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Eatman: No Arguing Need to Draft QB, But For Value, First-Round Seems High

IRVING, Texas – For the last few years, I've argued against the notion of the Cowboys drafting a quarterback. I never thought the timing was right because I simply thought it would be a wasted pick, considering how many years Tony Romo still had in him.

Sure, you could argue the Cowboys could've used an upgrade last year, but then I'd come back and tell you there was a first-round pick that began the season as a backup, and he couldn't win a game, and neither could an established veteran who has made a Pro Bowl before.

Nothing is guaranteed at quarterback, which is what we saw here this past season.

But let me get this on the record – I do think it's time for the Cowboys to invest some resources in a new quarterback.

First round? I just don't think I'm ready to go that far. It's only January, I guess I could be swayed, but I'm not expecting that. Unless you count a week of Senior Bowl practices and a game, I don't think there's a lot more these guys can do to prove themselves.

And when I say prove, it's not exactly that they can be good players in this league. To me, I don't think you take a player at No. 4 overall if he's not ready to contribute immediately. Some will argue that all day long and go ahead. You'll have your Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer to show that quarterbacks can sit and learn. One of them had a Hall of Famer ahead of him and the other clearly wasn't better than Jon Kitna as a rookie or he probably would've played then.

My point is that I don't think any of these quarterbacks in this draft are truly – special. You don't have to remind me that the best quarterback in the league was a sixth-round pick, or the Cowboys' franchise quarterback went undrafted. I know they come from all places, but mostly, if you look around the league, it's the first round.

Did you realize if Kansas City had somehow knocked off Tom Brady's Patriots this past weekend, that all four of the remaining starting quarterbacks for this week's championship games would've been not only first-round picks, but the No. 1 overall selection? And of the 12 quarterbacks to make the playoffs this year, seven of them were first-round picks. It could've been eight had Houston gone with Brandon Weeden, which in hindsight you could argue they should have.

So there's no real science to this. Most of the time, the best quarterbacks will come from the first round, but only if they have to play right away.

You can slice this up two different ways.

  1. The Cowboys were so bad at backup quarterback last year that once Romo went down, the entire team couldn't function and all three of his replacements failed miserably. So the Cowboys better do everything they can to have a better backup to Romo, and possibly someone ready to take over when his time comes.
  2. Since the Cowboys couldn't win at all without Romo, maybe this team is way too dependent on the starting quarterback. Perhaps the "talent" we see at the skill positions is only enhanced when Romo is in the game. Maybe there needs to be a major upgrade surrounding the quarterback so whoever takes the snap, will have help around him.

I side with No. 2. I do think the Cowboys have some talented players, but I think Romo makes them better. I would rather see this team keep adding to the talent around him, and that doesn't exactly mean it has to be on offense. A great defense – one that gets off the field and creates turnovers and can close the door late in the game – can be just as beneficial to a quarterback than a playmaking receiver.

But for argument's sake, let's say the Cowboys decided to get a quarterback and receiver in the first two rounds.

Knowing that the receiver will play right away and the quarterback will probably sit, at least that's the plan, think about the value you're going to get at each position.

If you went receiver first, you could probably get Ole Miss' Laquan Treadwell, a Dez Bryant-clone who is as NFL-ready as they get. You turn around in the second round and probably get someone like Connor Cook of Michigan State or maybe Penn State's Christian Hackenberg. (I'm assuming three quarterbacks go in the first round, but if Carson Wentz doesn't exactly light it up in Mobile next week, it'll probably hurt his stock because he doesn't have a ton of tape against D-1 competition.)

Still, you get either Treadwell and Cook, who will wear a ball cap all year, assuming Romo is fracture-free. Or you go for Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch or Wentz at No. 4, and turn around and grab a Corey Coleman from Baylor, maybe Josh Doctson of TCU or Will Fuller from Notre Dame.

It's not an easy call, at least not for me. Initially, I thought I would undoubtedly go for the first option because I just see a bigger talent difference in the receivers from pick No. 4 to No. 35, than at quarterback, who is going to likely sit most of the year anyway.

But it's a little closer than I thought. I can see where fans would covet the second option – get a great quarterback prospect high and then add a receiver with some elite qualities, even if they aren't exactly elite overall.

Now, I'm not saying Dallas should look at quarterback and receiver with the first two picks, but that's just an example. I can see the Cowboys doing that scenario with quarterback vs. a handful of positions that could be picked at No. 4.

At the end of the day, I just think the Cowboys can get better immediately by taking a positon player with the fourth overall pick. I'm totally for getting a quarterback who they can develop, but if the plan is to sit him anyway, then why not get that in the second round, maybe the third.[embeddedad0]

We've seen good quarterbacks coming out of those rounds – such as Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson – but they certainly have talented players around them. That's where I would go, draft better players around the quarterback, so regardless who's in the game, they've got an elite supporting cast.

But that's just one opinion here in January. It could easily change before late-April, if not the end of the month.

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