle Pitts and linebacker Micah Parsons are temptations we should hope they do not succumb to. While both are likely to be excellent pros, they are not the way Dallas should spend their pick.

Trading up just seems unwise. They need to address so many positions later in the draft that they can’t afford to give up picks to move higher in the order.

This is the strategy Jerry and Stephen Jones should use. It is logical, and reflects some of the realities facing the team. Of course, others may differ with this strategic approach. Feel free to lay out your strategy in the comments.