When the Dallas Cowboys are on the clock in the first round, there are bound to be a handful of nice options still available. The choices should be so plentiful that they will present the front office with a difficult decision. The 24th pick is the team’s most valuable draft commodity so it becomes very important not to screw it up.
In some instances, there is a player available the team absolutely loves to where there is no hard decision to be made. The unforeseeable case of CeeDee Lamb is an example of this. The Cowboys simply accepted their draft gift and happily turned in his card. However, the farther down you go in the draft, the less likely those gifts are available, and it’s more likely they’ll be presented with a tough decision.
Running through such a scenario, I pondered what group of players stand a reasonable chance of being there at 24? In no particular order, the list is as follows:
- LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
- OG Zion Johnson, Boston College
- OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
- S Daxton Hill, Michigan
- DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
These players are very close in my personal draft rankings. It’s very important to note that if you have one of these players much higher or lower, then you should just remove them for the sake of this exercise. The point here is to help settle ties with players who are grouped closely together.
So, based on that list (or your modified version), who should the Cowboys select? To make the best possible decision this simple flowchart will guide us to the right selection.
The case for Trevor Penning
Getting this player, Trevor Penning, wasn’t my favorite going into the exercise. It was only after considering the following factors did it become clear that he should be one of the team’s top draft targets, and here are four reasons why.
Emphasis on the Money Five
Penning is the only player on this list who plays one of the money five positions. These five positions are the most coveted positions in the NFL. In a passing league, throwing the ball, catching the ball, defending the catch, rushing the passer, and protecting the passer are the most important positions in the league. And they have appropriately been termed the Money 5 (by BTB alum KD Drummond) because these are the positions that get paid the most. When in doubt, follow the money. If a team has a chance to acquire a talented player at one of these positions on an affordable five-year rookie deal, they should jump at the opportunity.
As you can see from the flowchart, the quarterback spot has been eliminated from the equation because the Cowboys are already heavily invested in Dak Prescott for years to come and the team can only play one quarterback at a time. It would be wasteful to select a quarterback at that spot.
Value over replacement
Another reason Penning rates out so well is that the gap between him and the next group of tackles is pretty large. Looking at other positions from the list, that’s not the case. Safety, for example, offers the least amount of gap in talent from rounds one to two because there are a few other players (Jaquan Brisker, Jalen Pitre, and Lewis Cine) who offer similar abilities to that of Daxton Hill. And while Nakobe Dean is noticeably better than any Day 2 linebacker, there are still quite a few quality options at that position to where the gap isn’t that large. The same is true at defensive tackle. Would you really want a player like Devonte Wyatt when someone like Travis Jones could be available later? The point here is there are starting-caliber linebackers, guards, defensive tackles, and safeties who will be available on Day 2.
At the tackle position, the gap is much larger. Other tackles later in the draft like Bernhard Raimann or Nicholas Petit-Frere just don’t offer the upside that Penning does.
It’s a position of need
You should never prioritize need over talent, but when players are close together in rankings, need comes into play. Four of the five players on the list play positions of need for the Cowboys with DT being the odd one out because of the logjam of 3-techs the team currently has on the roster (Neville Gallimore, Osa Odighizuwa, and Trysten Hill).
The offensive tackle position is the neediest of the “Money 5” group as the team already has great talent at quarterback (Dak), wide receiver (Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb), cornerback (Trevon Diggs), and edge (Demarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons). While the team does have Tyron Smith and La’el Collins at tackle at the moment, how long will that last? Smith struggles to stay healthy and we don’t know what the future holds with LC as he could be an eventual cap casualty or possibly be moved to left guard.
Throw in the added bonus that Penning has experience at guard and you get the best of both worlds. He could serve as a temporary placeholder at left guard while he waits for something to open up at tackle. Either way, finding a young talent like Penning would be a huge asset for the Cowboys' offensive line.
Penning could be special
For a guy as big as he is, Penning moves incredibly well. He’s a strong player who loves to toss people around. He has a mean streak in him and plays through the whistle with such ferocity that any team would love having him in their corner. There are some mental lapses and fundamentals that need shoring up which is why he could fall to the latter part of the first round, but with some good coaching, he has the raw abilities to be an elite tackle in this league. And his recent showing at the Senior Bowl turned some heads as scouts got a good look at the Northern Iowa star.
“That guy has a legitimate mean streak, and he can flat-out play,” an AFC national scout said of Penning. “He’s for real. I would definitely want him on my team. Sign me up for a tough guy like that. He’s a little bit raw in terms of technique, but we can teach that and make him even better. He’s got a great future in the NFL ahead of him.”
Some already have Penning as one of the top tackles in this draft class, and Daniel Jeremiah has him going sixth overall to the Carolina Panthers.
How would you feel if the Cowboys selected Penning with the 24th overall pick?