Draft Breakdown: Several Question Marks Remain At DT

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(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on April 25-27, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, the Cowboys' needs at each, which players might be targeted for their six picks and some interesting draft nuggets. Part 5 features the defensive tackle position.)

Position Outlook:

The Cowboys have several positions that have several question marks each, but the defensive tackle spot might top the list for a couple of reasons. For starters, there are some uncertainties surrounding both Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent for their off-the-field incidents. Brent, who was arrested last November for vehicular manslaughter as the driver in an accident that killed Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown, has a scheduled trial date for Sept. 23. He was expected to play this season as a backup to Ratliff, who was also arrested in January and charged with a DWI. He could be facing a suspension and/or fine from the NFL. Off-the-field issues or not, all of the defensive linemen will be adjusting to new responsibilities because of the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme. That means there will now be two defensive tackles on the field during the base defense and it's unclear if the Cowboys even have that big-bodied 1-technique player to line up in the middle. Perhaps Ratliff will be asked to play it, although it's traditionally a spot for players well over 300 pounds. The Cowboys will also have Sean Lissemore in the middle likely competing for a starting spot, and with Anthony Spencer re-signing, Jason Hatcher could play defensive tackle in this scheme. [embedded_ad]

Available Vets:

With the draft about 10 days away, most teams will likely stand pat on making a free-agent splash. Some teams close shop completely and won't sign a veteran at all. The Cowboys typically don't sign many free agents, if any, during the month of April as they get ready for the draft.

There are some experienced tackles still on the market. The most notable name is Richard Seymour, a perennial Pro Bowler for both the Patriots and Raiders. But he's 33 and missed half of last year with a hamstring injury. Another name out there is Sedrick Ellis, a former top 10 pick of the Saints who hasn't lived up to expectations.

Look Back:

In 1991, the Cowboys had two first-round draft picks, including the No. 1 overall selection, which they obtained in a trade with the Patriots. The Cowboys, then led by former Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson, took Russell Maryland, a star with the Hurricanes who played for Johnson. Maryland never became the dominating player he was in college, but he was a solid contributor for three Super Bowl teams. He went to the Pro Bowl after the 1993 season, but it's safe to say Maryland never fulfilled the lofty expectations that came with being the No. 1 overall pick.  

Draft Prospects:

This is considered a rather top-heavy draft for defensive tackles with guys like Sharrif Floyd of Florida and Utah's Star Lotulelei projected in the top 10. One player who might be on the Cowboys' radar is Missouri's


Sheldon Richardson, who came in for a visit two weeks ago. Purdue's Kawann Short was also among the top 30 visits and could be a possibility in the early rounds. Bryan Broaddus has more on a few defensive tackle prospects that will likely make it past the first round.

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