Over the last 15-20 years the Dallas Cowboys haven’t exactly been stable. Although the Jason Garrett regime continues to reign, the roster itself has went through the typical turnover which occurs in today’s NFL.
This is true everywhere except one position: starting tight end. Veteran Jason Witten has been the TE1 for about 15 years, and enters the 2018 offseason expecting to start at tight end for the Cowboys once again.
Jason Witten has been a pillar of professionalism in Dallas, and is clearly a leader and role model in the locker room. But let’s not be dishonest, the quality of Witten’s play has dropped in recent years. This is especially true in his run blocking, an area in which he used to excel.
During Witten’s reign the Cowboys have been unable to find a legitimate heir to his throne. Though fans have hope that Rico Gathers could take over the tight end role and become the seam-buster this offense clearly needs, Gathers is yet to take the next step during his young career.
It can be argued that it’s time for the Cowboys to draft Witten’s replacement, and begin to groom that player to be the starting tight end in 2019. Would such a move insult the Cowboys’ legend? According to Witten, it wouldn’t.
Witten told ESPN’s Todd Archer that it would be “foolish to get sensitive” if the Cowboys were to draft a tight end early. Of course, Witten still believes he can play at a high level, and he wouldn’t be returning if he didn’t believe he could, but the Cowboys do have to consider moving on from the aging tight end sooner or later.
Plus, there are certainly some good tight ends to choose from in the 2018 NFL Draft. South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert might be the best tight end in the whole class, but would need to be taken at 19th overall. Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe and Central Michigan’s Tyler Conklin provide some solid mid-to-late round options, and Miami’s Chris Herndon is a bit of a wild card. I’m also a big fan of Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, but I am not ready to take a tight end within the first two rounds, which is exactly where I think Andrews will land.
All things considered, Jason Witten probably won’t have to worry about the Cowboys taking a tight end early on in the NFL Draft. Not this year, at least.