The Dallas Cowboys were in the news this past week following Amari Cooper's trade. While wide receiver could be argued to be on the team's “needs” list, there are spots that warrant more attention. In particular, Dallas needs help with regard to the offensive line's interior and in the secondary.
Luckily for Jerry Jones, both positions are deep in this year's draft class, giving him ample opportunity to stockpile much-needed talent. While drafting a defensive back in the first round is often the subject of heated debates, the team has a void to fill depending on what happens with Jayron Kearse. What about Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker? Is either of these players viable long-term options? The front office will soon need to answer that question.
When it comes to the Cowboys' offensive line, the issue lies with their interior, more specifically at starting guard. The team's unit has been on the decline the last couple of years, and if the Cowboys are serious about a deep playoff run, they'll need to infuse more talent. Luckily for Dallas, they might be able to land a perennial starter in the second round.
Round 1, Pick 24 – Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan
Daxton Hill was one of college football's most versatile defensive backs the last three seasons at Michigan. Statistically speaking, Hill was tenth in the Big Ten in terms of pass deflections with eight. As far as his snap counts, Hill demonstrated an ability to line up all over the field, totaling 580 snaps in the slot, 132 in the box, and 80 at free safety, per Pro Football Focus. It should be noted that Hill isn't afraid to do dirty work; he's a highly competitive player that loves to lower his shoulders and stop incoming ball-carriers despite being somewhat undersized.
— Steven Haglund (@StevenIHaglund) March 10, 2022
While versatility is a plus, Hill excelled as a single-high safety or nickel cornerback, where his awareness and speed allowed him to be quite effective in coverage. Hill possesses excellent short-area quickness that's on display when closing in on receivers. A true ballhawk, he consistently makes plays. This will translate well in Dan Quinn's defense. The Cowboys' defensive coordinator could make use of Hill's blend of on-field toughness and natural athleticism with creative play calling.
It should also be noted that Hill's awareness and ability to identify run plays will serve him well. Combined with his tackling, Hill might flourish in run defense at the pro level.
Round 2, Pick 56 – Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
Darian Kinnard is a first-round talent that could certainly fall into the second depending on what happens on Day 1 of the draft. Several interior offensive linemen that were at one point slated to go in the first round, such as Kinnard, may fall. All the more reason that Jones would need to pounce on the Kentucky Wildcat.
Upgrading from Connor McGovern makes sense after failing to exceed expectations in 2021. Kinnard projects to be a starting guard from the outset. At six-foot-five and 345 pounds, having dominated as a college tackle, Kinnard will dominate NFL defenses with his impressive power. More than anything, Kinnard will help the Cowboys in the run game with his blend of raw strength and his ability to explode at the point of attack, showcasing splendid lateral movement, plowing through defenders and opening up running lanes.
Kentucky RT Darian Kinnard just cleaning house… pic.twitter.com/K6OmFNfTwN
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) November 16, 2020
His tenacity and mean streak haven't gone unnoticed. Kinnard often puts incoming rushers on the ground; he's an excellent anchor that has noteworthy leg strength. In other words, once he's planted and is able to latch on, it's often a gridlock worst-case scenario. Kinnard's versatility, especially in run blocking, will give him tons of value to the Cowboys. While he's coached up and his adequate position is decided upon, Kinnard is a low-risk, high-reward selection in the second round.