Every new NFL Draft is an opportunity for teams to select the best players coming out of college. However, with 32 teams in the league, only certain organizations will be successful in finding those gems, and the further out they are in the draft order, the less likely they are to land those special players.
But that doesn’t stop Cowboys owner Jerry Jones from trying. Regardless of when they are picking, the Cowboys love to snag a college player who is the very best at what he does. Whether that player ends up living up to those expectations is a big unknown, but that doesn’t keep Jerry from trying to hack the draft. Just based on perceived ability coming out of college, look how many “best at their position” players the Cowboys went after over the last dozen drafts:
2010 - Best wide receiver in the draft, Dez Bryant
2011 - Best tackle in draft, Tyron Smith
2012 - Best cornerback in the draft, Morris Claiborne
2013 - Best center in the draft, Travis Frederick
2014 - Best guard in the draft, Zack Martin
2016 - Best running back in the draft, Ezekiel Elliott
2020 - Best wide receiver in the draft, CeeDee Lamb
2021 - Best linebacker in the draft, Micah Parsons
You could even throw in their 2019 first-round draft pick trade of Amari Cooper that netted them a wide receiver who was hands down better than anyone they could’ve selected in the first round of the draft (Marquise Brown and N’Keal Harry were the only receivers taken in the first round that season). Counting Cooper, that is nine players out of 12 drafts where the Cowboys went after the very best player at his respective position. And last season, the Cowboys not only landed the best linebacker (which many felt was a questionable use of such a high draft pick) but arguably the best defensive player in the entire draft.
Keeping with this same strategy, what players in this year’s draft could satisfy Jerry’s thirst for getting the very best player at their respective position? Here are four draft targets who could fall right into place for the Cowboys.
C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Cowboys were handed a stroke of bad luck when their former All-Pro center Travis Frederick was forced to cut his career short after suffering from Guillain-Barré syndrome. Since Frederick’s departure, the Cowboys have had a tough time finding a player who offers such a presence along the interior offensive line. Joe Looney was an adequate backup and second-year player Tyler Biadasz has been showing improvement, but they are still a far cry from the contribution provided by Fredbeard.
Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum could be the perfect answer. He’s strong, he’s smart, and he moves well into the second level. He’s the most obvious candidate to satisfy this exercise as he’s hands down the most talented center in this year’s draft class. His chances of falling to pick 24 are fair because he’s a center-specific player who doesn’t offer position flexibility like many other offensive linemen. That means the Cowboys would only have to compete with the teams ahead of them that are in need of a new starting center.
DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
For the record, the Bulldogs' mammoth defensive tackle could very well be a top 10 pick, so this could just be wishful thinking. 340-pound guys aren’t supposed to move this fast and Jordan Davis provides all the traits you’d want from a block-absorbing defensive tackle who can wreck the trenches. He has good lateral agility, violent hands, and moves with a purpose always keeping his eye on the prize. The biggest issue with Davis is that he is not a pass-rushing defensive tackle and could end up being just a two-down player. For that reason, it’s possible he slides.
While such a demerit is a turnoff for some teams, the Cowboys have been in desperate need of a true 1-tech defensive tackle who’s a difference-maker. The team has tried to supplement this position with low-cost free agent signings such as Antwaun Woods, Dontari Poe, and most recently Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins, but it’s been a while since they’ve gotten some legit push from this position. A player like Davis could finally give the team what they’ve been missing and take a huge step in strengthening their run-stopping ability.
LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Sticking with the National Champs, the Cowboys might also be interested in off-ball linebacker Nakobe Dean. With both Leighton Vander Esch and Keanu Neal entering free agency, the Cowboys linebacker group has gone from crowded (when Jaylon Smith was here) to a skeleton crew. Of course, Micah Parsons is still here, but it’s unclear how he’ll be used as he’s too good of a pass rusher to just hold down off-ball linebacker responsibilities. And they also have Jabril Cox who showed some promise but had his year cut short with a season-ending ACL injury.
Dean has some competition for the top LB spot as Utah’s Devin Lloyd is another top player who should be selected in the first round. These guys should be considered 1A and 1B depending on which you prefer. And even if Lloyd is selected ahead of Dean, that doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t come away with the better player. Remember, Lamb was the third receiver taken in the 2020 draft after Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. Dean has excellent instincts and attacks the ball carrier with great closing speed. Adding him to the team’s linebacker group could instantly help revamp the position.
G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Connor Williams and his league-leading 130 yards worth of penalty yards should be leaving in free agency. Nobody had more holding penalties than Williams during the 2021 season. And fans aren’t overly thrilled with his possible replacement Connor McGovern as he wasn’t able to secure the starting job after Williams was benched mid-season. The Cowboys went back to Williams later in the year. Not only that, but McGovern himself is only under contract for one more season. This leaves a hole at left guard.
If the team is looking to bolster the interior offensive line, A&M’s Kenyon Green would be the best candidate to do so. He has the experience, can play multiple positions, and does a great job of getting in position and securing blocks. Adding a player like Green would instantly improve the team’s ability to run block. Just like any of the players listed here, Green also might not make it to 24 because of his talent; however, it’s usually the tackles that come off the board early, so the Cowboys could luck out and get the best guard in the draft.