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Mailbag: Most critical starter need in draft?


I see three positions where I believe the Cowboys need to find a day-one starter in this year's draft: offensive tackle, center and running back. It would be awesome if they drafted day-one starters for all three positions, but I would probably settle for just one. The question is which position is the most critical for the team to hit on? And does the answer change if you are thinking beyond day one and looking long term? – David Nystrom/Loudon, TN

Nick Eatman: I would say the center position. If you're telling me that I'm guaranteed to get a Day 1 starter in this draft, I'll take the center because of the continuity it brings to the entire line. You can always move the running back in and out and the left tackle – while very important to protecting your quarterback – can still get some help on the outside with the tight end and the backs. Of course, the center can get help as well but overall, I think it's vital to the entire O-line to have a center capable of holding his own, plus handling the line calls. You're right, all three are important and maybe finding some help at defensive tackle, too. But I'll take the center for your question.

Kurt: I don't think the answer necessarily changes whether we're talking day one or long term – the Cowboys need someone to step into the lineup this season and ideally be a cornerstone for the next decade. In this scenario, running back isn't among the most critical. The NFL has shown that the position just isn't as valued as it once was. But between center and offensive tackle, I would lean toward center right now. As Nate Newton has said on our Hangin' With the Boys podcast, there are better ways to help a tackle. Keep the tight end in, chip the defender with a running back, simply force the play in the other direction, that sort of thing. And they do have Tyler Smith on board already, who can (and possibly will) move to the outside from his current guard position. But center is literally in the center of the action, and an intelligent, strong snapper makes such a huge difference. The Cowboys need only look at their last two starting centers – Tyler Biadasz, who was solid, and Travis Frederick, who was outstanding – to see the difference. If Dak Prescott is getting pressure up the middle, his job becomes a whole lot tougher and, of course, trying to run the ball becomes an issue as well. Hopefully, the Cowboys will be able to address both needs in the draft and come away with impact players, but for me, finding a center is the key.

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