FRISCO, Texas – Fifteen days and counting until the start of the 2023 NFL Draft.
The mocks are going bananas. So are the player rankings. The amateur Big Boards. What a cottage industry dedicated to three days.
If the Cowboys stand still, and who knows since hard to predict what is taking place with the first 25 selections in the draft, they begin at pick 26 then go on to 58th overall, 90, 129, 169, 212 and 244, for a current total of seven after trading two of their fifth rounders for Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks.
And after previously pointing out how the Cowboys have done a nice job over the past month of purifying their draft, at least plugging holes to prevent any boarding house reaches, let's remind that this 2023 draft is not all about the 2023 season. The Cowboys must also implement foresight when making these picks. They must also consider the future, and in the NFL the future usually arrives quicker than you think.
So it's not all about that first pick. Never know when you find a Jason Witten in the third round or Dak Prescott in the fourth, DaRon Bland in the fifth, Donovan Wilson in the sixth, Patrick Crayton or Leon Lett in the seventh, Larry Brown in the 12th and a slew of undrafted rookies after all picks are in, like, uh, Tony Romo, and if we go way back, Drew Pearson, Bill Bates, Mark Tuinei and, of course, Cliff Harris.
So let's take a few shots into the crystal ball.
- Running Back: Keep hearing and reading what a waste it is using a first-round pick on a running back. Stop. First of all, the Cowboys have the 26th pick in the first round. They won't have 26 players with first-round grades. At 26, might as well be a second rounder since there are only five picks remaining after their choice and the start of the second. And look at it this way: The Cowboys are hoping Tony Pollard still is the Tony Pollard of old after his ankle/leg surgery. No guarantees. Then remember he is only under contract for one season. A free agent again next year unless signing a long-term deal by July 17. Signed free agent Ronald Jones to only a veteran exception one-year deal. Signed Rico Dowdle to a one-year deal. Malik Davis enters the final year of his two-year, undrafted free agent deal. Then what? If the running back talent fits at 26, they must commit, with the projected cost at No. 26 just $3.47 million a year to rent for four seasons.
- Quarterback: And this has nothing to do with Dak Prescott. He's going to be here for quite some time. But what about at some point the backup spot? Sure, the Cowboys signed Cooper Rush to a two-year deal at $5 million. But all the guarantees ($2.75 million) expire after the first year and could get out for $625,000 dead in the second. So if choosing a potential backup QB candidate, that guy must project better than Will Grier to groom as the third guy for now. How high would you go?
- Wide Receiver: Remember, CeeDee Lamb is entering his fourth year, and the Cowboys likely will be picking up his fifth-year option in May. Cooks was signed to a two-year deal. Michael Gallup is here for a while, but no problem adding some juice at wideout with the jury still out on the likes of Jalen Tolbert and Simi Fehoko.
- Tight End: Absolutely. Great finds with rookie Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot last year, but Sean McKeon is in the final year of his deal and, of course, Dalton Schultz is long gone to Houston. There is room at the inn, even long term, to go as high as they dare.
- Offensive Line: Why not, though probably not in the first . . . again, since Tyler Smith sure looks like a keeper long term. But remember, Tyron Smith has two years left on his contract, but what about on his body? Zack Martin, who actually is older than Tyron by a month, turns 33 in November and has two years left on his deal. Center Tyler Biadasz is in the final year of his rookie deal. And let's not forget Terence Steele, who has yet to sign his restricted second-round tender (he has until the 21st to find a more lucrative offer), would be a free agent next year. And while the Cowboys did sign veteran Chuma Edoga in free agency, the interior lineman only signed a one-year veteran exception. He gets in the way of nothing if drafting a better player. Need to continue to draft and develop here, and preferably another tackle who can play inside or a guard to potentially convert to center.
- Cornerback: Yep, traded for Gilmore. But turns 33 in September and is on a one-year deal. Trevon Diggs is entering his fourth and final year on his rookie deal. If the price is right, Cowboys would like to extend him. If not, a free agent or franchise candidate next year. Jourdan Lewis is entering the final year of his contract. At most, the Cowboys might re-sign veteran Anthony Brown to a one-year prove-it deal coming off his torn Achilles. They are good with Bland. Can't have enough corners and an eventual need.
- Defensive End: Bring it on. While DeMarcus Lawrence has two years left on his contract and Sam Williams is here for a lengthy stay, the Cowboys only have one-year deals left with Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler Jr. and Takk McKinley, but two with Chauncey Golston, though the Cowboys moved him inside last year to defensive tackle. Like corners, can't have enough of these guys, especially if they don't want to wear out Micah Parsons with too many snaps at defensive end, especially in run situations.
- Defensive Tackle: Interesting here. Osa Odighizuwa and Quinton Bohanna entering the third of their four-year deals, and so is Golston, assuming he stays put inside. And the rest, Johnathan Hankins and Neville Gallimore, are on one-year deals. Send for the reinforcements, and maybe out of necessity and at 26, the Cowboys prioritize a defensive tackle over some of the other more prominent positions.
- Linebacker: Of course, Parsons isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Neither is Damone Clark, proving last year in 10 games he's a definite keeper. But after that? Leighton Vander Esch did re-sign for two years and thank goodness for that. And while Jabril Cox has two years remaining on his rookie deal, no one is sure about this 2021 fourth round pick, nor last year's sixth rounder Devin Harper. And there is no more Anthony Barr or Luke Gifford. Certainly room at the inn here, too.
- Safety: Good for now with Wilson, Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse and Israel Mukuamu. But guess what? Kearse and Hooker are in their final years. Markquese Bell is a hopeful, but just two years left on his undrafted rookie deal, and Tyler Coyle has been re-signed to a minimum one-year contract. See what I mean? Can't ever say they have enough here.
- And Kicker: No way the Cowboys only go to training camp with Tristan Vizcaino as the only kicker on the roster. And to me, signed for one-year, $940,000, he's here no more than on a tryout. Not saying they would draft one, but who knows, maybe in the seventh if one is worthy? Or at least add one or two in the offseason to compete, while keeping one in your back pocket if the keeper from the offseason competition flounders in training camp. I mean, we know kickers don't we? Never can be too sure.
And as for this week's last word, allow me to have my turn because if you have stayed with me to this point, this just about covers the Cowboys' draft needs. Just about anything goes in this draft for the team. No way can you say that's unrealistic excess at any position the Cowboys might take over these upcoming seven rounds. It's wide open. An argument can be made for just about every position being one of need.
Bottom line: Let the talent dictate. Especially in the first round, discounting no one by position. In the Cowboys' case, that would be silly and wasteful.