Now that the misery of this year is over, we can concentrate on the Cowboys needs and possible strategies they may employ to fill those needs.
There is a lot of buzz around the fourth pick and optimism abounds. For those of you who think the Boys will draft a QB, I don’t have good news for you. The Boys will not be drafting a QB in the first round. Why not you ask? The answer is simple. Because there is not a QB worth taking in the top end of the first round, much less in the first four picks. So I think they will resist overreacting and drafting a QB early.Don’t get me wrong, if there was a legit franchise QB I would be all for it. But I don’t see the top two QBs being a great franchise QB. I expect that Goff will become the top QB taken, but he is not worthy of a top 5 pick.
Don’t get me wrong, if there was a legit franchise QB I would be all for it. But I don’t see the top two QBs being a great franchise QB. I expect that Jared Goff will become the top QB taken, but he is not worthy of a top 5 pick.
Not drafting a QB also is the right strategy for the Boys. Why? Because your strategy should be the method(s) of accomplishing your strategic goals. In other words, the strategy supports the goal. To understand what strategy you need, you have to know the goal.
Jerry Jones has stated that the goal is to win a Super Bowl in the next three years while Tony Romo is here. If that is the goal, then their strategy has to be to make the moves that will help them win in the next few years. The first thing to realize is that the Cowboys will only win if Romo is healthy. So the strategy should not be to replace him or get a backup for him, but to protect him. To keep him healthy and make sure he has the weapons, running game and defense, that can maximize his talent.
Drafting a rookie QB does not accomplish that goal. It may satisfy the need to find a replacement if Romo goes down, but for a vast majority of the games that pick will sit on the bench (If not, the Boys will not achieve the goal anyway). So a backup QB will not help to win a super bowl in the next couple of years. It is a pick for the future and therefore, it does not support the current strategic goal.
To accomplish the current goal, the Cowboys would be better off getting a backup QB in free agency and using the number four pick to get an impact player who can help now. Another strategy might be to trade down and pick up multiple draft picks.
Before we get into who the Boys may pick in the first round, you first also have to look at their needs. So in this article, we will look at each of the Boys needs and put a grade on them for ranking purposes. In a later article, I will take these rankings and try to determine some of the strategies that the Boys can employ to fill the most important gaps and that should provide us some insight as to what the Boys will do with the draft pick.
So how do I rank need? I weigh it based on two criteria. The first criteria is the overall importance of the position. Each position has a strategic importance score. The second criteria looks at the quality of the person who will play the position if the Boys do not address it in the offseason.
So for example, the Boys do not have a backup guard right now, so it is a critical (or urgent) need. The Will linebacker is covered with Sean Lee, so while an important position, it is not a critical need. Anthony Hitchens is slated to start at the Sam linebacker position (average critical), but if he moves to middle linebacker, then the depth chart only has Mark Nzeocha listed, so it would become a moderately high to high critical need.
Once the two scores are assigned to each position, you then multiply them together to get the overall ranking of the need.
With the explanation out of the way, let’s begin the process by assigning a score to each position by its strategic importance. It is based on a 10-point scale.
10 points – QB
9 points – right DE, 3 technique, left corner, LOT, Will LB
8 points – left DE, right corner, ROT, 1st receiver, mike linebacker,
7 points – LOG, ROG, running back, slot corner, TE, free safety
6 points – 2nd receiver, one technique, strong safety, Sam LB, center, backup QB
5 points – slot receiver, blocking TE, 3rd down back, backup Swing Tackle, 3rd DE
4 points – 4th receiver, 3rd guard, backup running backup, 4th corner, backup Will and Mike, 3rd safety, 3rd DT, and fullback
3 points – 4th DT, 3rd TE, 4th guard/center, backup Sam
2 points – 5th receiver, 4th OT, 5th corner, 4th safety
1 point – 7th LB, 4th TE, 5th DE/DT, 6th receiver
This is based on 50 likely positions the Cowboys will carry next year.
The next thing we now need to do is look at the urgency of each of the needs based on free agency and depth. This is based on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being the lowest critical (or urgent) need and 5 being the highest.
1 point – Excellent or star player
2 points – Good above average starter
3 points – Average stable starting ability
4 points - Backup quality
5 points – Developmental level
The final score is determined by multiplying the importance score and the critical (urgent) score. So if the quarterback position only had a developmental player in place then the score would be 50 (10 x 5). With the formula in place let’s look at each position.
