The 2015 season has been a tough one for fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Yes there were injuries to key players like Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Orlando Scandrick, but those injuries cannot be the reason for the Cowboys' lack of success this past year. 2016 should bring greater fortune for the Cowboys, but the 2015 season outcome may mean a top-ten draft pick. If that is the case, guys like Jalen Ramsey, Robert Nkemdiche, and Vernon Hargreaves would all be huge for the defense, but the Cowboys may serve better to pick an offensive player in the first round.
When you look at this offense, the offensive line is in place for the next five years or so. The Cowboys have their quarterback and while they should also look in the draft for a running back, another year of Darren McFadden will actually only be better for the team. Nevertheless, drafting a running back should be high on the priority list, but the Cowboys should address that priority later in the draft rather than the first round.
On the outside, Dez Bryant is a terrific receiver, even though the injuries have hampered his year. Besides Bryant, however, the Cowboys have a bunch of complementary guys, some of whom haven't proven they belong long-term just yet. Cole Beasley is a real good football player, but he's nothing more than a complementary receiver who excels at moving the chains on third down.
Across from Bryant is Terrance Williams, a guy I have struggled with for a few seasons now. Williams makes the big play occasionally, but he has a hard time catching the ball with consistency. When you pair that with his lackluster route-running skills, the Cowboys should look to the draft for a receiver and one guy that makes a ton of sense is Laquon Treadwell. Devin Street is a polished receiver, but he's slow and he hasn't shown much when the Cowboys decide to put him out there.
Despite the gruesome injury he had last season, Treadwell is a proven player that reminds me a lot of A.J. Green. He has the speed and athleticism to bring down the deep-ball and he possesses the hands and route makeup which allow him to catch intermediate passes.
By drafting a guy like Treadwell, the Cowboys would have a true complement to Bryant. I'm not saying that this needs to be the move, but it would be a move that would immediately help a franchise who wants to make it further than the divisional round in the playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Special Teams
Some have argued that the words "kicker" and "punter" don't belong in the same sentence as "NFL Draft." But just last year, six special teams players were drafted by NFL teams. Could the Dallas Cowboys consider such a player with one of their 2019 draft picks?
From 2009-2018, various teams have drafted 19 kickers and 18 punters. The highest pick was a second-rounder; Tampa Bay's selection of Roberto Aguayo in 2016. Outside of one pick in the third round and another in the fourth, the other 34 picks have all been in rounds 5-7.
The Dallas Cowboys have only contributed on pick to this total. In 2009 they selected David Buehler in the fifth round, two years after using a sixth-round pick on Nick Folk.
Ten years later, could Dallas finally use another draft pick on special teams?
There are a few of factors that make this possible. For one, the Cowboys are already fairly loaded with talent across the roster. A late-round pick spent at any number of positions would have a hard time surviving final cuts.
Second, in terms of the quality of player versus the round, there's no better value than on special teams. You can possibly get the best kicker in the country in the fifth or sixth round; no other position offers that.
Lastly, and most importantly, the Cowboys have a pretty clear opportunity to upgrade at kicker. They also could use the draft to save some cap space by making a change at punter.
As I've written about before, Brett Maher was a Jekyll & Hyde kicker in 2018. He was brilliant from long range but a major liability closer in, and his 80.6% total field-goal accuracy was near the bottom of the league.
While Maher's distance is a true asset, does it outweigh the risk of him missing a game-winning FG from 35 yards? And what about extra-point kicks, for that matter?
Dallas should certainly bring Brett back in 2019 to compete for the job. Remember, he was still Dan Bailey's backup until close the start of the regular season. Perhaps a full offseason as the primary kicker would help him stabilize his game.
But given the uncertainty, the Cowboys could easily justify spending a late-round pick at kicker. They could potentially land LSU's Cole Tracy or Utah's Matt Gay, two of the top prospects in this draft class.
The worst-case scenario is that Maher beats one of these guys and you cut them. But there was a high probability that you'd have cut whoever you drafted at another position anyway. Essentially, you'd have spent a late draft pick as an insurance policy against Maher's development.
