IRVING, Texas – These extra two weeks before the draft can lead to both thinking and overthinking.
They allow the further analysis of college football prospects and more thorough examinations between scouts and coaches and general managers about their likes and dislikes of this year's crop of soon-to-be NFL talent, but that hiatus could also lead to unnecessary nitpicking and second-guessing.
The latter can also entail missing the obvious, and the obvious should be similar to what it was last year.
Nobody had Travis Frederick as the Cowboys' first-round pick, though offensive line was clearly the team's biggest area of need. The Cowboys traded back and grabbed a player they believed could help immediately on a line in desperate need of assistance.
This year is similar, only the side of the line is flipped.
The Cowboys need to fix their defensive line early and often this year and shouldn't overthink that. They don't have to reach on a specific position, but they need to end the draft with multiple defensive linemen – ends or tackles – and not just in the later rounds.
It sounds simple enough, but when considering the best player available, which is typically the way to go, the simple can sometimes get convoluted. Any other picks on defense the Cowboys make, particularly on the back end, won't matter much without a pass rush.
I've been an advocate of adding a receiver somewhere in the first few rounds this year, but that doesn't mean neglecting the most obvious area of need – whether that means adding pieces at defensive end, defensive tackle or, in the best case scenario, both.
Few first-round defensive end prospects exist in the first round this year, apart from the stud likely to go No. 1. Aaron Donald also won't likely be there. Maybe Anthony Barr will, but it's possible he's gone as well. [embedded_ad]
If there's nobody on the line worth that 16th pick, that probably means trading back and finding someone who can help on the line or on defense late in the first.
Or maybe it means grabbing a safety from Louisville who falls to 16, or even grabbing a star linebacker or receiver who falls to that range. If that's the case, a couple picks on the defensive line should follow shortly after.
There's something to be said for picking the best available player, and for the most part, that should be the theory. But there's also something to be said to fixing the problems on a team when there's only a few good years left for the franchise quarterback and when the majority of the team's issues can be attributed back to a lack of a pass rush.
The only certainly at the start of the draft is that there will be uncertainty, just like Frederick was last year. Someone intriguing will fall to the Cowboys at 16. No one thought Sharrif Floyd would be there for the Cowboys' taking last season. But the odd nuances and circumstances of the draft shouldn't mask the obvious, which is that the Cowboys need to fix their pass-rushing situation. Everything else they can add is a luxury.
Failing to do so means overthinking the obvious, and it also means hovering at or below 8-8 again.