I fully admit it feels incredibly strange to be writing a draft piece in November of the NFL season. But that's the kind of season and year that we've lived in in 2020. Strange. As the Dallas Cowboys enter the second half of their schedule at 2-6 and with a home contest against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the writing for the 2020 Dallas Cowboys is pretty much on the wall.
So, while you'll still get the regular in-season analysis that you've come to expect here at InsideTheStar.com, it's time to begin looking at the 2021 NFL Draft class. There will be a ton to talk about and dissect with the Cowboys likely to pick in the top 10 and probably as high as the top five next April.
The top of the 2021 draft class is absolutely loaded with stud talent on the football's offensive side in particular. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields lead the way and will likely be the top two players off the board. But there are players of intrigue on the football's offensive side inside the top 10 that the Dallas Cowboys should absolutely consider when they do their draft preparations. And though many will be clamoring for this pick to be allocated on the football's defensive side, let's take a look at a few players they could use that premium pick on.
And no, we're not considering Kyle Pitts, the tight end from the University of Florida as an option in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, because tight ends shouldn't be considered in the first round, much less the top 10 of the first round. I'm normally down for Pro Football Focus' content, but that mock draft is not it.
Let's dive in.
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Of the three players that I'm going to mention here, this one is the most obvious. I'm not breaking any news here when I say the Dallas Cowboys have some questions at the tackle position in 2021. They have talented players in All-Pro Tyron Smith and should have been a Pro Bowler La'el Collins. Those two guys, when healthy, make up one of the best tackle tandems in the NFL. The problem is, it's been a while since they were both healthy.
Over the last decade, we've seen how helpful a good to great offensive line can be to your offense's success. The Cowboys could have an opportunity to continue to infuse talent into that group by adding Penei Sewell from Oregon to the offensive line room.
Sewell is a monster in the running game and has the athleticism to be excellent as a pass blocker. He just turned 20 years old. Similarly to the last offensive tackle, the Cowboys drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, Tyron Smith, they're getting a young prospect who, per The Draft Network, “will only get better as he grows and matures more into his body and frame.”
Here's what The Draft Network's Drae Harris had to say about Penei Sewell.
“In the run game, Sewell is tenacious and comes off the ball hard as a drive blocker — showing great success in creating lanes for his back. Showcases as an excellent run lane anchor and is heavy at the point of attack to create immediate movement. In the passing game, he is competitive and showcases good length for the perimeter — will check the box comfortably for teams with his wingspan. He has a strong upper body and excellent latch strength in his hands. He is tough, strong and competitive and it is reasonable to consider that he has only scratched the surface of his potential.”
Drae Harris, The Draft Network
If everybody's healthy heading into the 2021 season, the Dallas Cowboys don't have an offensive line problem from where I sit. However, the question will continue to linger about how healthy they can stay with Tyron Smith missing significant time every season for the last five seasons. Hip issues don't necessarily go away, and for an offensive lineman, hips are incredibly important.
Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
You may be shocked to read that the Dallas Cowboys should consider a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft considering the assortment of talent they have at the position with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb.
First of all, let's talk about Ja'Marr Chase, who opted out of LSU's 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chase would have played his junior season for the Tigers this year but would have done so with a much lesser quarterback throwing him the football in a much different offense. Joe Burrow is in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Joe Brady coordinates the offense for the Carolina Panthers.
A lot has changed for the star wide receiver who caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. He averaged 21.2 yards per reception and was a nightmare all season long on the way to the Tigers' historic National Championship run.
Chase is the top wide receiver on the board for The Draft Network, coming in at number five, just behind Justin Fields.
