IRVING, Texas – Let's be sensible when it comes to the draft.
The Cowboys could use help and upgrades at numerous positions throughout the roster, so why spend early picks on positions that can't help quickly?
This doesn't mean the Cowboys' scouts, who've been working tirelessly to put a board together since the last draft, should pass on a player they graded far and beyond the other available picks. But the Cowboys would benefit by eliminating a few needless positions and focusing more on a select group of positions, which would still give Dallas enough options to find a first-round star.
Another tight end wouldn't do much for the Cowboys. The center position is locked up. But there are a handful of positions that would make sense for Dallas in the first round, and certain needs should at least be considered throughout the draft process.
The Cowboys moved back and took Travis Frederick at the end of the first round last year knowing they wanted their highest graded offensive lineman. That move paid off.
I don't even think they need to limit themselves that much. For some teams, drafting entirely for need means singling out one specific position. That's not what I'm advocating, though if a defensive lineman is graded as high as another position that would be the right route to go.
The Cowboys should take their highest graded player among the defensive linemen, safeties, wide receivers and outside linebackers. For them to take a quarterback, he'd have to be a "can't miss" prospect graded significantly higher than the available players, and I don't think it's the time to take that guy in the first round.
The first pick must compete for a starting job immediately while upgrading a spot in need of help. That's not going to happen at center or tackle or tight end. That's not going to happen at middle linebacker. That's not going to happen at quarterback, unless Romo isn't ready to go, and the Cowboys still have Orton for another year. [embedded_ad]
Taking the best available defensive linemen, safety, outside linebacker or receiver in the first round gives the Cowboys plenty to choose from and still allows them to grab one of their top rated players. It doesn't limit them much, and instead it pins down and specifies the thought process.
If they don't have a defensive lineman rated highly enough at their spot in the first round, then take one of the other three or so positions of need (though they should set themselves up to have at least one defensive lineman by the end of Round 2). Aaron Donald's undersized but could be an ideal fit if they're willing to burn a first-rounder on him.
It may seem odd to add receiver to that list of possibilities, but I think this team would be in a heap of trouble if Dez Bryant were to go down. Terrance Williams can be a solid No. 2, but by grabbing another player early who can compete as the No. 2 or No. 3 option and can eventually fill in as a top threat, they'd be filling a need. Kelvin Benjamin could potentially fill that role with Sammy Watkins likely gone.