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Quarterbacks, trades and other stuff that could affect the Cowboys 2021 draft

This could be a historic draft, but also a very weird one.

Phil Rosenthal column
Cowboys legends from years past.
Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

We are mere days away from the 2021 NFL Draft. So let’s discuss.

This should be an excellent opportunity - if things work out

As you may have heard, the Dallas Cowboys currently hold pick 10. That should be good enough to get a blue-chip player. However, this is seen as a relatively thin draft class for those kinds of prospects. Depending on how you see it, there may only be five to seven players that are worthy of such a high pick for the Cowboys, and there is a lot of fear that the team could see the first-round targets wiped out.

What the team needs is a lot of players getting over-drafted or taken at positions that are not really a priority. This year, that would apply to quarterbacks and wide receivers. Fortunately for Dallas, that is just what is shaping up. In a normal year, there would really not be much worry about them having one of those sought after names come to them.

It’s not a normal year, of course. We have already seen some pretty big trades. There could be a lot more, although that does not always play out the way we think it should. Many anticipated a bevy of trades last year, and that did not materialize. However, one team to keep an eye on to move ahead of the Cowboys is their beloved division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. They already traded back from 6 to 12, but there are rumors that they may be looking to execute another to get back in the top 10.

Further complicating things are the restrictions again this year, with no NFL Combine and virtual-only visits with the prospects. There is just not as much reliable data once again. In an article about the top quarterbacks this year, Bob McGinn of The Athletic made a nice comparison.

Robert S. McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, was the subject of the 2003 documentary “The Fog of War” in which the difficulty of decision-making in the midst of conflict was examined.

The layer of fog in NFL front offices continues to expand when it comes to their most vital decision: what to do at quarterback.

That really extends to all positions. This draft favors those whose scouting staffs are really good at evaluating video.

All that may lead to some real head-scratching picks. Even in the top 10.

Speaking of quarterbacks...

The more taken ahead of the Cowboys, the better. And this year could see a truly historic run on the position, as McGinn noted.

“This system — I can’t even describe how broken it is,” a longtime executive in personnel said. “Every quarterback has a handler or coach from the time they’re in the seventh or eighth grade. Then they play a season, maybe two, in college and everybody says, ‘Well, you’re going to be a top-10 pick, so you’ve got to come out.’ Now they come out with a wafer-thin résumé.

“The phrase is, ‘You can’t win in the NFL without a quarterback.’ Then all these teams that are at the top fall all over themselves to say, ‘We’re going to improve and get better. We’re never going to be up here again. We better take one.’

“It is a vicious cycle, and I don’t know how it ever resolves itself.”

Quarterbacks have gone off 1-2-3 twice before (1971, 1999) but never 1-2-3-4. History could be made.

“If the draft truly goes 1-2-3-4, or even 1-2-3, it’s absurd,” the executive added. “It is a rush to the altar. It’s so over the top. But I’m not surprised. It’s the NFL.”

That history might be made because there are an extremely high number of teams in need of a starting QB, perhaps largely because of that cycle noted above. This is a sign of just how incredibly fortunate the Cowboys were in finding Dak Prescott in the fourth round of 2016. Had he not worked out so well, they would likely be riding that carousel of QB hell or purgatory. Remember the years between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo? That is where so many teams are now.

Be grateful Dallas is not in that situation.

Could there be another Dak this year?

There were seven quarterbacks taken before Prescott that draft, none of whom are currently with their original team. He has been by far the most consistent, and was putting up impressive numbers before his injury last season.

So who might have a chance to eventually have more success than most, if not all, of the QBs taken ahead of him? There is one possibility, Kellen Mond of Texas A&M. (Full disclosure: I am an Aggie, and would love to see Mond succeed.) He is ranked as the seventh or eighth best quarterback by most draft sites, and McGinn sees him that way. While he does not have some of the impressive numbers that others had in college, he is the only one of the top QBs that played four years. He showed steady improvement each season, and played in one of the few pro-style offenses in the college ranks.

He has been mocked to the Chicago Bears a few times in the third or fourth rounds, and that could be an excellent landing spot for him. They signed Andy Dalton, a familiar name to us, as their starter, with Nick Foles also on the roster. That would mean Mond would not get thrown out there as a rookie. He could have a couple of seasons to acclimate to the NFL and take the staring job if Dalton is only around for two or three years.

He may not outperform all the passers taken before him, but history also teaches us that most first-round quarterbacks do not succeed. Those that wind up taken in the first this year are going to be thrust onto the field early, and that often breaks young quarterbacks, especially those with relatively limited experience, like Trey Lance, who is expected to be the fourth or fifth QB selected.

Perhaps Mond will not be a successful starter, but he seems to have a great chance to carve out a career like a couple of other Texas products, the McCown brothers, who earned millions as peripatetic backups.

Still, there are fears

Given all the factors, we could still see the Cowboys having to trade back or take a player that does not seem as certain to succeed the way Kyle Pitts, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Patrick Surtain II, or Jaycee Horn do. That could lead them to taking Micah Parsons or Kwity Paye, both of which would disappoint much of the fan base. A linebacker like Parsons makes you think of the selections of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, with both having significant struggles last year. And Paye is one prospect who gets mixed reviews and calls to mind Taco Charlton’s brief career with the Cowboys.

I still think the draft will not go that poorly for Dallas, but until we find out the actual decision Thursday night, there is always the fear.