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Draft Central | 2024

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Stephen Jones sees draft aligning with team needs


ORLANDO, Fla. — Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones took time with the media on Monday afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Orlando in the midst of the Annual League Meeting.

Jones spent roughly 14 minutes with reporters to discuss the offseason happenings including free agency, draft outlook and his hope for young players to step up in 2024 and beyond.

Here are the highlights from that conversation.

Draft Aligns with Needs

In discussing needs going deeper into the offseason, Jones said that the team's needs align with what positions look to have top-end talent in April's draft – namely offensive line.

"I think the draft aligns a little bit with our needs," Jones said. "I think the deepest position in this draft is offensive line. Every year, you're wanting to bring young guys into the fold in terms of your offensive line depth and how we work that aligns very well with us."

First-round talent at tackle and center are deeper than most draft classes, and Jones isn't an opposer to taking a prospect at one of those positions early in the draft.

"Because of the depth at that position, there's a pretty good chance we take an offensive lineman pretty high in this draft," he said.

Zimmer's Philosophy

It's clear that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will bring some change to the defensive side of the ball. What exactly does that look like?

Jones talked about an emphasis from Zimmer on defending the run and being bigger overall within the personnel on that side of the ball, as well as a different formation on early downs to help solve the issues that plagued most losses from last season.

"I do think in general, Zim's philosophy is he's gonna play with bigger guys," he said. "We played with three safeties and two linebackers, and I think Zim – from everything we can see right now – looks to play in first and second down scenarios with three linebackers."

No Decision on Tyler Smith

Jerry Jones said on Sunday to not dismiss the idea of Tyler Smith being kicked out to left tackle moving forward. With that in mind, Stephen Jones said it's likely that a decision won't be made there until after the draft.

"That's probably correct," he said. "At the end of the day, versatility is a huge thing and whenever you have a player like Tyler that has shown he can play at a high level at tackle or guard, that brings versatility."

Is Trading Back an Option?

With the Cowboys holding seven picks in the draft and not holding a fourth-round pick, the team could trade back in the first-round to acquire more picks in the draft. That scenario is one that remains in play, but one that the team insists on being flexible with on draft night.

"You've gotta play option quarterback when the draft comes around," he said. "You're kind of seeing how things fall. We're early too as far as what our board will look like. Overall, especially as you move in the draft – and we're late in the first round – you don't really see those opportunities until the first half of the board will come off and we'll see where we sit."

Help at Defensive Tackle?

Following the departures of Johnathan Hankins and Neville Gallimore, the Cowboys are left with just one defensive tackle from last season's 53-man roster in 2023 first-round pick Mazi Smith. The position is a big focus in the offseason, and it's one that Jones expects to be addressed all the way up until late in the offseason.

"I think another year with Mazi – I know Zim is looking forward to working with him – I just think that Mazi is going to step up and be a really good football player," he said. "There's usually big defensive tackles out there that you can pick up. I know the Eagles picked up a couple a couple years ago late in the game. I just feel like there's gonna be some opportunities there at that position as well to add some depth and competition for camp."

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