The second day of the 2021 NFL Draft has concluded, and the Cowboys are clearly all-in on trying to fix their defense. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has plenty of new tools to work with after Friday’s action. The Cowboys used their 44th pick to get cornerback Kelvin Joseph of Kentucky and spent their three third-rounders on UCLA defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston, and Oregon State cornerback Nahshon Wright.
Joseph was perhaps the most buzzworthy pick of the day for Dallas, given how much of a need cornerback was. But while the pick has garnered praise, it hasn’t been unanimous. Joseph is considered more of a developmental prospect, with just one season as a starter under his belt at Kentucky, but he has the traits and potential to become a great player in this defense opposite Trevon Diggs. Do the Cowboys think Joseph can come in and start right away, or will he be treated similar to last year’s Reggie Robinson II? If the answer is the latter, does that mean Anthony Brown could be counted on as a short-term starter on the outside? If not, there are some intriguing free agent options at cornerback still, such as Richard Sherman and Casey Hayward.
The Odighizuwa pick was certainly a shock to most. There was some thought that Dallas may go after a safety or potentially take advantage of Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu’s freefall. Instead, it was Odighizuwa, whose undersized frame fits the profile of a 3-technique interior rusher who can also kick out to defensive end on base looks. The comparisons to Tyrone Crawford are obvious, although Odighizuwa offers more pure athleticism and pass rushing prowess. He should join Trysten Hill, Neville Gallimore, and Brent Urban to form a decent interior defensive line rotation.
The Cowboys stuck with the defensive line at pick 84 and took Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston, whose best trait is his run defense. Golston is a technically-refined edge setter who also offers some value as a pass rusher, but is likely to get most of his snaps on early downs. For a Dallas defense that routinely got gashed by opposing teams’ rushing offenses last year, Golston is yet another move towards fixing that aspect of their defense, alongside the Micah Parsons pick and the Brent Urban signing in free agency.
Then came the Cowboys’ final pick of the night at 99th overall, and they threw arguably the biggest curveball so far in this draft by taking Oregon State cornerback Nahshon Wright. At 6’4” and 188 pounds, Wright fits the type of guy that Quinn looks for at cornerback. His brother was a star on the show Last Chance U and Wright came to Oregon State as a JUCO transfer, where he turned heads with his uncommon speed for his size and his ball skills. Even so, few people expected Wright to come off the board this early, especially ahead of guys like Melifonwu and Washington corner/safety Elijah Molden.
So at the end of three rounds, Dallas has spent every pick on defense and landed two cornerbacks, a linebacker, and two defensive linemen. They have five picks remaining, so where could they look to go?
Safety is an obvious answer. There had been some chatter that Quinn’s arrival in Dallas may have finally shifted the Cowboys’ infamous stance against spending top draft capital on the safety position, but that has not held to be true. The Cowboys almost traded up with both the Jets and the Falcons in the second round, and could have potentially been trying for TCU safety Trevon Moehrig, but he was selected right before their 44th pick. Other top safeties, Jevon Holland and Richie Grant, both went before Moehrig as well, while Syracuse safety Andre Cisco was taken at the top of the third round. It looks like the Cowboys will once again be spending a pick outside of the top 100 on safety, if they take one at all this year.
It’s also possible that the Cowboys look for another defensive tackle, but more of a 1-technique who can aid the run defense. Odighizuwa is a solid run defender, but Dallas could seek to add another bigger body alongside Urban and Antwaun Woods.
Then there’s the offensive side of the ball, where they have yet to make a selection. Mike McCarthy has hinted at taking an offensive lineman and a quarterback to compete for the backup spot behind Dak Prescott, and Ian Rapoport reported on Friday that Dallas has some interest in Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book. Dallas could also look to take a receiver or tight end, with both Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz entering the final years of their rookie contracts.
Overall, Friday fulfilled the main objective of the Cowboys’ draft plan, which was to get fast bodies on defense. There will be plenty of debate over whether each of these guys was the right pick at the right time, but they’ve at least made this side of the ball a priority. However, there is still more work to be done on defense heading into the final day of the draft.