The 2016 NFL Draft is just a few weeks away and still we as fans really have no clue as to which direction the Cowboys may choose to go with each of their nine draft picks. It's a dilemma that we have to face every year and this year is no exception.
As owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones is very cryptic in his interviews when discussing what draft prospects they may be interested in or what positions they might be targeting.
Head coach Jason Garrett has learned from the master and is no more helpful than Jones. The term "blowing smoke" is usually thrown around this time of year and both Garrett and Jones could hold a clinic about how to master the art.
So, that leaves it up to us, as fans, to try to analyze everything we can with what we have at our disposal.
What we have to do is pay close attention to who the Cowboys are putting through private workouts and what prospects are announced as taking part in the 30 pre-draft visits that are allowed by the league.
Dallas Day is another tool we as fans could use. Unfortunately, due to the geographical nature that the team has to abide by, only local prospects that grew up in the area or played their collegiate careers in the area are allowed to participate. It's a little more difficult to gauge the Cowboys interest level in these prospects.
These are about the only tools at our disposal that we can use to get any indication of which prospects might have piqued the interest of the Cowboys and also what positions that they may be paying extra close attention to.
I don't know about you, but I would like to know what prospects might be joining the roster for the 2016 season and I think one of the best ways to figure that out is to determine where the Cowboys need the most help.
Let's take a look at the Dallas Cowboys current roster and try to get a better understanding of what positions they may be focusing on.
Tony Romo is without a doubt the starting QB for the Cowboys and the hope is that he can remain so for several more years.
Unfortunately, due to his recent health issues, the Cowboys are going to turn over every rock in order to improve the backup quarterback position that is currently being held down by Kellen Moore.
Moore seems to have the organizations trust to backup Romo in 2016, but if the Cowboys invest highly in a rookie QB he may become expendable.
Jameill Showers showed something last preseason that might be worth developing, but his best bet to make the team might be through special teams.
The Cowboys will address the position at some point in the draft, but your guess is as good as mine as to when and where.
My pick: Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech (6th round)
If you look at the Cowboys depth chart at RB, it would seem as if the top three are secure, but I wouldn't put anything in ink as of yet.
McFadden and Morris are expected to share the majority of caries in 2016, but beyond that everything is up in the air.
Dunbar in particular has proven that he can be a weapon, but due to his injury history and the fact he is still not recovered from a major knee injury means his status with the team is in question. I personally wouldn't be surprised if he has to miss the first six weeks of the season because he has to start on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).
Both Smith and Malena are long shots to make the team, especially since the Cowboys are almost definitely going to draft a RB at some point.
I expect McFadden, Morris, and a rookie RB to be the top three running backs to start season in 2016.
My pick: Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech (3rd round)
Street has shown virtually nothing that should guarantee that he should stick around and Whitehead is limited to what he can do offensively because of his size.
The Cowboys have shown an interest in upgrading the position after the overall poor play in 2015 and I suspect they will address it at some point in the draft.
My pick: Michael Thomas, Ohio State (2nd round)
No one is unseating Witten, but if he does have to miss time due to an injury there is virtually no one else on the roster to step up and fill that role.
Hanna was brought back to the team because of his blocking capabilities, but he's not really a receiving threat.
Swaim didn't have much of a role in his rookie season and is an unknown at this point, while Escobar will be lucky to suit up for the Cowboys ever again.
I can see the Cowboys adding another tight end in the middle rounds to groom as Witten's replacement.
My pick: Nick Vannett, Ohio State (4th round)
The Cowboys hope that Chaz Green can push Free for the starting right tackle position, but if nothing else he could end up being the swing tackle.
Brown was the swing tackle in 2015 and will more than likely have to beat out Green to earn a roster spot. The same can be probably be said for Renfrow.
The Cowboys seem set at this position so I don't think they will use a draft pick to add depth, unless someone falls in the draft and it is to good of a deal to pass up.
Martin and Collins are the starting offensive guards, and I don't see any reason why that will change.
Leary provides valuable depth at either guard position, but the Cowboys could look to trade him if there is a team that's interested in obtaining his services.
The Cowboys would probably prefer someone more versatile than Leary that could play both center and guard.
My pick: Joe Thuney, NC State (6th round)
Travis Frederick is the unquestioned starter for the Cowboys young talented offensive line, but the depth behind him really leaves him as the only valuable option to play the position.
