IRVING, Texas** – For the sake of full disclosure, it's worth pointing out that I wasn't present at the media session with Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones on Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Having read through Jones' comments, though, there's some pretty interesting insight to be gleaned about what the Cowboys are thinking in terms of draft strategy with the NFL draft approaching in May. And honestly, it doesn't seem like the slam dunk many make it out to be.
We've been over the possibilities ad nauseam since the season ended – so much so that opinions have started to repeat with so much time until the Cowboys actually go on the clock. We know the defense was atrocious in 2013, we know the pass rush was severely depleted and still remains a question mark. We know the safety and linebacker spots look concerning, at least to some degree.
To hear it from Jones, though, those spots don't issue the same level of concern as some think.
"We like where we are at safety. And we like where we are at Sam linebacker, strong linebacker," he said Sunday. "We actually got three or four guys we think can really do a good job."
That's quite a vote of confidence for the likes of J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, DeVonte Holloman – perhaps even Justin Durant. But it comes at odds with plenty of opinions, both from draft experts and casual observers, that those positions need to be addressed – potentially with the likes of a top draft pick like Calvin Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
It's evident the Cowboys' defense needs to improve. But the depth of this draft, combined with the team's position in the very middle of it, could make for a less-obvious decision than many think. I've said for a while that there are only a few positions that obviously don't need to be addressed – running back, tight end and center. [embedded_ad]
Jones didn't echo my sentiments exactly in Indianapolis, but he came close.
"I am trying to think of any place else. I can't really think of any place else, probably tight end and not necessarily receiver either," he said. "Running back – that's the reason why we're talking here because the running backs are going out here. But I feel good about where we are at running back."
I'm going to allow the general manager to continue making my point for me, which is this: as badly as this team needs to improve its defense, the depth of this draft means it doesn't have to happen with the No. 16 overall pick.
"All things equal -- same quality. The depth is really good in both fronts, so is linebacker," Jones said. "It's good in both those fronts. So I think that will be noted."
The Cowboys need defensive linemen, both at end and tackle, and they could probably use further depth at linebacker. But depending on the flow of the draft – not to mention whatever is to come in free agency – the best possible value might come in securing the future of the offensive line. In a rare circumstance, maybe the best value is a top-notch receiver.
That's not to say the defense won't be addressed. There are too many variables to predict what will happen with that 16th pick, and with eight picks in the draft there's no doubt the Cowboys will use several of them on defenders.
My only point – and Jerry Jones' too, apparently – is that the draft strategy doesn't seem as concrete as many would seem to think.