(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 30. This series will identify five potential draft picks who could affect the depth chart at each position. Today, we continue with offensive tackle.)
IRVING, Texas – How times have changed. The Cowboys went 30 years (1982-2010) without drafting an offensive lineman in the first round. Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith broke the streak in 2011. Now in 2015, could the club actually select an offensive lineman in the first round for the fourth time in five years?
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones doesn't rule out anything, at least publicly, during draft season. At offensive tackle the edges are set with Smith and eight-year veteran Doug Free, who re-signed for a salary-cap friendly three years and $15 million in March. But backup Jermey Parnell's market value proved too pricey, and the club let him take a whopping five-year, $32 million deal from Jacksonville.
With Parnell gone, the Cowboys need a swing tackle who can back up the left and right sides. Darrion Weems, who missed the season following shoulder surgery, is an intriguing option. But the Cowboys will keep their eyes peeled on draft weekend for a quality backup tackle with starter potential.
Here's a look at five prospects in the early, middle and late rounds:
T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh –Ideally the Cowboys' first-round pick will play (or preferably start) as a rookie. With Smith and Free locked in as starters, position flexibility would benefit any first-round tackle taken by Dallas (see: Zach Martin's All-Pro season at right guard in 2014). La'el Collins, who started a full season at guard for LSU, will likely be gone well before No. 27. Clemmings, a first- to second-round prospect, was versatile enough to switch from defensive to offensive line in the middle of his career at Pitt, and some experts believe he has enough power to start his career inside before possibly kicking out to left or right tackle.
Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M – Ogbuehi might have been a lock for the first round in 2014 if he left college early. A torn ACL in the Aggies' Liberty Bowl victory in late December red-flagged his draft stock, but generally he's considered a Day 1 or early Day 2 pick. The All-American played guard early in his A&M career and has the frame (6-5, 305), length and agility to play both tackle spots in the NFL.
Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State – A tremendous athlete for a 6-5, 310-pounder, Sambrailo combines agility with pure nasty. Sambrailo's high motor will undoubtedly win over scouts and coaches across the league, and while he needs to get stronger for the next level of competition, his recognition and leadership skills will get him drafted as early as Day 2 as a potential starting right tackle or guard.
Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin – NFL teams know what they're getting in a Wisconsin offensive lineman: tough, physical, savvy, and well-coached. The Cowboys hit a home run with 2013 first-round pick Travis Frederick, and Havenstein possesses similar Badger traits as a projected mid-rounder. Despite a so-so combine performance – he graded low among offensive linemen in speed, agility and strength tests – Havenstein was the most dominant run blocker for national rushing leader Melvin Gordon and should be able to use that primary strength as a starting-caliber tackle or guard.
Andrew Donnal, Iowa –Donnal only started two games until his final season for the Hawkeyes, where he blossomed into an effective right tackle. While college teammate Brandon Scherff is considered one of the draft's elite O-Line prospects, Donnal could grow into a starter as a developmental tackle taken in the middle-to-late rounds.