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What the Dallas Cowboys did, and should’ve done, in the 2021 NFL Draft

An alternative path for the Cowboys in the past draft.

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Training camp provides the first opportunity to see the Dallas Cowboys newest additions, whether it’s their free agents or their incoming rookies. While we have a vague idea what they are adding through free agency, the ultimate mystery is what Dallas’ 2021 draft class will look like once the pads start coming on at practices and how they’ll be able to help the team this season.

Now that we are nearly three months removed from the 2021 NFL Draft, let’s revisit each of the Dallas Cowboys draft picks and decide whether to stick with what they did, or look at a different path they could have taken. This idea was sparked directly from an article John Owning recently wrote (everyone check that out please), so we’ll piggyback on the idea with our own twist.

Round 1, Pick 12

Penn State v Memphis Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Cowboys pick: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

My pick: Micah Parsons

After the Dallas Cowboys missed out on the top two cornerbacks and made the small trade down with Philadelphia Eagles, it came down to either linebacker Micah Parsons or offensive lineman Rashawn Slater with the 12th overall pick. Both players are tremendously talented with Pro Bowl potential and both fit a need in the not-too-distant future. In the end, Dallas’ defensive needs swayed the pick.

An argument could be made that Micah Parsons is the most talented defensive player in the entire 2021 draft class. He has yet to scratch the surface of his natural talent and is a moldable piece of clay for Dan Quinn to build from the ground up. His ability to play as a traditional LB and as a pass rusher should be something Quinn taps into early and often, and because of that he has a chance to play a big role as a rookie.

Round 2, Pick 44

Syracuse v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Cowboys pick: CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky

My pick: CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse

After missing out on the top two CBs in the first-round, the Cowboys needed to target the position in the second. The Kelvin Joseph selection was typical of the team drafting players in this round with medical concerns or off-the-field issues, the latter of which is the reason why Joseph was dismissed from LSU and ended up at Kentucky.

Instead of going with a cornerback with red flags and very little collegiate experience, they should’ve gone with Ifeatu Melifonwu out of Syracuse. He is an intriguing size/speed prospect who is at his best in man-to-man coverage. In a coverage scheme that Dan Quinn deploys he would’ve been a near perfect fit and given the Cowboys two young, talented CBs with size and length when paired with Trevon Diggs on the outside for the next several years.

Round 3, Pick 75

Pittsburgh v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Cowboys pick: DT Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA

My pick: EDGE Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh

The Cowboys pretty much just have DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory as their only proven pass rushers heading into the 2021 season. There is no doubt they needed to add depth to the position and hopefully find a potential starter for next season after Gregory’s contract expires at the end of the year. Because of that, they should have targeted Patrick Jones II with the 75th overall pick.

At 6’4”, 260-ish pounds, Patrick Jones II has the prototypical size for a defensive end in a 4-3 system. He plays with good burst and length and is a tenacious, all-effort player against both the run and pass. He has a really good foundation to build upon, but needs to develop his pass rush repertoire further and learn to play with better pad level. He could’ve been a starter as early as next season for the Cowboys.

Round 3, Pick 84

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Cowboys pick: EDGE Chauncey Golston, Iowa

My pick: OL Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame

Like many, I wasn’t a big fan of the Chauncey Golston pick for the Dallas Cowboys. There were a lot of other players on the board who were a better fit, and the versatile and talented offensive lineman out of Notre Dame, Robert Hainsey, was one of them. His ability to play nearly every position on the offensive line for the next decade or is really appealing.

Sadly, the Cowboys did not do enough to address their interior offensive line depth either through free agency or the NFL draft this year. A player like Hainsey, who has starting potential at either guard position, center, or right tackle, would’ve alleviated any concerns with the OL depth in 2021 and give the Cowboys a potential starter in the next year or so. He’ll probably be a player who ends up starting 10+ years in the league.

Round 3, Pick 99

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Cowboys pick: CB Nahshon Wright, Oregon State

My pick: LB Jabril Cox, LSU

On draft day the Cowboys supposedly were split in their war room between drafting either linebacker Jabril Cox or cornerback Nahshon Wright, the latter of which ended up winning out. They shouldn’t have chanced missing out on Cox considering he is an ideal weak-side LB prospect in a 4-3 defensive scheme like Dan Quinn has deployed in the past. And, the Oregon State CB would’ve been available later.