That's not bad business. In fact, maybe you'd be able to trade that kicker at final cuts to a team who suffers a preseason injury or is otherwise dissatisfied at the position. There's a chance you could even recoup your draft pick.
Another consideration is at punter. Chris Jones has been a very solid one for a while now, but he turns 30 in July and counts $2.3 million against the salary cap. Could the draft give Dallas a chance to get someone younger and cheaper?
Let's say Dallas drafted one of the nation's top punters like Jack Fox out of Rice or Stanford's Jack Bailey. They'd have that player on a four-year rookie deal costing roughly 20% of what Jones' does.
Dallas could trade or release Chris Jones for $800k in 2019 cap relief, or $1.8 million if he's cut after June 1st. That would push $1 million of dead money onto the 2020 cap.
Those aren't big numbers, so the real gain here is if you think one of the top rookie punters could match or even exceed Jones' play. Then you've got that player on the cheap for the next four seasons.
I would not predict that the Cowboys will spend a draft pick at either kicker or punter, but the point of all this is that you can't entirely dismiss it. 2019 presents the right mix of circumstances for Dallas to consider it more than they have in the past, especially considering how long Dan Bailey was a fixture on the roster.
Brett Maher doesn't enjoy that same status. Dallas could easily look at some of the top kickers available and think that an upgrade is possible.
Will that lead to the Cowboys spending a draft pick on special teams for the first time in a decade?
Draft Likelihood: 10%
Projected Round: *6th-7th
* The Cowboys don't currently have a 6th-round pick, but could acquire one in a potential trade.
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Other Draft Needs Articles
Potential CB Prospects Dallas Cowboys Could Target in Each Round
It has somewhat flown a little bit under the radar, but Dallas Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard has been touring around the country working out several cornerbacks in this year's draft class. With Byron Jones and Anthony Brown entering into the last year of their contracts, it wouldn't be all that surprising if the Cowboys draft a CB at some point in the 2019 NFL Draft.
With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of the cornerbacks the Dallas Cowboys could target in each round in which they hold a draft pick. In order to keep it as realistic as possible I tried to narrow it down to the potential CB prospects that fit Richard's parameters. We all know he likes those tall, lengthy defensive backs and that's what I tried to focus on.
Let's take a look…
Justin Layne, Michigan State
Justin Layne was a four-star wide receiver recruit coming at a high school, but ended up becoming a three-year starter on the other side of the ball at cornerback during his time at Michigan State. He has tremendous ball skills due to his background at receiver and has the size and length (6'1", 192) Kris Richard covets in his defensive backs. He needs to continue to improve is overall technique, but he has Day 1 starting potential.
Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt
Joejuan Williams was a two-year starter during his time at Vanderbilt and primarily played press and off-man coverage. At just a smidge under 6'4", Williams typically towers over the wide receivers he faces, which has allowed him to find success at this point because of his mere size and length. He has the skill set and athleticism to become an eventual starter in the NFL, but really needs to develop his mechanics and the mental side of his game a little more.
Jamel Dean, Auburn
After overcoming three major knee injuries earlier in his career, Jamel Dean eventually became a two-year starter to finish his career at Auburn. He has elite size (6'1", 202), length (31 3/4" arms), and speed (4.3 40-yard dash), but his durability is a red flag moving forward. He also needs to play with a little better mean streak, especially in press man coverage. The talent is there though and he has a chance to develop into a really good starting CB if he can stay healthy.
Isaiah Johnson, Houston
Isaiah Johnson is another player with elite size (6'2", 208), length (33" arms), and speed (4.4 40-yard dash) at the cornerback position and is someone Kris Richard has met with and worked out on a number of occasions. Johnson was a former three-star wide receiver recruit coming out high school before making the switch to CB his final year in Houston. He played mostly bail technique for the Cougars and is still really raw as a CB prospect, but he has immense upside. He will likely need a year or two to further develop his craft before he can be relied upon.
