The Dallas Cowboys currently hold nine draft picks in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft, but that may change depending on any trades that may make.
In order to try to determine which direction they go with these selections I decided to break down the Cowboys current roster and see what positions they are most likely to focus on.
I previously broke down the Cowboys current roster on offense, which you can read about here.
The Cowboys defense could use upgrades at nearly every position to help out defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, even though they performed admirably in 2015. They were able to accomplish this, despite the offensive struggles.
It's way past time that Marinelli get some new toys to play with on the defensive side of the ball and it's possible that the Cowboys come away from the draft with the majority of their picks on the defensive side of the ball.
Without further ado, here is how the Cowboys current roster breaks down on the defensive side of the ball.
The Dallas Cowboys have done an adequate job addressing the defensive end position in the off-season, but to say that an upgrade is not needed would be inaccurate.
Lawrence is really the only proven pass rusher for the Cowboys and beyond that the cupboard looks pretty bare.
Jack Crawford could provide valuable depth all along the defensive line, but more so at defensive end while Gregory serves his four-game suspension. Mayowa will more than likely be a pass rush specialist, backing up Lawrence and whoever starts opposite him.
The Cowboys need to find someone to play opposite of Lawrence and will likely do so early in the draft and then perhaps double dip a little later and take another defensive end in the middle rounds.
My picks: Shaq Lawson, Clemson (1st round) & Matt Judon, Grand Valley State (4th round)
This is a deep defensive tackle draft class and the Cowboys would be wise to take advantage of this opportunity.
My pick: Hassan Ridgeway, University of Texas (4th round)
Sean Lee and Rolando McClain could be one of the better linebacker duos in the entire NFL, but McClain has run a little hot and cold during his time with the Cowboys. McClain is also on another one year contract so it might be wise to find the future starting middle linebacker.
Hitchens has shown flashes of his potential and Wilber has found a home at the strong side linebacker spot, while also becoming a key member on different special teams units.
Gachkar, Wilson, and Nzeocha are best suited for backup roles and key contributors on special teams like Wilber.
In the 4-3 defense, teams need quite a few linebackers and despite having the numbers/bodies for the position, the Cowboys will probably add another linebacker through the draft at some point.
My pick: Joshua Perry, Ohio State (2nd round)
The corner back position might just be the most questionable on the entire team and will absolutely have to be addressed at some point in the draft.
Brandon Carr is in the last year of his contract and no one really knows what his status with the team is yet. I personally think he will play out the remainder of his contract or the Cowboys may decide to try to extend his contract to lessen his cap hit.
Claiborne was brought back on a one-year deal and figures to be a contributor in the secondary, but whether it is as a starter or a backup is unknown.
Scandrick should be a big boost to the Cowboys secondary if he can return fully healthy from his knee injury.
Beyond that there really isn't much to be excited about if someone was asked to step up and contribute on a regular basis.
The Cowboys could select a corner as early as the first round and may even double dip like I predicted with defensive end earlier. It will be interesting to see how they address this position.
My picks: Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech (2nd round) & Maurice Canady, Virginia (4th round)
I have Byron Jones listed as a safety because I believe that's the direction the Cowboys are leaning towards going in 2016, but his versatility allows him to play safety or corner.
The Cowboys interest this off-season in signing Eric Weddle shows that they are interested in upgrading the position and I really think they would like interchangeable safeties on the backend of the defense.
I think the Cowboys will look to find a more athletic safety they can pair with Jones that has better coverage skills.
Church, Wilcox, and Heath all struggle in coverage and are better suited as box safeties. All three should not feel very comfortable that their roster spot is secure.
My pick: Keanu Neal, Florida (2nd round)
Well, there you have it.
Please feel free to use the comment section below to express your thoughts and opinions so that we can discuss the topic further.
2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott
With more pressing needs on offense at guard and wide receiver, and defensively at DE or LB, the Cowboys' concerning lack of proven ability at safety has taken a backseat in this offseason's roster build. With the expectation that new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will elevate the play of the entire Cowboys' secondary, the team is doing their due diligence on safeties available in the 2018 NFL Draft - starting with Texas' DeShon Elliott.
It appears Texas S DeShon Elliott is visiting the #Cowboys today
With 63 tackles and six interceptions in his final season at Texas, Elliott took full advantage of being a starter in the Big 12 for the first time in his career, flying onto the NFL Draft scene.
Elliott is a well-balanced, average athlete with the upside to be targeted late in April's draft and make a difference.
If they had to play a game tomorrow, the Cowboys would be rolling with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier at safety.
Finding an expanded role this season for Frazier should be a priority in Dallas, as should supplementing Heath and Woods with additional talent. DeShon Elliott would fit this group well, along with the Cowboys' scheme, given his range and disruptive ability.
Should Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and now Byron Jones help the Cowboys reach their full potential at CB, the Cowboys safeties will not be tested in single coverage up the field often. This is an area that Elliott was exploited in at Texas plenty of times, performing better as a true free safety or second-level player.
Continuing to add young talent at the right price is key to the Cowboys' ongoing rebuild on defense, now visiting with a local safety prospect that should be available to them in the later rounds. Texas' DeShon Elliott is officially a name to consider come draft week in Dallas.