If not for the free agent signing of Keanu Neal, a player like Jabril Cox would’ve been favored to be in the Cowboys heavy rotation at WILL LB in 2021, even as a rookie. He is someone that excels in coverage, which is something that has been lacking from Dallas’ previous LBs the past several years. He still needs to improve his tackling technique and playing with more physicality, but he could be one of the best coverage LBs in the entire league.

Round 4, Pick 115

SEC Championship - Georgia v LSU Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Cowboys pick: LB Jabril Cox, LSU

My pick: DT Tyler Shelvin, LSU

This is the point in the draft where the Cowboys should have started targeting defensive tackles and it was a little disappointing they didn’t wait until now considering the talent that would still be available. The 2021 DT draft class wasn’t the most talented, but there were players who both fit a need and would help bolster Dallas’ defensive line for this season and the next several years.

With that in mind, the Cowboys could have drafted former LSU DT Tyler Shelvin because they haven’t had a big-bodied, space-eating player to clog up the middle of the defensive line in forever. At 350 pounds, Shelvin is basically just a two-down player and doesn’t offer much as far as the pass rush is concerned, but his presence in the middle of the DL would’ve definitely upgraded their run defense and helped open things up for everyone around him.

Round 4, Pick 138

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 17 UConn at ECU Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cowboys pick: OT Josh Ball, Marshall

My pick: OT D’Ante Smith, East Carolina

Because of his past off the field problems, Josh Ball wasn’t on a lot of the draft boards around the league. However, the idea of selecting a developmental left tackle prospect to hopefully take over for Tyron Smith in a year or two is smart, so in this draft the pick would have been D’Ante Smith with the second of Dallas’ fourth-round picks.

At 6’5”, with 35-inch arms and 85-inch wingspan, Smith is someone who could develop as a blindside protector for the Dallas Cowboys. He plays with good mobility in the run and pass game and has a really good understanding of how to use his length to his advantage. His draft value at this pick would have been good, too.

Round 5, Pick 179

Washington State v USC Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Cowboys pick: WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford

My pick: S Talanoa Hufanga, USC

There is no problem with the Cowboys selection of receiver Simi Fehoko due to his intriguing size/speed combo and skill set, but with Talanoa Hufanga still on the board, that’s a direction the team should have taken. A receiver isn’t going to see much of the field this year, but a safety with the kind of talent Hufanga possesses would’ve been hard to keep on the sideline.

Hufanga is supremely talented, but does come with some injury concerns which likely caused him to slide this far on draft day. At this point in the draft, though, you can overlook any of his past injury history due to the fact he is just one of those players who has the knack of being disruptive all over the field. He could have fulfilled a Cam Chancellor-type of role in Dan Quinn’s system with the Cowboys.

Round 6, Pick 192

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 26 Quick Lane Bowl - Pitt v Eastern Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cowboys pick: DT Quinton Bohanna, Kentucky

My pick: DT Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh

The Cowboys defensive line could use another 3-technique, under tackle. Trysten Hill was supposed to be that player, which is why they need another player in the 2021 NFL Draft to compete and add depth at that position. So we’ll double-dip at DT and select Jaylen Twyman with Dallas’ 192nd overall pick.

At a smidge under 6’2” and 300 pounds, Jaylen Twyman fits the mold teams look for in a prototypical 3-tech in a 4-3 defensive scheme. Being a little undersized puts him at a little bit of a disadvantage against the run, an area of his game he needs to improve, but his arsenal of pass rush moves and competitiveness could of got him on the field early and often with the Cowboys as a rookie.

Round 6, Pick 227

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Clemson at South Carolina Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cowboys pick: DB Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina (corrected)

My pick: same

There’s nothing about this pick to change for the Cowboys. Israel Mukuamu was without a doubt the highest-rated player still left on my board and more than likely the Cowboys as well. Landing him in the latter part of the sixth-round is great value. He might be better as a cornerback prospect than as a safety, but no matter where he plays in the future he brings some much-needed size and talent to Dallas’ secondary.

Round 7, Pick 238

Pittsburgh v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Cowboys pick: IOL Matt Farniok, Nebraska

My pick: EDGE Shaka Toney, Penn State

The Cowboys could have added more speed and talent to their pass rush in the 2021 NFL Draft, which is why Shaka Toney is the guy for their last pick. There are several areas of his game in which he needs to improve upon, most notably playing with better leverage and power, but he already possesses NFL ready quickness and effort to be an ideal sub=package pass rusher as a rookie. He would’ve been an excellent depth player behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory.

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