(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on May 8-10, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, including the Cowboys' needs at each and which players might be targeted with their 11 picks, while also providing some interesting draft nuggets. Part 3 features the guards/centers.)
Travis Frederick met and surpassed all expectations with his play and accountability at center last season, starting all 16 games and playing admirably to help fix an offensive line that was viewed as a weakness in prior seasons. He'll be counted on for a long time to come, but there's not much behind him. Will Phil Costa now gone, the next backup center is probably starting guard Mackenzy Bernadeau.
Speaking of Bernadeau, he didn't complain or give up after starting the first three games of the 2013 season before veteran Brian Waters took his position at right guard for the next five weeks. After an injury to Waters, Bernadeau stepped back in and the line didn't miss a beat, looking just as stout for the remainder of the season. Bernadeau will be back competing to start at the same spot.
Ron Leary's dealt with knee issues throughout his brief time in the NFL, but he still managed to start all 16 games at left guard last year and will also be back to contend to do the same in 2014. It's quite possible all three interior linemen stay the same as they were in 2013, if they can all stay healthy.
The main question right now on the interior of the offensive line regards the depth. Unless Darrion Weems can shift inside to guard, there are no players who were on the team's active roster last year or who have been signed in free agency to back up those spots.
What They Need:
They have the pieces to start if they want to keep the interior status quo, but they've got nothing in terms of depth. Guard Chris DeGeare is on the reserves/futures list, but they have no pieces on the active roster to back their starters up and compete for a starting spot. They could still choose to bring back Waters to compete, sign a free agent guard or two or look to the draft to build their depth, particularly in the middle to later rounds.
One veteran free agent guard [embedded_ad] the Cowboys have shown some interest in is Davin Joseph, previously of the Bucs. The 30-year-old is one of the more prominent interior offensive linemen still available in free agency and would make sense to look at, particularly if Waters doesn't return, and he would immediately compete to start. Other free agent possibilities at guard include Garrett Reynolds and Wade Smith, while the available centers include Kyle Cook and Mike Gibson.
Unlike previous years, there aren't as many interior linemen garnering top 10 or top 15 consideration as there were in the past. Notre Dame's Zack Martin has been linked to the Cowboys in some mock drafts and could be a candidate to at least begin his career in the NFL at guard rather than tackle. He's one of the few interior offensive lineman who could be gone by the middle of the first round.
There's less of a question about the fit of UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo, who could be a late first or early second-round pick and would stick on the interior at the next level. Apart from Martin and Su'a-Filo, there are few options for interior linemen sneaking into the first round.
However, there's a host of players at guard and center who could be snagged in the second and third rounds, including Colorado State center Weston Richburg and guards Joel Bitonio (Nevada), Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State), Dakota Dozier (Furman), David Yankey (Stanford) and Cyril Richardson (Baylor). LSU's Trai Turner and Florida's Jon Halapio are also among the mid-to-late-round options.
For a more in-depth look at all the draft prospects, check out the Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine 2014 Draft Guide, which profiles more than 80 potential picks with rankings for over 300 players available in the upcoming draft. Digital subscriptions, which include 32 issues throughout the year, are available for just $14.99.