FRISCO, Texas –With the 19th pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select …
Shoot, with the draft still six days away, they don’t even know.
How could they?
Unless of course those in the war room out here at Ford Center could accurately predict the first 18 selections, then the Cowboys brass could tell you exactly who they’d take.
Sure, they know by now who they’d like to draft with that first-round pick if you told them who was going to be there at 19. But the beauty at this point, after re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving, after filling in a few glaring needs in free agency on the offensive line and wide receiver, they really don’t have a position they have to take no matter what in the first round.
If they drafted a wide receiver at 19, wouldn’t be mad at them.
If they drafted a linebacker at 19, wouldn’t be mad at them.
If they drafted a versatile defensive tackle at 19, wouldn’t be mad at them.
If they drafted *another *defensive end at 19, wouldn’t be mad at them, though that guy better be as good as DeMarcus Lawrence right off the bat.
If they drafted an offensive tackle who could challenge for the starting left guard spot at 19, wouldn’t be mad at the excess of riches spent on the offensive line if – again, if – the talent well at these other spots went dry and couldn’t swing a deal to trade down.
If they drafted a safety at 19, a guy instantly the quality of Ring of Honor safety Darren Woodson, wouldn’t be mad at them.
See what I mean? With the multiple needs the Cowboys have, how can they possibly go wrong come Thursday around approximately 9 p.m. when the card of their first-round pick is handed to commissioner Roger Goodell at AT&T Stadium, that from a positional standpoint as long as they have accurately judged the drafted player’s talent.
Of course, a lot of this will depend, from a position standpoint, on the depth of said position in the draft, meaning like the quality of, say, wide receivers in the second and third round as opposed to, say, linebackers. Sort of like last year when the Cowboys reasoned if they wanted a defensive end they had better grab Taco Charlton in the first round because there was capable defensive back-depth throughout the second and third rounds where they eventually stocked up on two cornerbacks, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, then got fortunate with a player of Xavier Woods’ talent still available in the sixth.
There are variables here in this draft for the Cowboys, especially when there is not just one position that would put them over the top.
Again, depends on who is there at 19, or if you think using a second or third to move up a few spots to grab the apple of your eye.
For example, listen to COO Stephen Jones, talking about the need for a wide receiver following last Friday’s release of Dez Bryant, saying, “We could take a couple of wide receivers,” and also saying, “If we end up with an extra wide receiver or two we all know there is nothing wrong with depth.”
Or when he points out, “I could very easily see us picking another offensive lineman in the top four rounds if not another in the later rounds.”
Now, please consider a few things when trying to get all of this straight in your minds.
When it comes to selecting a wide receiver in the first round, just remember there is depth in this draft at that position, and there might not be that much difference between guys taken at 19 from guys taken in the second round. And there are reasons why the Cowboys signed free agents Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson to cover their bases just in case.
Then linebacker. The case can be made the Cowboys need to take one in the first because the talent drops off after that. But consider this, because the need for a versatile linebacker capable of replacing the versatile Anthony Hitchens is based on the unknown surrounding Jaylon Smith. But over the past week I’ve had two people tell me that Smith is running much, much better right now than he did during last season. That he’s not needing to take those baby steps to get going or to reverse directions or to move the laterally he struggled with playing through his noticeable drop foot. They say his leg seems stronger, and he’s been out there running, doing drills without the aid of the brace he was wearing last year.
If that is indeed the case, then they are needy but not desperate to take a linebacker in the first round.
Now defensive tackle. As for this one, why not if the guy is capable of playing both the 1- and 3-technique. And yeah, yeah, I know, the Cowboys don’t believe in drafting defensive tackles high. But consider this: If neither Taco Charlton or Charles Tapper or Kony Ealy don’t win the starting defensive end spot opposite Lawrence, then Tyrone Crawford must start on the right side again. That would mean your top two defensive tackles would be David Irving and Maliek Collins. After that, why it’s a grab-bag bunch of Louis Neal, Brian Price, Richard Ash, Daniel Ross and swing man Datone Jones.
Suddenly you might be thinking, Man, I need one of those, like a Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne or Taven Bryan.
Take safety. The Cowboys, seeing that Byron Jones is introducing himself as a cornerback these days, have only three safeties on the roster who played last year: Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier and Woods. Heath started 15 of the 15 games he played last year. There is one starter. Frazier played only 20.7 percent of the snaps, and not sure he’s a fulltime starting candidate. And Woods, well, most of his snaps came inside on change-up defenses, but he ended up playing 51.5 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Oh, and I’m told he is considered a starting candidate.
Plus, with some cap space to play with, who knows what the Cowboys have up their sleeve with a potential trade for a veteran safety.
So they could, but they might not need to grab a safety in the first round.
Oh, offensive line, where they have an embarrassment of riches already. Still, there is uncertainty at left guard. They could, but I don’t think they really want to, move starting right tackle La’el Collins back to guard. If they don’t, and he stays at right tackle and we assume Cam Fleming is the backup swing tackle if he beats out Chaz Green, then the only choice they currently have at left guard would be free-agent Marcus Martin, and he’s only signed to a one-year, minimum deal. Therein lies my idea about finding a tackle who can play guard – for now – though I’d rather not spend another first-round pick on an offensive lineman.
And that the Cowboys have seven third-day draft choices (Rounds 4-7), seems reasonable they might also at some point need a tight end, especially after James Hanna’s decision to retire, Geoff Swaim being in the last year of his contract and who knows about Rico Gathers and Blake Jarwin. Let’s face it, Jason Witten can’t play forever … I think. And they do need a change-up, shifty, pass-catching running back, along with a third quarterback. And who knows, maybe even a fullback if one of those even still exists these days in college.
Plus, since it seems unlikely that 10 draft choices would make this team, the Cowboys certainly have a three-day ticket to ride around some of those first two days of the draft if a player they like starts falling their way.
When all is said and done, just remember this: “We certainly need to bring competition onto this team that will make everybody better, and certainly give us some depth that we would like to have,” says Stephen Jones. Yeah, depth, the lack of which caused those final eight-game problems last year.
Now then, you get me? See where I’m coming from about all of this flexibility?
There is a whole lot in play for the Cowboys in this 2018 draft. Will it be a Courtland Sutton or Leighton Vander Esch or Vea or Derwin James or Connor Williams in the first round?
But if the chosen one can play, they almost can’t go wrong.