“Set the single season SEC record for receiving yards and touchdowns as a true sophomore in 2019. Love the way he navigates his routes – he knows how to attack space, get open and adjust on the fly. Has plenty of variance with his releases, blending hand and footwork with physicality and the ability to reduce his surface area to clear contact. Unfazed by contact in his route stems and at the catch point, savvy with his hands. Hands are plucky and he routinely snatches the football away from his frame. Catching the football is natural to him, smoothly catching the football in stride. Exceptional at tracking, adjusting and positioning himself to win at the catch point. Decisive, physical, shifty and smooth working after the catch. Vision in space is tremendous and he makes terrific decisions with perfectly executed cuts to break pursuit angles and help him corner defenders. Blocks and competes hard on every rep, regardless if the ball is going his way. An alpha in everything he does on the football field.”
Joe Marino, The Draft Network
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Alabama's Jaylen Waddle was on pace to have a spectacular season of his own until he fractured his ankle in the Crimson Tide's 48-17 win over Tennessee. His ankle has an eight-week timetable for a potential return, which could have him back for the SEC Championship game.
Through five games this season, Waddle had caught 25 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 22.3 yards per reception.
Waddle's been a downfield threat for the Crimson Tide throughout his career, even last year playing behind Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, both first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. His elite speed translates. He projects similar to Tyreek Hill or Marquise Brown, who have made their livings as undersized speedsters taking the top off of NFL defenses.
“Waddle plays the game in one mode and that’s full throttle. Debunks the 0-60 saying. Instead, he starts out in 60 mph and can continue to floor the gas pedal and increase speeds at any moment. Catch radius is high and wide. Able to extend well outside of his body structure in order to haul in passes. His right now speed and breakaway capabilities make him a tough assignment for anyone to cover. When given free releases, he assesses the technique of matchups and incorporates stutter steps at the top of routes in order to freeze defenders and turn them into guessers prior to quickly making moves to get into routes. Adds a tremendous boost to special teams as both a kick and punt returner (3 career TDs) Waddle is a slice and dice runner that bobs and weaves his way through defenses with ease all while maintaining max speed.”
Currently the 10th best player, and seventh-best offensive player in the 2021 draft class per The Draft Network, Waddle will absolutely be in the range of possibilities for the Dallas Cowboys with their first pick in the draft.
A Wide Receiver in the Top 10?
Typed hearing Ignacio from Nacho Libre.
How does it make sense, though, for the Cowboys to draft a wide receiver a year after they drafted CeeDee Lamb at number 17 overall?
First of all, these two players are incredibly dynamic and could work in any offense. You can never have enough guys that can make plays down the field. Both of those guys can do just that.
Looking at the current construction of the roster, it doesn't make sense. I can't convince myself to add another wide receiver investment as rich as this one would be to the Cowboys depth chart. However, if you decided to entertain the possibility of trading away Michael Gallup or Amari Cooper, then the possibility becomes more of a reality.
Michael Gallup will be going into the final year of his contract in 2021. It's certainly possible the Dallas Cowboys have visions of signing him to a long-term contract extension in the 2021 offseason. It's also possible he's not in their plans at all, and they're able to find a wide receiver needy team interested in sending you a draft pick or two for the third-year wide receiver still on his rookie deal.
Amari Cooper is tradable, but it's a bit more complicated as he carries $28 million in guaranteed money on his contract after this season. $20 million in the way of his 2021 salary and then $2 million in prorated bonuses each year for the remainder of the contract.
If the Dallas Cowboys decided they wanted to clear Cooper's high cap number off their ledger, they could potentially move him for some high draft compensation. Though it wouldn't be necessary to move that cap number off the books to re-sign Dak Prescott, the Cowboys could choose to reallocate that money to the defensive side of the ball and go with a wide receiver trio on rookie contracts in 2021 and beyond. It's not as feasible to move him in 2021 as it would be in 2022, but as Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park said, “life finds a way.” If the Cowboys wanted to do it, they could make it work.
Now, it seems incredibly unlikely that the Dallas Cowboys would use a top 10 pick on a wide receiver, but they have to be in consideration. We see right now how taking the best player available (CeeDee Lamb) can pay huge dividends.
The Cowboys will keep positional value and positional need in the conversation when it comes to who they draft in the top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Therefore, wide receiver, especially these two, will be in the conversation come April.