The Cowboys tried to address the backup center position by signing Joe Looney in the off-season. Looney can play both center and guard, but Dallas may decide to try to find a better prospect through the draft.
My pick: Joe Thuney, NC State (6th round)
*Thuney played every position along the offensive line at NC State, hence the repeat pick.
Well, there you have it.
Based on the Cowboys depth chart breakdown you can see for yourself what positions the team may be more focused on than others and how they could possibly address the position through the draft.
Please feel free to leave your own personal thoughts and opinions in the comments section below so we can discuss this topic further.
Why The Cowboys Shouldn’t Draft a Guard in the First Round
With the 19th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are in what some call an "awkward spot" to choose a player. As a team with both offensive and defensive needs, it'll all depend on how the board falls and who's still available once they're on the clock.
They can go ahead and find this team's next number one wide receiver, look for a young linebacker for the future, draft a defensive tackle to upgrade the front seven or they can use their first-round pick to continue to build on their already elite offensive line.
Recently, my colleague Brian Martin wrote about how upgrading the left guard position should be the Cowboys' top priority in this Draft. A large amount of fans, writers and analysts feel the same way. Even still, I truly believe that Dallas may be better off addressing a different position in the first round this time around.
However, it'd be foolish not to admit that once Draft Day arrives, if Dallas ends up taking someone to instantly solidify that great offensive line to keep Dak Prescott clean and make holes for Ezekiel Elliott, the pick would simply make sense.
It's hard to imagine how things will turn out, but it's very likely that once the Cowboys' turn comes, the best player available will be a guard. There will be a lot of talent there. Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez will probably still be on the board, for instance.
Also, the front office has done a very good job at drafting offensive linemen. In the past recent years, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin have been one of the main reasons for this team's offensive success.
There are many reasons to believe that OG is the way to go, but I can't help wondering...
Drafting a guard at 19 is the safe pick... but is it the right one?
This is an important question. We all know that taking a guard is the safe pick, and that if that's the direction they choose to go, they won't miss and whoever they draft will contribute from Day 1 to this team's success.
Unfortunately, anyone who looks at the Cowboys' situation objectively knows that there are some other needs they have to attend to take another step.
They have at least three linemen playing at an elite level. Not to mention La'el Collins, who has the potential to become an elite player as well. Like it or not, we need to include the salary cap into the picture.
According to Over The Cap, Left Tackle Tyron Smith averages $12.2M per year and Center Travis Frederick $9.4M. Enter Zack Martin who is about to get paid the big bucks soon. He's still playing under his rookie contract after Dallas picked up his fifth-year option.
However, a contract extension is expected to arrive this offseason. If we're being honest with ourselves, he will ask for a big amount of money, because he deserves it. Browns' Kevin Zeitler, the highest paid RG right now, earns $12M a year. Martin's numbers will probably be even higher.
If the Cowboys draft a guard, it'll be in order to ensure that this offensive line will work at a high level.
But if you already have Smith, Martin and Frederick, shouldn't it already be working at a high level? Do you really need four first-round picks (La'el Collins would've been a first-round pick if it wasn't for a situation which had nothing to do with him) in your offensive line to be successful?
A guard at 19 makes sense. It's safe. But I'd rather see this team diversify. They did a great job at finding Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis to rebuild the secondary last year. Maybe they can find a DT or a LB who can help this defense go from "solid" to great.
Or maybe, if they're ready to make this a Dak-friendly offense, go get him a fresh wide receiver. Someone who can create separation and get this offense going.
You can bring back Jonathan Cooper, who did a nice job last season or bring in another free agent. They should definitely look for a guard in April, but not in the first round. Unless it's Quenton Nelson, who is arguable the best or second-best player available this year, I hope they go in a different direction.
Upgrading LG Position Should be Cowboys Top Draft Priority
The Dallas Cowboys are quite proud about the offensive line they have put together over the years. Their OL is headlined by three former first-round draft picks who have turned into All-Pro players, and one player who should've been a first-round pick if not for an unfortunate situation that had nothing to do with him that took place during the draft.
This offensive unit is the backbone of the entire Dallas Cowboys team, but some changes need to be made. No, not the personnel per se. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins will all return to their starting roles, but that only makes up 80% of the unit. Who makes up the other 20% is probably the biggest question that needs to be answered before the 2018 season kicks off.
