It’s safe to say the Cowboys have many needs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. With just one first-round selection, Dallas must figure out its most significant need.
There are holes on both sides of the ball and many ways the Cowboys could go. Some of these positions might be addressed in free agency. However, given this front office’s track record, it’s hard to see that happening. Therefore, hopes are once again riding on the draft.
Here are five positions Dallas could target in the first round, and what players the Cowboys could select at those positions:
Option #1: Guard
Boston College’s Zion Johnson and Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green would be the primary options at guard when Dallas picks. One, if not both, will be there at No. 24. Guard Connor Williams left this offseason, and the Cowboys need a starter at that position. Both Johnson and Green would be plug-in starters and improve the offensive line.
Both would bring versatility and much-needed durability. While Johnson gives you more athleticism, Green would give you more power at the point of attack. Whichever way Dallas goes, they won’t regret its decision. Both of these guys have Pro Bowl potential.
The offensive line was very underwhelming during the second half of last season. That absolutely cannot happen again. With tackle Tyron Smith and guard Zack Martin continuing to age and questions surrounding what center Tyler Biadasz and tackle Terence Steele can be, the Cowboys have to address the offensive line. Dallas can make sure it gets one of the best guys available by doing it in the first round.
Option #2: Wide Receiver
This is the flashiest and favorite amongst the fanbase. With Amari Cooper gone and Michael Gallup potentially missing the start of the season, the Cowboys could benefit from some extra depth at wide receiver.
Dallas could have the chance to choose between three intriguing prospects: Ohio State’s Chris Olave, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Penn State’s Jahan Doton. All three would be great selections and bring something different to the table. Olave is an excellent route runner. Burks can bring down contested catches with ease. Dotson is a versatile player with great speed.
The excitement will be high if any of these players become a Cowboy. It would give Dallas its wide receiver depth back, but it would also be a tremendous boost to the entire offense.
Option #3: Defensive Line
At defensive tackle, Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt is the most realistic option. His Bulldog teammate Jordan Davis could fall to Dallas, but it’s hard to see him falling outside the top-20. At edge rusher, Purdue’s George Karlaftis and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson III could be available for the Cowboys.
Wyatt would solve Dallas’ problems on the interior, but there are not many situations where he would be the best player available at No. 24. Karlaftis is a polarizing prospect with many concerns about how well he can separate from tackles. However, he’s very athletic and fits Dallas’ scheme perfectly. Johnson would be a better option, but who knows if he’s available when the Cowboys pick.
There’s been buzz about Dallas trading up for Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. If the Cowboys can make it happen, they should go for it. However, if Dallas stays at No. 24, it’s probably better off attacking another position and picking a defensive lineman in the later rounds.
Option #4: Linebacker
Utah’s Devin Lloyd and Georgia’s Nakobe Dean are the two best linebacker prospects in this draft, and there’s a good chance both will be available at No. 24.
Lloyd would complement linebacker Micah Parsons well, while Dean is a traditional linebacker with explosiveness and quickness. Outside of Parsons, the linebacker position is very thin for the Cowboys, and they could benefit from an extra playmaker. Lloyd fits defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme the best, but no linebacker in this draft can match Dean’s instincts and football IQ. However, neither would be a bad option if Dallas chooses to go linebacker.
Option #5: Center
When I say center, I mean Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum. He’s the only center worth taking at No. 24 as there’s a significant gap between him and the next best center.
There is simply no reason for teams to overthink Tyler Linderbaum. pic.twitter.com/xoQViec4Pw
— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) April 26, 2022
Linderbaum is the best interior offensive lineman in this class. He’s got everything you would want in an offensive lineman prospect with superb technical ability, power, drive and mobility. He’s a very polished prospect and could be a Pro Bowler in his rookie season.
Linderbaum is a bit of a wild card considering Dallas has stability at the center position with Tyler Biadasz. However, his play has been inconsistent in his career thus far, and it’s unclear whether he’ll pan out like everyone hopes. You won’t have to hope for that with Linderbaum because his abilities are without question.