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.
Sean’s Scout: Florida DT Taven Bryan A Disruptive Target for Cowboys
By now you know that the Dallas Cowboys have not prioritized the defensive tackle position at the Draft in some time, a point made prominent with the amount of talent available at DT in this 2018 class.
Despite not being as high on him as most, Florida's Taven Bryan would fit what the Cowboys are doing defensively under Rod Marinelli very well. Bryan is a disruptive player at the 3T position, where the Cowboys currently have a decision to make on RFA David Irving.
Even if Irving and Maliek Collins are back in the fold for 2018, Taven Bryan would be a great addition to this front seven - thanks to his raw athleticism and motor.
Let's take a closer look at how Bryan fits the Cowboys' defense.
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"Bryan excels at not giving his man much of a blocking surface area – playing with good pad level and impressive bend for a DT."
This film clip and quote comes from my full scouting report on Florida's Taven Bryan at Slant Sports. Far from a finished product, Bryan shoots gaps and beats guards off of the line with ease. This is a player with rare traits at the 3T position, bending well while playing with enough strength throughout his entire frame.
"Using a smooth upper body paired with quick footwork and burst, Bryan is frequently shooting gaps to finish in the backfield."
When I watched Taven Bryan, I was reminded of current Cowboys DT Maliek Collins in 2016. As a rookie, Collins played the penetrating 3T spot with similar burst and power.
With the Cowboys now preferring Collins at the 1T position, Bryan could fill in on day one as an interior force with the upside to become one of the league's best match up weapons up front.
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Unless a blocker across from Bryan works quickly into his frame, this is a player that is going to generate push and flow to the football with elite speed and balance.
"Taven Bryan allows his frame to be controlled too often, effectively getting washed out of any play where his blocker can squat against the speed rush and shoot their hands inside on Bryan."
Cowboys Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence proved that he is the "alpha" of this defensive line in 2017. Building this unit around Lawrence will yield positive results for the Cowboys, especially if they can find a long-term 3T to play alongside him.
One with as high of a ceiling as Taven Bryan becomes an intriguing option, especially considering the Cowboys' ability to play him in a rotation early in his career.
"Unleashing Taven Bryan as a gap-shooting 3T DT is the best way to see this prospect reach his ceiling..."
The Cowboys' 19th overall pick may be a bit rich for Taven Bryan, but this is a prospect to look for in the second round, where Dallas holds the 50th overall pick. A second round DT on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, Bryan should outplay his draft status regardless of the pick if put in the right situation to use traits that would greatly help the Dallas Cowboys.
2018 NFL Draft: How Early Should Cowboys Consider Tight End?
With Tight End Jason Witten set to enter his 16th season for the Dallas Cowboys, it has become an annual offseason tradition to discuss the team's need for young talent at TE. In a down year for the entire Cowboys offense, Witten caught the fewest passes (63) he has since 2003 - his rookie year.
Since 2003, the Cowboys have drafted seven tight ends, most of which suffering the same fate in Dallas. Playing behind the future first-ballot Hall of Fame TE in Witten, the only players that have sustained any success behind him remain current tight ends James Hanna and Geoff Swaim.
A sixth and seventh round pick respectively, Hanna and Swaim don't exactly excite anyone expecting the Cowboys to upgrade their passing game in 2018 and beyond for Quarterback Dak Prescott.
For all of the buzz about the Cowboys using their current 19th overall pick on a WR (a decision I would be against), where is the ideal spot in this draft to target a TE?
This year's draft class at TE is a top-heavy one, with some big time pass catchers available at the top of it. If the Cowboys are serious about adding a legitimate middle-of-the-field threat on offense, they could consider the likes of Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki, or Ian Thomas with the 50th overall pick in the second round.
Of course, Cowboys Nation continues to hold out hope for Rico Gathers to revolutionize the TE position in Dallas as their last pick in the 2016 draft, but the Baylor basketball convert has done little to prove he's motivated to rise up the depth chart anytime soon.
Doug Nussmeier is the Cowboys' third TE coach in as many seasons, joining the staff for 2018 with no previous experience in this coaching role specifically. Nussmeier does bring extensive experience alongside Cowboys OC Scott Linehan, as well as nine years as an OC himself with Fresno State, Washington, Alabama, Michigan, and Florida.
It is safe to say that Nussmeier understands the importance of the TE position for a QB, especially a young one like Prescott - who has inconsistently used Jason Witten as the "security blanket" he became known as under Tony Romo.
If recent draft history holds up, the Cowboys will wait until the later rounds to possibly address tight end. The impact a top player from this class could immediately have in Dallas needs to be considered though, making TE an intriguing draft need as early as the second or third rounds.
The 1 Player Cowboys Should Consider Trading Up For
The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2018 NFL Draft needing help in multiple areas. Of course, they could use new blood on the interior of their defensive line, in their linebacker corps, and in their receiver room. Their most important need to fill in the first round, however, seems to be left guard.
If the Cowboys could find an immediate starter at left guard, a dominant player who can function as an effective run blocker and allow Dak Prescott to trust his left side once again, their offense would be back in business. We typically think of the Cowboys offense, and their line in particular, as a strength. But down the stretch in 2017 that simply wasn't the case.
As I've discussed before, there should be realistic options available with the 19th overall selection, particularly Georgia guard Isiah Wynn. There is one player in this NFL Draft class they should consider moving up for if the price is right, though.
That player is Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson.
Make no mistake, Quenton Nelson is the best prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft class. He is a massive, yet athletic interior offensive lineman who cemented himself as the best guard in college football during his senior season with the Fighting Irish.
Nelson plays with an edge that you love from offensive linemen, especially from those you will be asking to run block often. He doesn't just open holes, he embarrasses defensive tackles. He doesn't just smartly use body positioning and footwork, he finishes his blocks and snatches souls. Plus, he shows the athleticism and agility to get to the second level to seal off linebackers.
Quenton Nelson works well in pass protection as well. Often labeled a weakness in his game coming out of high school, Nelson has shown vast improvements in his footwork, awareness, and balance in his pass set while at Notre Dame. He would be a day one starter in Dallas, and would take the Cowboys' offensive line back to their 2014-2016 form.
But how realistic is it that the Cowboys would move up for Nelson?
Well, not very realistic at all. In fact, I'd say it's more likely the Cowboys move back to take Will Hernandez or Isaiah Wynn than it is they give away future assets in such a Day Two-rich draft. If, for some reason, Quenton Nelson falls to around the 12th overall pick however, there could be an opening for the Cowboys to come up and snag him.
I don't condone trading up often whatsoever, but Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson leads a very short list of players I'd move up for if I were the Cowboys. Trading up for a guard seems like flawed logic, but considering the importance and impact he would have for this team, Quenton Nelson is well worth it.
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