Later this week, we will have the new crop of Dallas Cowboys rookies to cuss and discuss. One of the first things to look at will be how they affect the depth chart. There are currently 19 open spots on the 90-man offseason roster, and some of the draftees are not going to be guaranteed a spot when the cutdown to 53 comes. Most of the UDFAs will just be hoping to make a practice squad somewhere.
For a few more days, we will be hotly debating not only what players the team should go after, but what positions they should acquire, and when in the process. The first-round pick, should they stand pat, is the most over-analyzed, but all seven of their picks, and the UDFA signings, will be intended to slot into the depth chart. Position by position, also referred to as the room the player helps fill in meetings, here is a look at how that might go, and how it could affect the actual picks and signings.
Clearly, the Cowboy have no need to spend a day one or two selection here, but it is always a good idea to take a later round QB. If not, they will probably sign one in the UDFA scramble. At the least, a new QB would be competing with Will Grier for QB3. And the hope is that he could push Cooper Rush to be the primary backup. Anytime from round five on would be a good place to get one. Let him sit behind Dak Prescott in the room and learn.
Ah, now things get, shall we say, interesting. There is reportedly a big infatuation with Bijan Robinson if he makes it to 26. Many have some strong objections to that idea.
But, as wiser heads have observed, the NFL is now a two RB league, which is to say you can’t make it with just one workhorse feature back the way teams used to. Tony Pollard is going to be the lead back this year if healthy, unless they do get Robinson, in which case Pollard could revert back to a change-of-pace role. But Dallas has to have a second back to share the load. It wouldn’t hurt to have someone who can pick up those short yardage situations on just size and strength.
So with nothing but uncertainty behind Pollard right now, they should look to find that back in the first four rounds. Wait too long, and they risk just having another player that offers no real advantage over what they have now.
The Cowboys are banking on CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and a healthier Michael Gallup as their starting three, and that is not a bad situation. However, if the team is going to continue using lots of 11 personnel, which puts three WRs on the field, they have to have four. It is a position that is too prone to injury to not have a player who can fill in. It would also provide insurance should Gallup still not be back to where he was before his big injury in 2021.
However, this is not a strong year for wide receivers coming out of college. The team can’t afford to reach for one. There is a real possibility this one is a wipe-out for Dallas through the first four rounds. Anyone drafted after that is iffy by definition. There is a good chance they don’t get one they can rely on. This is one of the biggest rooms on the team, but that doesn’t mean a new face will have a good chance unless they bring something good to the table.
They can use a good wideout early, they just might not find one, and have to cross their fingers that one of the ones currently on the roster will emerge, or they stumble across a hidden gem.
Hope is not a strategy. What will they do if they totally whiff on WR in the draft?
Nothing is done in a vacuum. Draft decisions are interconnected. This could be very relevant with the TE and WR positions.
Tight end is another position, like running back, where there are many who would feel unhappy if they take one in the first round. Yet they clearly need to add a good one. Jake Ferguson is penciled in as the starter, with Peyton Hendershot TE2. The Cowboys still like two tight end sets for certain situations, which means this is like WR and they have to have three.
A key part of this equation is that there is a new breed of tight end, ones that are more integral to the passing game and can be a deep threat as well as a possession receiver. If Dallas finds one like that, then they can compensate for a lack of options at WR. Additionally, if they got a RB like Robinson, they would probably be focused on incorporating the RBs more into the passing game, which Pollard can do as well.
This seems to point to them taking either a TE or RB on day one or two of the draft, and possibly both. And it makes sense. Arguably, they need to get both done no later than the fourth round.
The simple way to put it is that they need a plug-and-play left guard. But if a possible day one starter at left tackle lands in their lap, they can move Tyler Smith to LG again and fix the issue that way. That is also a reminder they are not at all hesitant to move college OTs inside.
This is the third position that needs to be addressed early, and could be a good way to go in the first round. If they don’t have one by the end of day 2, it will be worrisome. If they don’t find a good prospect by the fourth round, the warning bells should be sounding.
A little context here. The Cowboys went heavy on defense a couple of years ago, then flipped to offense last season. But this might not be a year they flip back, because it is arguable that their top four needs this year are all on offense, OL, TE, RB, and WR. One position that would have been more of a priority, cornerback, was addressed by the trade for Stephon Gilmore.
That means that the defense could be underrepresented in this year’s draft class. And that is not a bad thing. The stocking of the past couple of years looks solid.
Defensive end, or EDGE, is one position you can never have too much talent, and should a real value be on the board at any time the Cowboys go on the clock, it would be hard to blame them for sending the name up. Still, with last year’s addition of Sam Williams, anyone picked for this room will have an uphill battle just making the 53, much less getting a lot of playing time. This one could be a position taken anywhere in the draft, depending on how things play out.
Technically, the defensive line is one room, but the Cowboys look at DE and DT very differently. They love to take EDGE rushers, but seem allergic to spending good draft capital on the guys in the middle. We shouldn’t expect that to change this draft. An underrated re-signing this offseason was Johnathan Hankins, which further reduces the motivation to draft one in the early rounds. They might take one late, but could forego this completely.
This is the only defensive room that could justify an early pick, with the depth behind Leighton Vander Esch a bit unproven. Micah Parsons is a unique case here, in that he is as much an EDGE as a LB, but they need more for when he is chasing down quarterbacks. The team is hoping Damone Clark continues to outperform expectations when he was drafted after surgery, but they could use a good player to add here. It could be as early as day two, but fourth or fifth round look like better spots to look.
After the Gilmore signing, this is much the same as DE. If the right one is there, they could pull the trigger early. Still, this seems not very likely until day 3.
Again, you can cut and paste the reasoning for another position here, in this case DT. They seem to loathe investing much here, and have been very fortunate with Donovan Wilson and Jayron Kearse. If they do draft one, they will probably do so in the sixth or seventh round.
OK, this is just about kickers. With only Tristan Vizcaino on the roster, this could be something they use their seventh-round pick on. In any case, this could be a position they have to go back to free agency for by the time camp rolls around.
One thing that has to be mentioned is that the Cowboys only have seven picks overall, which means some rooms won’t be welcoming any draftees this year. They also have a limited number of slots for UDFAs, so those will have to be used judiciously.
Further, each pick after the first one is influenced by who was taken before. It is a dynamic situation. That is part of why the draft is always so interesting, and sometimes fun.