FRISCO, Texas – Obvious as it might sound by mid-April, it's still noteworthy for a Cowboys official to lay out the road map for next week's draft.
Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones spoke to 105.3 FM The Fan on Monday afternoon, touching on a variety of offseason topics. Most notable among them were the scenarios facing the Cowboys in the 2021 NFL Draft – where they hold the No. 10 overall pick.
It's an interesting situation for a variety of reasons. The most pressing among those is that the Cowboys find themselves in desperate need of defensive talent, while sitting at the top of a draft that is chock full of offensive firepower.
"Certainly with the draft, pretty much unanimous that people are thinking there are five first-round quarterbacks, that certainly helps us out since we signed our quarterback of the future just this spring and know he's our answer to that riddle," Jones said.
To borrow the word from Jones, that's the first part of the riddle. It's widely assumed that the first two picks next Thursday night will be quarterbacks. It's a good bet that as many as four signal-callers will be selected before the Cowboys hit the clock – and it's possible that as many as five could be called.
As Jones also noted, that's not the end of it. In addition to quarterback, there are quite a few other offensive players that could be selected – which would obviously help to push defensive standouts down the board.
"We are, we think, going to get some great opportunities because of the depth – not only at quarterback, but offense in general," he said. "We've made no bones about it: barring something very opportunistic, we certainly want to improve our defensive football team."
It'd be easy to handicap the Cowboys' options at this point. The duo of top-tier cornerbacks, Alabama's Patrick Surtain II and South Carolina's Jaycee Horn, have been linked to the Cowboys for months. Penn State star linebacker Micah Parsons is also an intriguing option, and it's probably worth mentioning a pass rusher or two, such as Michigan's Kwity Paye or Miami's Jaelan Phillips.
The Cowboys' secondary took several hits this offseason, with Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods departing in free agency. But Jones was quick to point out that, having suffered through a historically poor season in 2020, this Cowboys' defense could use help at all three levels.
"You can never have enough defensive linemen, and we lost Chidobe in free agency – and obviously our ongoing, annual need for safety, which never seems to end either in terms of draft pick resource or dollar resource. It's been at the low end of the totem pole," he said. "And then with the game becoming such a game that's played in space, you can't have enough of those linebackers that can cover."
For all those reasons, it feels safe to say that – unless something crazy happens – one of those names listed above will be the one that gets called next Thursday night.
But what if something crazy does happen? As was also mentioned, there are some absurdly talented offensive players at the top of this draft. Offensive tackles like Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slated, as well as tight end Kyle Pitts, might not be the biggest needs on this roster, but they would certainly improve the offense immediately.
The comparison has been made to 2020 countless times. The Cowboys found themselves in a similar situation just last year, but the opportunity to draft CeeDee Lamb was simply too enticing to ignore.
To hear it from Jones, the attitude remains the same. There's no use denying that the Cowboys have their eye on defense as they prepare to select their newest draft class. But if the right opportunity arrives, they can't rule anything out.
"That's one of the goals in this draft, is to improve defensively," Jones said. "And then, as you said, if the right guy presents himself – not unlike CeeDee did last year – sometimes, you've just got to be in a situation where, if he's by far the best player left on the board, then you've got to have confidence that you can make that selection."