With the NFL draft starting tomorrow the Dallas Cowboys, without a Day One first round pick, look to improve upon a successful season. So far this offseason they managed to resign All-Pro end Demarcus Lawerence and added another end in Robert Quinn. In order to have a successful draft, they will have to mine the middle rounds as they have four picks in rounds 3-5. They have had success there with players such as Lawerence and former running back DeMarco Murray. Below are the four biggest needs heading into the draft.
With starting center Terrence Fredricks still a question mark heading into training camp and beyond it is imperative the Cowboys address the position with a long term replacement. Free agent Joe Looney did a solid job last season but he has yet to be resigned. I would like the Cowboys to use the 58th overall pick on a center or combo guard. Fortunately, there are three highly touted centers likely to go in the second round with my favorite being Dalton Risner a 6’4 308-pounder from Kansas State.
2. Offensive Line
I purposely put the rest of the line separate as center is the most pressing need and should be addressed first. However, just like center the rest of the line was hit with injuries as well finally exposing a lack of depth that has been an issue for years. There are a lot of linemen at both tackle and guard that could provide solid depth. A couple of them have Big 12 connections in Oklahoma’s Dru Samia and Ben Powers. The Sooners have produced numerous quality linemen as of late. Two more teammates to look for are Wisconsin’s Michael Deiter and Beau Benzschawel.
3. Tight End
I know what you’re thinking here. They brought back Jason Witten and just drafted Dalton Schultz last year. While I like Schultz I don’t think he will ever make a big enough impact in the passing game to scare defenses. Geoff Swaim, the better receiver of the two, can’t stay healthy, Rico Gathers has yet to live up to the hype and Blake Jawrin while solid doesn’t scare you either. There are two tight ends in the fourth and fifth round range that do however in Georgia’s Isaac Nauta and Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger. Sternberger is an Oklahoma native having played at Kingfisher and playing a season at Kansas before transferring to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. After hauling in six touchdowns on just 21 catches he finished his first and only season at A&M with 48 catches for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. Nauta was a one time Oklahoma State commit who while underachieved during his time at Georgia is versatile playing in the slot and is difficult to bring down in the open field. Both would be upgrades. Both would learn from one of the best to do it in Witten.
4. Defensive Line
Even though the Cowboys added Quinn and retained Lawerence they lost both Randy Gregory (suspension) and David Irving (retirement) leaving holes at both end and tackle respectively. While tackle, in my opinion, can get by with what they have adding another player to help Maliek Collins wouldn’t hurt. However, the more pressing need is end where former first-round pick Taco Charlton has yet to live up to his lofty status and second-year Dorrance Armstrong rounds out the unit. Again they should have plenty of options as this as deep of defensive line class there has been in a while. A couple of names at end are Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Charles Omenihu from Texas who had a great showing at the Senior Bowl. Jordan Brailford of Oklahoma State is another battle-tested option as well as TCU’s LJ Collier who could be a steal in the later rounds having played both end and tackle. Another interesting prospect is Oregon’s, Jalen Jelks. At 6’6 he played at end/linebacker hybrid last season at Oregon and posted a career-high 59 tackles, 15.5 for loss and seven sacks.
If we’re looking at tackle I like Alabama’s Isaiah Buggs and Miami’s Gerald Willis III if they want to use one of their early picks. Buggs played a huge part on a stout Crimson Tide front living up to his billing as the No.1 recruit coming out of junior college. Willis III has the size and mean streak you want in a tackle but after transferring from Florida due to run-ins with teammates and coaches he missed a season at Miami for personal reasons. If they want to look later in the draft a couple of options could be Maryland’s Bryon Cowart the No. 1 player in the country who signed with Auburn in 2015. The belief is that he will be a better pro player then he was in college. I also like Texas A&M’s Daylon Mack another highly touted recruit that didn’t live up to the hype is a solid player especially in the run game at 327 pounds. I was high on former Texas and current Seattle Seahawk Poona Ford last year and I think Mack could have the same kind of impact.