IRVING, Texas– Senior Bowl week has arrived, and there seems to be an extra buzz this January as the Cowboys embark on one of the most anticipated draft seasons in recent franchise history.
Well, here's why:
The Cowboys are coaching in Mobile for the first time in 51 years.
They have their highest draft position (fourth overall) in 25 years.
For the first time since that relatively brief post-Aikman/pre-Romo era in the early 2000s, quarterback is a much-speculated potential draft target – if not at No. 4, then perhaps sometime on draft weekend.
And, of course, this week they'll get a close look at four quarterback prospects on their North roster, including North Dakota State's Carson Wentz, whom many experts believe is a first- to second-round talent.
Because it is the game's most important position, and because the Dallas Cowboys have a rich history there, quarterback talk is always excellent pre-draft watercooler fodder.
Personally, I'm on record saying the Cowboys will have plenty of other needs beyond backup quarterback with the fourth pick in the draft, though free agency in March should paint a better picture of their roster status by late April.
However, just for argument's sake, I think it's reasonable to believe that a first-round quarterback could offer more than merely a pick for the future.
Sure, the hope is Tony Romo plays 16 spectacular games in 2016 and his backups never see the field once, much less play 12 games again. Romo, signed through 2019, expects to return fully healthy this year and continue his career for a good while longer.
He's still very much the franchise, and your franchise player needs help around him, not behind him on the depth chart. I agree with that – and that's why I'd be more inclined to find an impact player at another position at No. 4.
But how often do teams take players that high in the draft without confidence they can contribute as rookies? Aren't most first-rounders expected to play right away, or at least be ready to play right away? Generally speaking, I believe any quarterback good enough to get selected in the top five picks should be good enough to compete for a No. 2 spot and play well in the event of an injury to the starter.
I understand quarterback has a steeper learning curve than perhaps any other position. But any player taken that high should be extremely talented, right? How many rookies have stepped in and won games for their teams in recent years? Plenty. Usually teams picking this high in the draft don't have a Tony Romo already in the starting lineup. They have little choice but to play.
That said, I don't think quarterback is, in any way, a must for the Cowboys at No. 4, especially if the value isn't there. Yes, Romo has much healthier surgically-repaired back that he still must manage during the season and he has fractured his left collarbone three times since 2010. Jerry Jones has said addressing the backup quarterback position is an absolute must coming off a 1-11 record without Romo in the lineup this year.
It makes sense to begin looking for his heir apparent, as well as perhaps finding competition for backup Kellen Moore through free agency.[embeddedad0]
There's a long way to go before late April. Watercooler fodder. But the general idea of drafting a quarterback can't be dismissed as simply a developmental pick for the future.
As much as the Cowboys struggled without Romo this year, any infusion of talent at that spot, no matter how inexperienced, could be viewed as a potential backup upgrade.