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How the Cowboys 2018 Draft Class Could Affect 2021 Draft Decisions

Like the rest of the league, the head into next week's with various wants and needs for the roster. Unfortunately, much of their issues stem from question marks that remain swirling around their 2018 draft class. How are these players, nearing the end of their rookie contracts, affecting the team's draft strategy now?

For your reference, here's a quick recap of the talent haul from 2018:

The class of 2018 is far from a bust. The Cowboys have gotten good work at times out of everyone taken in the first four rounds, and of course a bonafide stud in Michael Gallup. We've seen far worse draft classes than this one in franchise .

The problem now though is that even the guys who are still here and playing significant roles like Vander Esch and Williams haven't established themselves as long-term assets. To a lesser extent the same applies to Armstrong and Schultz.

And while he's clearly proven his worth, Gallup presents a different problem as he's probably priced himself out of Dallas' range for . That leaves the team having to factor his likely departure into their current draft strategy.

This has left positions like linebacker, , , and as legitimate considerations for premium picks. While the 1st-round pick is probably going toward a or offensive (or a certain Florida TE with exceptional athletic skills), these other spots all come into the conversation as soon as the 2nd Round.

Certainly, there are other factors at work than just these 2018 players. The LB issue is compounded by 's struggles. Concerns about LG aren't just about Williams but also having yet to see much of .

The thoughts around at TE are as much about uncertainty around as they are Schultz. The notion of drafting Pitts in the 1st Round is also heavily influenced by Gallup's potential exit and the need to that offensive firepower as soon as 2022.

Dorance Armstrong
Cowboys Defensive End Dorance Armstrong (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

You'd like to see someone like Dorance Armstrong stepping up and replacing in your DE rotation, or at least providing reliable depth. Instead, Dallas had to go sign and many are clamoring for or to get more opportunities over Dorance.

The potential catch-22 here is that if these guys do have breakout seasons coming up, like Michael Gallup already has, then they still may not be helping you in 2022 because of getting lucrative offers in next year's free agency. Whether it's by not wanting to bring them back or not being able to afford it, the Cowboys could be in the same spot either way.

Even the back end of the 2018 draft is affecting the team now. Dallas spent a 5th-rounder to try to develop a backup but Mike White didn't even last two years. Even the guy they dumped him for, , isn't here competing for the job now.

The lack of depth at LB right now is a big factor heading into the ; something you would've hoped 6th-round pick Chris Covington would've helped with. And while he's emerged as a capable rotation WR and return specialist, Cedrick Wilson will also be an unrestricted next year.

Sum it all up and you've got three starters and three more key roleplayers from the 2018 class who you can't be sure yet will be getting second contracts after 2021. Plus you have ongoing depth concerns at quarterback and linebacker which could've been helped by late-round picks that year but weren't.

This is why ' old “three-year rule” has become all the more important over time. When you're not sure about these guys after their third seasons, it starts to really put their long-term futures with the club into question when they now have expiring contracts.

As we're seeing in 2021, those lingering questions can start creating additional concerns for your . It could force the Cowboys to spend another draft pick at a position that, ideally, one of our 2018 picks should've already resolved.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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