Cowboys Draft: PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton Fits Cowboys’ “Type”
Last week, I detailed what the Cowboys tend to look for when drafting a wide receiver. In terms of a combine profile, Dallas clearly has a "type" of wide-out they like to target.
The Cowboys certainly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but with the plethora of other holes to fill, they may not be able to do so until the 3rd or 4th round. Luckily for the Cowboys, there is at least one receiver which both fits their profile and should be available early on day three.
That player is Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.
Working on something for @InsideTheStarDC... here's the height, weight, 40 time, and 3 cone for every WR DAL has taken since 2010.
First, let's re-examine what the Cowboys like to look for. As you can see from the above graphic, the Cowboys draft targets all seem to fit a similar profile. If we treat Dez Bryant as their "ideal" draft pick, the trends become even clearer. Dallas wants to find a wide-out who is about 6'1" 205 pounds, runs nearly a 4.5 40 yard dash, and about a 6.9 three come time.
DeaSean Hamilton, coincidentally, is 6'1" 203 pounds, ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at the Penn State pro day, and ran a 6.84 three cone at the combine. Penn State's all time receptions leader stole the show at the 2018 Senior Bowl, putting all of "Draft Twitter" on notice to his talent.
An efficient and smooth route runner, Hamilton looks natural coming in and out of breaks, creating separation with his precise routes. The Cowboys don't have many receivers on their roster who can win with their route running, and adding a player like Hamilton would greatly help third year quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward.
With the ability to play in the slot, as well as potentially being a Z receiver for the Cowboys and a replacement for Terrance Williams, Hamilton would be an excellent draft target in the third or fourth round. And, keeping in mind how nicely he fits their typical draft profile, I'd expect Dallas to target Hamilton during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Dallas Cowboys Mock Drafts Address Needs at 3 Different Positions
"Tier two" of NFL Free Agency is here, meaning the Dallas Cowboys can set their sights on adding depth and filling the holes left by departed FAs Anthony Hitchens and Jonathan Cooper.
It may take another week for mock drafts to reflect the losses of both starters by the Cowboys, but the ongoing draft process does not slow down at any point. A few of the names the Cowboys will bring in for pre-draft 30 visits have already been released, and this week's roundup of national mock drafts continues to address the overall needs on this Dallas roster.
CBS Sports: Calvin Ridley, WR - Alabama
"Ridley's stock is down after an unimpressive combine, but the Cowboys decided to use one of their predraft visits on the talented wideout, who might not fall any further than this pick. Considering wide receiver is one of the team's biggest needs, they could jump at the chance to draft Ridley, who could eventually take over the No. 1 role if the Cowboys move on from Dez Bryant next offseason, which would save them more than $12 million on the cap."
The Dallas Cowboys will be meeting with free agent WR Allen Hurns today, a tangible second receiver that could immediately upgrade Terrance Williams' position. Hurns, unlike the lesser-known pass catchers the Cowboys looked at previously in free agency, may have enough talent entering his fifth season to take Calvin Ridley out of consideration in the first round.
For now, Ridley should absolutely remain in the conversation as this draft's top receiver. Frequently finding his way to the Cowboys in many post-Combine mock drafts, the Alabama star is just getting started in reaching his football potential and becoming an option for Dak Prescott on the outside.
Draft Wire: Vita Vea, DT - Washington
"Vea could realistically go higher than No. 19, but there may not be a ton of teams willing to draft a nose tackle early on in the draft. Vea’s much different from the average nose tackle, though, which is something the Cowboys would see firsthand if they were to pick him."
The hype for Vita Vea as a prospective Dallas Cowboys target has died down ever since Stephen Jones mentioned the team's preference to find 1T DTs with the traits to also rush the passer as a 3T. Simply being "different from the average nose tackle," as Infante writes here, may not be enough for Vea to be selected at 19th overall by the Cowboys.
Should the Cowboys be surprisingly wiped out at both guard and linebacker on their board, considering a rare prospect like Vea and the impact he could make in Rod Marinelli's scheme could become much more realistic though.
An investment like Vea at nose tackle feels like the safest way for the Cowboys to protect their franchise tag investment on DE DeMarcus Lawrence - while also potentially boosting the play of Maliek Collins and David Irving inside at DT.
Drafttek: Isaiah Wynn, G - Georgia
"... Isaiah Wynn played LOT for the SEC Champion and National Champion runner-up Georgia Bulldogs. Bill O'Brien's South coaching staff moved Wynn inside and he was easily the most impressive interior OL prospect during practice sessions..."
This would be one of the highest value picks the Dallas Cowboys could make at 19th overall. As it stands today, this team is in need of a starting left guard they can trust, which Isaiah Wynn can be from day one at the next level.
Despite their clear need up front, using another first round pick on an offensive lineman will surely generate some eyes rolls around Dallas on draft night. As if his mauling style of play and NFL-ready build aren't enough for the Cowboys to sell their fans on Wynn, his flexibility to provide needed depth at OT puts this Georgia product over the top.
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Recent trades by the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills to shake up the draft order may just be scratching the surface for the run of quarterbacks that takes place annually atop each draft. With as many as five QBs coming off the board prior to the Cowboys' first pick, their ability to add a quality starter at a position of need looks good.
Exactly what these positions of need will be by the end of free agency, and which prospects fill needs in Dallas, will update weekly as we continue to prepare you for the 2018 NFL Draft here at Inside The Star.
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