(Editor's Note: The staff of DallasCowboys.com is currently previewing the depth chart at each position on the Cowboys' roster. The biggest remaining variable in determining that depth chart is the NFL draft, which begins April 28. This series will identify five potential draft picks who could affect the depth chart at each position.)
IRVING, Texas – Defensive line help is a well-known pre-draft need for the Cowboys, but the reality is it's never a luxury for NFL teams. In today's pass-oriented league, you can never have too many players who can pressure the quarterback.
The Cowboys have taken steps to address their defensive line depth this offseason, re-signing tackle/end Jack Crawford and signing end Benson Mayowa and tackle Cedric Thornton in free agency. The draft presents another opportunity to add to Rod Marinelli's rotation, but it remains to be seen where they might find value at either spot.
Here are just a few defensive tackle and defensive end prospects who are expected to get drafted to NFL teams somewhere in the first few rounds:
1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State – Bosa might be the most popular player slotted to the Cowboys in mock drafts over the last couple of months. The logic is sound; he's arguably the best defensive line prospect in the draft, and the Cowboys are always looking for pass rush help. The All-American has a big-time motor and a strong three-year resume with one of the nation's premier programs. Bosa would fill a need if he's still around at No. 4 overall. Will the mock drafts be proven correct? If he's still available at No. 4, it all depends on whether he ultimately fits the Cowboys' best-player-available philosophy.
2. Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech – Defensive tackle is arguably the draft's deepest position, and Butler (6-4, 323) is generally considered among the best prospects as a possible first- or second-round pick. He played all across the defensive line in college and projects to 4-3 or 3-4; on a four-man line, he'd offer sturdy run blocking and penetrating quickness as a pass rusher at the one- or three-technique spot.
3. Austin Johnson, Penn State – Johnson was a highly productive college player who produced an outstanding 21 tackles for loss in his two seasons as a starter, including 15 as a junior. Like Butler, he's a powerful tackle (6-4, 314) who can be disruptive in the middle. Most likely he'll be a solid Day 2 selection for a team.
4. Ronald Blair, Appalachian State– Don't be fooled by the small-school résumé – Blair is a solid edge rusher and generally considered a Day 2 prospect. He played in a 3-4 alignment in college but is likely versatile enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 and possibly pitch in as a three-technique tackle as part of a rotation. At 6-2, 284, he has strength to take on blockers, and a two-sack performance against Clemson last year showed he can hang with elite competition.
5. Adolphus Washington, Ohio State – An All-Big Ten selection in 2015, Washington (6-3, 301) posted 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in two full seasons as a Buckeyes starter and could get drafted by a team somewhere on Day 2 as a versatile contributor at either tackle spot.