Before we jump into tonight's draft action I wanted to share my own thoughts about Dallas' selection of Ezekiel Elliott.
Dallas was presented with the choice that I wrote about yesterday; Elliott or Jalen Ramsey? I am glad that Ramsey was on the board so that we weren't left with any doubts as to which player the Cowboys really wanted. It's an extra jolt of confidence towards how much Dallas truly thought of Elliott and what they think he's going to do in their system.
I stand by what I said yesterday; Ramsey presented a rarer talent at a position of greater need. I would've picked him but I completely understand the Cowboys' strategy by going with Elliott. They are hoping that ground-game domination will help all phases of the game.
This isn't an original concept, of course. Running the ball well has always taken pressure off your quarterback, helped you dominate time-of-possession, and kept your defense from getting worn out. This pick cements what the selections of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin have already spoken to; Dallas is trying to get back to what won them Super Bowls in the 1990s.
The issue now is getting the defense to a championship level. The 90s dynasty had a defense that has become woefully underrated over time. In the modern era, no team has won on the strength of its running game without a great defense to help. There's a reason that Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson don't have any rings.
Thankfully, Dallas' #34 pick will offer them many quality defenders to choose from.
Several defensive players who were being projected in the first round, even the middle of the round, are still on the board. I posted a 35-player Big Board on Wednesday and several of those names are still out there. Here is how this list looks if I keep my rankings from the other day:
- Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
- Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
- Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
- Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
- Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
- Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio St.
- A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
- Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma St.
- Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
- Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
- Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
One thing that the actual draft gives you, which no amount of pre-draft information can, is just how worried teams are about health and/or character issues with players. Jack and Fuller both have knee injury concerns and Spence is a feared headcase. That's why they're all still out there, despite all potentially having Top-10 talent. That nobody took a chance on them in the late first round tells me the concerns are pretty big.
I would also revise my stance on Ragland after seeing everyone pass on him. NFL teams must see him as too much of a “throwback” to the point that he may not be too useful in the modern passing era. Ragland is a run-stuffing middle linebacker but won't have the domination of the Alabama defensive front to help him play clean-up duty.
That leaves me with one guy, Kevin Dodd, who is now at the top of my list for the Cowboys. He already has the body and strength to play in the NFL and was highly productive for a National Title contender. He won't even be an amazing sack artist but he looks like the kind of player who will be a solid starter for the next ten years. You can't realistically ask for more than that in the second round.
There's a chance that a few of those guys could even fall to our third-round pick, which would be
very intriguing. We can go ahead and take Derrick Henry off the board but any of those others player would be in play if they fell another round.
Is a Quarterback Coming?
It's been confirmed that Dallas tried to make a trade back into the first round to draft Paxton Lynch but couldn't outdo Denver. That opens up plenty of speculation about what they might do with any of their remaining picks, even the second-rounder, in terms of finding a young quarterback.
It's possible that the Cowboys may have been sold specifically on Lynch and not interested in the remaining prospects. However, if they were determined to find a quarterback this weekend then they may have to consider Connor Cook or Christian Hackenberg with their next pick. Both of them will probably be gone before the third round.
If Dallas' next target is Dak Prescott, who they had a bit of pre-draft activity with, then they can probably wait for the third round. However, trying to wait beyond that could easily burn them.
The variables skyrocket the further we go in the draft, so about anything could happen tonight. I feel pretty confident that Dallas will draft a defensive lineman with the 34th pick and likely a pass rusher. However, by the third round it gets almost impossible to know what they might do. At that point it's all about acquiring the best talents and position need becomes less and less of an issue.