While it is not a universal conclusion, a large majority of mock drafts have the Dallas Cowboys taking Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the tenth pick of the NFL Draft. It seems a near perfect fit. Dallas has far more glaring needs on defense than on offense, and a starting cornerback is one of the more obvious. The nine teams ahead of the Cowboys are all expected by many draftniks to go offense, meaning that Dallas would have the opportunity to take the best defensive player in the class, and a lot of people will argue that Surtain is exactly that. What could possibly happen to disrupt this ideal situation?
Glad you asked. Here are three ways Surtain is not a Cowboy after the draft.
He goes before 10
There are plenty of rational, logical reasons that the first nine teams in the draft order will go offense. However, if you have paid attention, you may be aware that teams make selections in the draft that can best be described as puzzling, or even irrational. This, of course, can include Dallas, but we will hope they avoid any Taco Charlton-style decisions. Besides, you don’t really have to have draft malpractice for someone to be on the Surtain train before the Cowboys get a shot. Of the teams ahead of Dallas, the three just before them (Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, and Denver Broncos) all have a real need for a corner. If things fall a certain way, then Surtain may just be off the board at 10.
As an example, the Lions’ biggest needs are seen as wide receiver, cornerback, and offensive tackle. While there are some extremely talented receivers in this year’s draft, that is a position where it certainly looks like there is plenty of talent beyond the very top, particularly in the first four rounds. It just so happens that the Lions only hold six picks overall - all but one in those first four rounds. If their best option at OT is off the board, they may well turn to cornerback. If Surtain is high enough on their board, he could be gone.
And then there is this little tidbit. After trading out of the top ten in the draft, the Philadelphia Eagles are reportedly exploring ways to trade back up from 12. It seems an odd way to go about things, but then, it is the Eagles. Most think they would be trying to make sure they don’t lose out on Jaylen Waddle. Still, they have a strange obsession with the idea of stealing someone from the Cowboys in the draft (see: Dallas Goedart mythology) and corner is also a need for them.
Not saying, just saying.
In any case, it just takes a minor disturbance in the force to have Surtain off the board by pick 10.
Maybe he isn’t who the Cowboys truly covet
We just think we know how Dallas will have their draft board set up. They have long tried to hide their intentions, just like all the other teams, and the offseason restrictions due to the pandemic make that much easier.
Reports have already circulated about Jerry Jones having a lot of interest in tight end Kyle Pitts. There is also a possibility that one or both of the top offensive tackle prospects, Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, might be higher for them than Surtain. While it is almost certain that not all three of them will make it to 10, what if one does, and is indeed more highly graded by the Cowboys? This is assuming that they would not take a wide receiver in the first, which seems only logical.
If the team is truly interested in taking the best player available, then they would go for the one they have placed higher than Surtain. BPA can be a bit problematical, though. Pitts may be one of the top two or three players in the draft, but it just might not be a very high priority for them. A much stronger case can be made for Sewell or Slater, since it is widely believed they could start their pro career at guard, and perhaps might just stick there the way Zack Martin has. It is worth remembering that, outside of the center position, every spot on the Cowboys offensive line in 2019 (which will hopefully be much more like what we see this season) was manned by a college left offensive tackle - except for the left tackle position, where former right tackle Tyron Smith plays.
Even if all the possible offensive options for the Cowboys are gone, we are only assuming that Surtain is their highest-graded defender. He might not even be CB1 for them. Jaycee Horn is seen as remarkably close, with an edge in explosiveness that may offset the slight advantages Surtain has in other ways. And Caleb Farley was expected to be right in the mix before word of his surgeries emerged. If the team is willing to take a risk on a player with an injury history (spoiler: they have no problem with that) then Farley could be the name called.
There is also the chance that another defender is more coveted. LB Mitch Parsons, EDGE Kwity Paye, EDGE Azeez Ojulari, S Trevon Moehrig and IDL Christian Barmore are all names that could fit that description. Note that is for the team, not me.
Regardless, we might just be fooling ourselves into thinking that Surtain is as obvious a choice to the team as he is to most of us.
A trade offer they can’t refuse
Assume that no one nabs Surtain before the Cowboys go on the clock and he is indeed their highest-rated prospect. That still is no guarantee that he lands in Dallas, because they may get an offer to trade back that is just too attractive to turn down.
They probably don’t want to go back very far, but may well find a small move down the list worth it. One possible partner that keeps cropping up is the New England Patriots, currently at 15. They have a need at the most crucial spot of all, quarterback. If there is one that they like still available when the Cowboys go on the clock, and some worries he might not make it all the way to them if they stand pat, they might be willing to offer an extra pick or two to have Dallas go back to 15.
In all likelihood that would mean Surtain is gone before they are up again. The Eagles are often the team he is mocked to when the Cowboys make a move down.
But that is not a disaster. Horn and Farley have already been mentioned, and there are some who think Asante Samuel Jr., Greg Newsome II, and Tyson Campbell are not at all far behind in talent and upside. Dallas could still get one of them if they traded back to 15, or take one of the other possibilities and take a chance on getting a CB in the second. Take it a step farther, and they could trade back from 10 and then use that extra draft capital to move up from 44.
The possibilities are many, and right up Jerry Jones’ alley.
There is one other possible trade partner that should be mentioned. Remember that talk about the Eagles looking to move up to get the WR they desire? Those rumors also indicate that the team they worry about poaching their target is the New York Giants, who are at 11. If that is an accurate read of the situation, then maybe Howie Roseman would be willing to part with one of their third-round slots to get his guy.
It would certainly make for some excitement, and while there would still be a chance the Giants take Surtain, they also have plenty of other needs. It could be an ideal way to basically get your guy and an extra pick all at once.
In any case, there are multiple ways that Surtain does not wind up with a star on his helmet. And that is hardly a disaster in the making. Besides, he still seems the most likely pick for Dallas at 10. We just need to remember that a lot of things can go differently than expected when the draft gets underway.