Lonnie Johnson Jr., Kentucky
There are actually three Kentucky defensive backs the Dallas Cowboys could target, but Lonnie Johnson Jr. is the top-ranked prospect so far. He has the size, length the Cowboys are looking for, but he really needs to refine just about every aspect of his game before he's ready to compete at the next level. He has tremendous instincts which has gotten him to this point, but he's going to have to develop both technically and mentally if he wants to find any kind of success in the NFL. All of the tools are there though.
Jordan Brown, South Dakota State
Jordan Brown was a three-year starter at South Dakota State, playing primarily press and off-man coverage. He has the size, length to play as a boundary corner in the NFL, but only has average top end speed. He is a competitor with a scrappy mentality that unfortunately runs a little hot and cold at times. He plays with good balance when making his transitions, which allows him to stick with receivers. Overall, he is a solid developmental mid-round pick with starting upside.
Michael Jackson, Miami
Michael Jackson was a two-year starter at Miami on the right side, playing mostly press man. He is a good-sized athlete with the kind of length and athleticism Kris Richard is looking for in his cornerbacks, but he has shown a tendency to struggle against savvy route runners. He's not the most fluid of athletes and will struggle in his transitions, so he might fit best in a defensive scheme that plays a lot of zone or cover 2.
Kris Boyd, Texas
Kris Boyd was a three-your starter during his time in Texas and played on both the right and left side, often times shadowing the opposing team's best wide receiver. He plays with the desired competitive nature and checks all the boxes as far as size, speed, and athleticism are concerned for a starting caliber cornerback. But, he plays undisciplined and doesn't trust his eyes, often times causing him to arrive late with his reads. If he can become more disciplined he could be a steal this late in the draft.
Chris Westry, Kentucky
Chris Westry was a three-year starter at Kentucky, but gradually started to see his playing time decrease with the emergence of Lonnie Johnson Jr. and Derrick Baity Jr.. At 6'4", 199 pounds and legitimate 4.35 speed, Westry has extremely rare size and speed for the cornerback position. Unfortunately, he is a better athlete than he is a football player right now and might be nothing more than a developmental project.
Derrick Baity Jr., Kentucky
Derrick Baity Jr. worked his way into the starting lineup at Kentucky as a freshman and ended up becoming a four-year starter. He has excellent size for the position (6'2", 197) and is light footed with good ball skills, but he doesn't play with the kind of physicality you'd think from my player his size. He is an untrustworthy tackler and undisciplined with his fundamentals. His size and ball skills should get him drafted, but he might be nothing more than a developmental project.
Cowboys Draft: Will A Quarterback Be Considered?
Dak Prescott is the current and future starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Let's make that clear.
Prescott has done more than enough over the first three years of his career to earn this "franchise quarterback" title, and the contract he will eventually receive from the Cowboys' front office.
But that doesn't mean the Cowboys shouldn't consider drafting a quarterback this year. Or next year. Or the year after that.
Quarterback is the game's most important, and highest paid, position. It's the position where a player can most greatly effect a game individually, both positively and negatively.
And it's the position you must make sure is accounted for heading into any new season. Yes, the Cowboys clearly trust now fourth-year quarterback Dak Prescott, but adding talent to your QB room is never a bad thing. In fact, it's typically a great thing.
Behind Prescott are Cooper Rush and Mike White. Rush beat out now-offensive coordinator Kellen Moore for the backup job during the 2017 preseason, and then held off rookie Mike White in 2018 to maintain the job.
When the Cowboys drafted White, however, they had dreams of a new backup quarterback in mind. White didn't perform as well, or progress as quickly, as some had hoped leaving Cooper Rush as the unquestioned QB2, however.
Is Cooper Rush good enough, though?
This is a question which really is yet to be answered. And if the Cowboys have it their way, it will never be truly answered. He was excellent during the 2017 preseason, no doubt about it. But he was, well, bad last year. Rush and the offense struggled mightily during the preseason, and while lack of offensive line depth didn't help him, Rush's play didn't spark much optimism or excitement either.
The Cowboys would be wise to consider drafting a quarterback later in the 2019 NFL Draft, but they shouldn't spend too much time worrying about it either way. The backup quarterback, especially behind Dak Prescott, will bring his value in terms of game-planning and aiding Prescott, rather than with his actual arm talent.
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