Starting QB - Have Romo so not high critical score (10 x 1) = 10
Backup QB - Only have a developmental prospect, so high criticality (6 x 5) = 30
1st Receiver - Have Dez, so low criticality score. (8 x 1) = 8
2nd Receiver – Terrence Williams is just an okay number two receiver so you could use either a 3 or 4 critical score. It is subjective. I think it is important to upgrade for both results and depth (6 X 4) = 24
Slot Receiver – Have a good player here so I give it a low score (5 x 2) = 10
4th Receiver – If 2nd receiver is addressed, then this score is low as Williams would fill this role (4 x 2) = 8
5th Backup Slot Receiver / Returner – Whitehead fills need (2 x 2) = 4
6th Receiver – Butler or Street should fill this role (1 x 3) = 3
Starter – McFadden is an average starter or good backup. I believe an upgrade is needed (7 x 4) = 28
Backup – If starter is needed, then McFadden fills this role and is a good backup (4 x 1) = 4
Third Down Back – Dunbar is a free agent. For now, this has a high criticality score (5 x 5) = 25
Fullback – No one in place, so will be a need that will be addressed (4 x 5) = 20
Starter – Witten still filling this role so low criticality (7 x 1) = 7
Backup – Escobar should be back around the start of the season. Swaim can fill in until then (3 x 3) = 9
Third TE – Swaim will fill this role so low criticality score (1 x 3) = 3
Blocking TE – Currently there is no one filling this role. There is an urgent need. (5 x 5) = 25
LOT – have a star in Smith, so low criticality (9 x 1) = 9
ROT – not sure Free is more than a quality backup or average starter (8 x 3.5) = 28
Swing Tackle – if Boys go after right tackle, then Free will fill this role and score drops to 5 (5 x 1) = 5
Developmental Tackle - Green fills role so low importance and low criticality (2 x 1) = 2
Offensive Guards and Centers
ROG – Have a pro-bowl caliber starter so low criticality (7 x 1) = 7
LOG – Rookie played well and will get better so low criticality (7 x 1) = 7
Center – All pro player coming off great year (6 x 1) = 6
Third Guard – Leary is restricted free agent and will be gone. This is an urgent need (4 x 5) = 20
Fourth Guard/Backup Center – No one in place, so high criticality (3 x 5) = 15
So the top needs on offense, according to importance and criticality, scale are:
- Backup QB = 30
- Running Back - 28
- ROT/Swing Tackle = 25 to 28
- Blocking TE = 25
- Third Down RB = 25
- 2nd or 3rd Receiver = 24
- Backup Guard = 20
- Fullback = 20
- Fourth Guard/Backup Center = 14
It is not surprising that the backup QB is the most important and critical need for the offense. It is certainly the most discussed. I think it will be a veteran that they bring in over a high round pick. There are just too many other positions that could use an every-down impact player.
The running back position needs to be addressed. At a minimum, a quality backup needs to be acquired.
Right tackle/swing tackle is a little more surprising as the third highest need. I personally think it is an important position. The Cowboys got lucky this year in that neither tackle got hurt. So odds are that next year will see at least one of them miss some games. If that happens, I am not sure Chaz Green is ready to start and that would threaten Romo’s health. Therefore, it is a critical need and important to an overall strategy of keeping Romo healthy.
The blocking TE is an important role in this offense, so not having a blocker on the roster will mean it has to be addressed early. It will be addressed in free agency most likely.
The score for the third back will be lower if the Boys get a three down back in the draft/free agency or if Darren McFadden is slated for the role. I think Lance Dunbar will be back too.
Another receiver that can get open consistently is important to the offense if Dez Bryant goes down or Terrance Williams struggles. So strengthening the receiver position makes sense. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Boys signed a veteran, but they will wait until after the draft if they do. My gut says it will be addressed in the draft.
The depth for guard will be determined by what happens to Ron Leary. Will he leave or stay? The Boys will definitely need to bring back Mackenzy Bernadeau or a veteran backup if he leaves. The Boys will also need to find a developmental player later in the draft.
The fullback position should be upgraded as well. I believe the Boys will use one of their sixth round compensatory picks on a fullback.
All told, we need to re-sign the payers we have or bring in free agents to fill most of these positions. The most likely to be drafted is running back, 2nd/3rd receiver, and developmental guard. Perhaps if there is a great offensive tackle available you might see the Boys draft a right tackle early in the draft.
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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