Yes, I'm talking about the vacancy at the left guard position.
Last season the Dallas Cowboys tried to plug the hole with Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper. The Green experiment failed miserably and Cooper was serviceable at best. I don't know about you, but I think it's time to find a long-term solution and solidify the best offensive line for years to come.
The best and cheapest way to address the LG position is with one of the Cowboys draft picks.
Sure, the Dallas Cowboys could re-sign Jonathan Cooper to another affordable contract, but I have zero faith he can remain healthy. That's been the knock against him his entire professional career. I was actually surprised he lasted as long as he did in 2017.
With the 19th pick overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are in a good position to have their choice of the best offensive guards in this draft class. Isaiah Wynn of Georgia, Will Hernandez of UTEP, James Daniels of Iowa, and Billy Price of Ohio State are all players under consideration here.
All four of these players are excellent Cowboys draft targets, and they can't really go wrong with any of them. They all bring a little something different to the table, but each would be an upgrade who would help get this team back on track.
You see, I think finding a new LG is the top Cowboys draft priority. I don't know if there is another position that can be filled by a rookie and contribute more to the team success in 2018.
This is especially true considering what the Cowboys like to do offensively. They want to establish the running game and control the clock. They weren't really able to do that in 2017 due to Tyron Smith's injuries in the revolving door at left guard.
We all saw what happened when they were forced to get away from their bread and butter. This is not an offense that is currently equipped to rely on the passing game to put points on the board. It's just not who they are.
That is why finding a new LG is so important. Not only would it help upgrade the running game, but it would also help keep things going if Tyron Smith continues to struggle with injuries.
It's much easier to plug and play a backup left tackle who can block in the running game than it is to find one who can pass protect as well as Smith.
I know opinions will vary, but I truly believe that it's in everyone's best interest to draft a starting caliber left guard. And if you want to know my opinion, I would do it with their first-round draft pick by taking Will Hernandez.
Do you think LG is the Dallas Cowboys top draft priority?
Cowboys Draft Target: BYU LB Fred Warner
The 2018 NFL Draft class isn't exactly full of difference-making linebackers. At the top of the class sits Roquan Smith, the Georgia LB who many feel is a franchise changer. Then there is Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds, the athletic freak who has risen up draft boards. After the top two, however, there is some confusion about the rest of the class.
My third linebacker would be Alabama's Rashaan Evans, but after watching more tape over the last couple of months, BYU's Fred Warner is LB4 on my board. I recently wrote up a full scouting report on Warner for Slant Sports, in which I detailed what exactly I like about Warner's game.
During his time at BYU Warner doubled as an EDGE defender and off ball linebacker. He often found himself in-line and defending the line of scrimmage, and did a good job when asked to do so. In my opinion, he projects to be a WILL in the NFL, an off-ball linebacker the Cowboys could certainly use.
At 6'3" 235 pounds Warner is a big and fluid athlete who looks extremely comfortable in space. Fred Warner possesses impressive processing ability and the closing speed to come down hill and make plays after reading and recognizing what the offense is doing.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
"On this play we see an example of Fred Warner’s ability to read, react, and close on the ball carrier. Warner stays disciplined in his run fits at first, reading the hats of the linemen as the hole forms. As the runner bounces, Warner begins to break down hill to make the play."
Fred Warner is also rather solid in coverage. Considering his length and quickness, Warner can cover a lot of ground in zone coverage. Every now and then he made some splashy type plays in coverage as well, such as this one against UCLA.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
"Warner gets into his drop smoothly here, reading his keys and processing the play in front of him. Then, as soon as the quarterback lets go of the ball, Warner jumps on the route and makes a great play on the ball. Considering his size, this is an outstanding rep from Fred Warner."
So where would the Cowboys have to take Warner? By my estimation, 81st overall is the sweet spot for Fred Warner. There are a lot of decent linebacker prospects bunched together late day two and early day three, but I think Warner has separated himself from the pack.
I believe Warner is a better prospect than a Josey Jewell or Leighton Vander Esch, despite the love they have been getting during this draft season. I understand those who would say someone like Jewell better fits what the Cowboys need in a MIKE linebacker, but Fred Warner's hybrid versatility and skills at WILL make him very valuable as well.
The Cowboys could use some depth at linebacker, and Fred Warner would immediately provide that for Dallas. And, depending on the health of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, Warner may be asked to play a lot during his rookie season.
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