With so many questions to answer, this series will take a look at each position on the roster, and what choices might face the front office heading into 2021.
Today, we'll continue this look at the Cowboys' offensive tackles by considering the possibility that the team might address the position in the draft.
Is an Early-Round Draft Pick in Play?
If the Cowboys learned anything in 2020 it's that Hall of Fame and Pro Bowl level talent doesn't go very far in the win column if it's not available to play in games. The team desperately needed depth at offensive tackle after losing La'el Collins and Tyron Smith for essentially the entirety of the 2020 season. It seemed like an unlikely worst case scenario until it happened.
The potential of having three dynamic wide receivers, an expensive running back, and a potentially expensive quarterback demands the expectation of an offensive juggernaut. That proposition became a non-starter without the offensive tackles to protect the quarterback.
If the Cowboys plan on contending for a Super Bowl behind the strength of their offense then they'll need talent at the tackle position. A capable backup could ultimately save the team's playoff hopes. If Smith or Collins were to miss multiple games again.
Another factor to consider is Tyron Smith's eventual replacement at left tackle. Smith is 30 years old and will be coming off neck surgery to deal with a problem that has been plaguing him for multiple years now. In 2011, the team had the No. 9 overall pick, and expecting to not have such a high draft pick anytime soon after, decided to invest in the position. This April they will have the No. 10 overall pick, and history suggests that if you want to get a future All-Pro player at tackle, you're probably going to have to use a high draft pick to get him.
Here are a few options they could look towards in the 2021 NFL Draft:
- Rashawn Slater, Northwestern: Slater may or may not still be available when the Cowboys are on the clock. He opted out of the 2020 season, but is considered to have one of the highest upsides of any offensive lineman in this year's class. At 6-4 and 315 pounds, he doesn't have Smith's height, but he has experience pushing around future pros like Chase Young in college with relative ease.
- Penei Sewell, Oregon: As the position's top prospect, Sewell is likely to get drafted before the Cowboys have a chance to select him. Then again, we said the same thing about CeeDee Lamb going into the 2020 draft. If Sewell happens to still be on the board, the Cowboys would be wise to abandon any prior draft plans they might have had and draft based on talent.
- Tevin Jenkins, Oklahoma State: Jenkins is likely a first-round talent, but sometimes NFL teams like to use that first selection on something spashier than a kid who gradually got a little bit better every year. But the finished product is a hard-nosed tackle who puts defensive players on their backside every chance he gets. The Cowboys would be very fortunate if he fell to them in the second round.