Super Bowl week has finally arrived, and with it will come the end to another NFL season. As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to watch the rival Eagles play for their first Lombardi trophy against the Patriots, their offseason preparations continue with the 2018 Senior Bowl already in the books.
Keeping the core of their coaching staff in place, the Cowboys are moving forward as a deep team with few glaring needs -- at least in the eyes of the Cowboys' front office.
Slated to pick 19th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cowboys will look to fill any holes in the roster through the fringes of free agency before entering the draft with ten total selections. As of right now, here are the positions that Cowboys Nation can confidently say the team will avoid at the start of the draft.
The latest Dak Prescott narrative will have to wait until another day. The only reality that matters here is that Prescott is firmly in place as Dallas' starter in 2018. The third-year quarterback could see plenty of changes -- hopefully for the better -- elsewhere in the passing game this offseason.
The Cowboys could even be in the market for another QB late in the draft or in free agency. Seeing as many as five quarterbacks come off the board before their first round pick will only help the Cowboys though, who are not players for one of this year's top passers.
Finding a franchise quarterback in the fourth round just two years ago, the Cowboys may not draft a QB with their first pick for a very long time.
This is another obvious position of strength for the Cowboys, as well as a reason for optimism with Ezekiel Elliott putting his suspension behind him. The Cowboys will expect a full 16 games out of their workhorse back, and feel good about Rod Smith backing him up as well.
Similar to their situation at QB, the Cowboys may get great value out of a late-round running back to keep this backfield an overall team strength.
The best runner in this class -- Penn State's Saquon Barkley -- will be drafted before the Cowboys come on the clock, as Dallas will happily let other first-round talents like USC's Ronald Jones II slide further down the board.
Drafting an offensive lineman is not out of the question for the Cowboys at 19, especially one with the versatility to play both guard and tackle. A guard with flexibility to play center, or worse yet a true center, would not be worthwhile picks for the Cowboys, however.
Travis Frederick has been nothing but consistent at center for the Cowboys since 2013, named to his fourth Pro Bowl this season. Frederick will remain the anchor for an offensive line that has inserted new starters alongside him at left guard with similar results -- the Wisconsin product doing his job.
This won't change in 2018, or for the foreseeable future, with Frederick starting at center for the Cowboys.
If interviewing former lineman Marc Colombo for their vacant TE coach position wasn't enough of an indicator of how the Cowboys evaluate the position, this draft class itself at TE will deter most teams from taking one in the first round.
The Cowboys certainly don't have overwhelming depth at tight end, with Jason Witten near the finish line of a Hall of Fame career. Behind Witten, there is fan-favorite Rico Gathers, Geoff Swaim, James Hanna, and Blake Jarwin.
Valuing the blocking ability of these TEs over the impact they provide in the passing game, the Cowboys are set up well enough to target plenty of other positions at 19th overall.
Drafting two cornerbacks last year to replace Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, one of the biggest positives from the Cowboys' otherwise disappointing season was the play of rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis.
Toward the end of the season, the Cowboys even found a way to break Anthony Brown out of his "sophomore slump," kicking him inside to play the slot.
The results the Cowboys saw in turning over their secondary shouldn't steer them away from continuing to build this back-end into one of the league's best -- now being led by Kris Richard. First-round picks should be immediate starters in most cases, though, and a CB at 19th overall may have a hard time seeing the field in 2018.
Even Xavier Woods -- drafted in the sixth round as a safety -- saw time at cornerback to start his Cowboys career, with fellow safety Byron Jones a popular candidate to play CB once again under Richard. This leaves the safety position as one to be evaluated closely prior to the draft, with far less uncertainty surrounding this group of cornerbacks.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Compare this list to my previous list of positions where the Cowboys could actually use new starters and the offseason approach for this team becomes pretty focused. With the talent already in place on offense, the Cowboys must add depth on this side of the ball to keep another season from inexcusably unraveling following a few injuries.
Defensively, the right picks early in the draft could elevate Rod Marinelli's unit to do things that have not been seen from a Dallas defense in quite some time.
The 19th-overall pick sits right on the edge of where teams generally still have prospects graded in the first round available. It presents the Cowboys a great opportunity to land another key starter, one that could make the difference in returning to the playoffs in 2018.
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
A week ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked out to the stage at AT&T Stadium to announce the Dallas Cowboys first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, a large portion of Cowboys Nation was not pretty happy about the player America's Team had drafted in the first day of the Draft.
Boise State's Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become one of the main debates among Cowboys fans right now and will continue to be one at least until the season starts. Some are fine with the decision the front office made and some simply don't view Vander Esch as a first round talent.
Naturally, taking Leighton in the first round has been widely compared to the team's last first round pick: Taco Charlton.
Both of these selections resulted in fans all around the world complaining and criticizing the selections since they both seemed like a reach, arguing that they could've gotten better players at other positions.
But fans shouldn't be so quick to compare the Charlton and Vander Esch selections, because they really aren't that similar. Sure, most of the media and Draft fans didn't consider any of these players worthy of a first round pick, but that doesn't mean both players were ranked similarly in the Cowboys' draft board.
Defensive End Taco Charlton, despite showing some very promising flashes towards the end of the year, wasn't able to become a starter at any point during his rookie season. Hopefully he develops into one next season. But when you're talking about first-round picks, being a solid starter at the end of the season at the latest is a very usual expectation.
Possibly what made the Taco pick hurt even more, is the fact that the front office didn't even consider him a first-round talent. Although he was drafted to wear the Star with the 28th overall pick, he wasn't their guy.
The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.
With Leighton Vander Esch, the same can't be said. The Cowboys knew he was their guy and that they were going to take him, regardless of the situation. For many weeks we wondered about just every scenario the team might face when they were on the clock.
What if DE Harold Landry is available? What if Calvin Ridley is still on the board? What if Derwin James slides, would they trade up?
For the front office, there was quite a lot of talent to choose from at 19 (not to mention James did slide out of the top 15), but they still took Leighton Vander Esch, even with Landry and Ridley on the board. We might disagree with the pick. We might not think the Boise State's product should've been taken so early. That's completely fine.
But Cowboys Nation should be happy knowing that this was the guy they wanted all along. Maybe if Derwin James hadn't been drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 17th pick, Dallas would have still taken Vander Esch.
"If the Cowboys traded up a few spots in the first round, I believe it would have been to ensure they got Vander Esch, not get James or Edmunds." Dane Brugler on the Cowboys' approach to the Draft.
For now, it's time to root for the Dallas Cowboys' new rookie. Vander Esch will provide a special factor to this defense and has the potential to become a very good starter down the road. Playing side by side with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith will certainly help his development and turn him into an impact player soon.
At the end of the day, it takes years to properly evaluate how a draft pick turned out in the NFL. There are first round players who turn out to be complete busts just like there are sixth or seventh round players that go on to become superstars in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys did a hell of a job addressing their needs throughout the Draft this year and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft picks. Leighton Vander Esch is without a doubt, one of them.
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