The Dallas Cowboys are going to select an offensive lineman with their first-round pick. More specifically, they are going to draft one of the top guards in this year’s draft class. Now is this an absolute certainty? Of course not, but the way things have been going, it sure seems to be shaping out that way.
For starters, the Cowboys need a new left guard as the team’s primary starter over the last four years, Connor Williams, left in free agency. And if last year showed anything, it’s apparent that Connor McGovern is not the answer. Even if he was, McGovern is entering the final year of his rookie deal so they’re going to need someone new sooner or later.
And let’s not forget the team just released veteran right tackle La’el Collins, a player some hoped would slide over to left guard since Terence Steele has marked his territory at right tackle. That leaves the Cowboys a little light along the offensive line, so they will be looking to the upcoming draft to help repair the damage.
Of course, you don’t want to prioritize need over talent, but as luck would have it, they might not have to. The layout of this draft just so happens to have two of the top college guards projected to go right around where the Cowboys are picking. It’s fate. Now, if a premier talent at a more valued position falls in their lap, by all means, take that guy. In fact, Jerry Jones re-iterated that exact message on Monday when asked if the Cowboys will select an offensive lineman early in next month’s draft...
“We’ll get one unless Lamb or Parsons is there.”
If lady luck doesn’t grace the Cowboys this year, they should be able to calmly select one of these talented guards with pick 24, and we should be perfectly okay with that. Let’s take a look at the two big men who could find themselves hearing the Cowboys call their name on draft day.
Zion Johnson, Boston College
There is so much to love about Zion Johnson. His tape is sensational to where he was already regarded as one of the top guards in this year’s draft class, but then he went out and just killed it at the combine. The combination of pure athleticism with high-level production in college makes him a continuous climber on draft boards.
Johnson does such a great job getting to where he needs to be. He’s got cartoon feet the size of Goofy but flaps them so well that he’s always in the right position. Every move he makes has a purpose and he has the pad level and strength to consistently be a lane opener in the running game.
He’s also a really smart player. The way he processes the play pre-snap as well as reacts after the snap is super impressive. This is a skill that has sorely been lacking at left guard for the Cowboys. Too many times the two Connors are caught off balance and end up five yards down the field blocking air. This won’t happen with Zion. He has the ability to know where he needs to be as well as the physical ability to get there quickly. He seals well and consistently holds his blocks. And you won’t ever find this guy picking daisies as he’s always looking for work.
His processing not only helps him attack in the running game, but it makes him very effective in pass protection. Johnson is so quick to react and is marvelous at handling stunts. His hand technique is sound and he does a fantastic job passing off rushers to his teammates but possesses such great quickness to get himself right back into position for his next block.
Johnson is like one of those cars with lane tracing assist. He comes standard with great awareness and smart hands. Without hesitation, he’ll strike his opponent, feel out his positioning, and then self-correct himself to put him square where he needs to be to create leverage for his next block. It’s as if his body is always “re-calculating, re-calculating” to where he’s always right where he needs to be. That is a safety feature any team would love to have to protect their quarterback.
Kenyon Green. Texas A&M
Regarded as the top interior offensive lineman prior to the combine, Kenyon Green’s tape is just exceptional. He has such a strong history of fending off some of the most powerful defensive tackle competition in college to where it’s hard not to be impressed with his ability. But then came the combine. After looking horrible in essentially every testing metric, Green’s stock has suddenly taken a hit.
What people should love about Green is that he’s such a reliable wall. He’s not overly nimble and you won’t see him flying in space, but what you will see is him winning on just about every play. He’s got such great balance as he plays with a wide base, is quick to engage in contact, and has the strength to push defenders off their spots. Green has a really good sense of where to place his feet as he’ll constantly re-anchor to set himself. He plays with great pad level to maintain leverage and does a fantastic job using his hands to get full extension against the rusher, lifting him enough to throw off his balance.
For as big and unathletic as he is, Green does a great job keeping his feet light to mirror the movement of the defender. He’s packing some extra mass around his midsection, but he has excellent knee bend enabling him to anchor down and create a wall. He also does a great job locating defenders and shows good mobility to get to his spot in time. And when he gets there, he’s going to move people. Green does a very good job covering up defenders and creating running lanes.
Green is equally effective in pass protection. While his hand placement can be a little inconsistent at times, his meat hooks are vice grips and he will use his hands to drive his man back. He’s not exempt from the occasional holding penalty, and that’s not what Cowboys fans want to hear, so improved handwork is still needed.
In all, Green doesn’t possess near the athleticism as Johnson, but he’s active enough to do all the things you want from an interior offensive lineman. Both offer great versatility as they have played multiple positions along the offensive line. Their tape is excellent, and either one of these guys would be a great choice with the 24th overall pick. The last time the Cowboys selected a guard with their first-round pick, it felt like they had missed out on the great players and had to settle for the next best thing, which just so happened to be seven-time All-Pro Zack Martin.
By the way Kenyon Green was the Cowboys pick during our latest mock draft that we ran on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to our channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos!