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Five Cowboys thoughts a fortnight before the 2021 draft

The NFL draft is coming!

Dallas Cowboys v Cincinnati Bengals
I’ve no idea what this guy was thinking, however.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

It’s the calm before the draft. As the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL focus more and more on building their boards, things slow down a bit as far as hard news. With time on our hands and almost two weeks left before the Jacksonville Jaguars go on the clock, we can let our minds roam and engage in some speculation.

The Cowboys didn’t really mess up by not trading Aldon Smith last season

In hindsight, it looks like a missed opportunity. But our own David Howman explained exactly why it made sense for Dallas to hang onto Smith past the November 3 deadline. Mostly, it was because Randy Gregory did not get on the field until October 25, and it took him a bit to get up to speed. Smith was kept as insurance. His original signing was to be just that as the NFL drug its heels on Gregory’s reinstatement, and then he became a bridge for the reacclimating. Don’t forget that in the garbage dump conflagration that was the NFC East, the Cowboys still had a shot at the playoffs when the deadline came. It makes sense that they would hedge their bet a bit longer.

To get David’s full explanation, go to the thread below.

Have the Cowboys hit the pause button on free agency?

There has been nothing but silence lately. While that doesn’t mean that things are not going on behind the scenes, history makes you think that something would have come out if there were any active pursuits happening. With just days to get the draft board whipped into shape, it is logical to believe that is going to absorb just about all the focus.

Yet things seem incomplete. They leave themselves really needing to hit on cornerback in the draft, and linebacker seems very short-handed, especially if Sean Lee decides to retire. Even if he comes back for another year, it is an open question just how effective he will be.

The lack of any word about looking for more outside help is not the only thing that makes it look like they will wait until after the draft to decide if they need to do more in free agency. According to Over the Cap, they have just under $7.5 million in cap space to work with. That is enough to sign their draft class and still have a little for an emergency signing. If they can get by, they would not have to restructure any more contracts, which is probably a consideration. At this point, it will not be at all surprising if they stand pat for a couple more weeks.

The tenth pick may actually be hard to mess up

I sort of agree with the following sentiment.

Simultaneously, there is reason to be paranoid about it. Maybe it’s the memory of the Taco Charlton pick, but Dallas really needs to get this right.

Helman has a point, though. With all the predictions about three, four, or even five QBs going before 10, and the wide receivers that may eat up a couple more, the names that should be there for them are so encouraging. While not all will make it to them, the possibilities include TE Kyle Pitts, OTs Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, and CBs Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn.

It all depends on how they stack up on the board for Dallas.

There are some other options that could be problematic. One is Micah Parsons. He’s likely to be a great pro, it’s just the idea of taking a linebacker that high. This team has shown in the past that they tend to overvalue the position, so it’s a worry. And just as Charlton wound up as a bad choice for them, EDGE Kwity Paye might be coveted by some on this staff. It is certainly a position that merits a premium pick, but Paye is no sure thing to succeed in the NFL.

We just have to hope that Will McClay and his scouts do a good job, and don’t get overruled by ownership or coaches to make a reach.

It is not a corner or bust at 10

If you put any faith in mock drafts to predict what will actually happen, then Surtain is the favorite to land with the Cowboys. That is one reason why many are prepared to rend their garments and heap ashes upon their heads if Dallas takes Pitts or one of the tackles.

But this is a deep cornerback class. Not only could Horn be seen as being on par with Surtain when that board is complete at the Star, Caleb Farley might be the best of all if his medicals do check out. Some believe that Greg Newsome II and Asante Samuel Jr. are close to, if not in the same tier. To address cornerback, the Cowboys might be very comfortable going in another direction at 10, trading back if they get a good offer, trading up from 44 to get back into the latter part of the first round, or just waiting to see who falls to them in the second. If they take that last option, there are other names to consider, such as Ifeatu Melifonwu.

Corner is one position that needs to be addressed early, it just is not one they should feel at all forced into taking with the tenth overall pick. Remember that a year ago Trevon Diggs was seen as a strong contender for their first-round pick until CeeDee Lamb landed in their lap at 17. They were still able to nab Diggs in the second round, and so far, he seems to be a legitimate starter for them. With so many good players at the position in this year’s draft, waiting to see what comes to them may be a perfectly valid strategy.

Betting on someone else making a mistake

It always happens. Players are taken in the first round that really shouldn’t have been. The expected run on quarterbacks early makes it even more likely. The odds of even three legitimate franchise QBs coming out of one class are extremely low, and often the best in a given year are not the ones taken at the very top of the draft. Like Dak Prescott, just to pick a name completely at random.

That not only plays into the likely rich menu of players Dallas may see at 10, it will probably ripple on through the following rounds. Last year, patience really seemed to pay off for the Cowboys. Part of that may have been that their staff did a better job of navigating the limitations imposed under the pandemic. With similar conditions in play this year, that may be the secret weapon for them.

However, every single pick is a risk. Not only can a player at any spot turn out to be a bust, even the best ones, like Joe Burrow last year, can wind up losing much of the season to an injury. No matter how hard teams work on identifying the players they need and want, stuff happens. Luck is always the great uncontrollable factor.

The Cowboys had both good and bad fortune in 2020. Their draft went very well, at least based on one year’s evidence. Then, of course, injuries just ripped them apart. In truth, we will probably see some regression to the mean in both instances. For the draft, however, having ten picks going in helps, since that is just more chips to lay down while trying to find talent.