Heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys have needs at nearly every position aside from quarterback. With the 10th pick, it could be reasonable to see the Cowboys front office spend the pick on either side of the football and at several positions.
They could use the pick on an offensive tackle who could plug in at guard. They could use it at wide receiver with Michael Gallup in the final year of his deal. They could go with Kyle Pitts the tight end, arguably the best non-quarterback in the draft. We've talked a lot about the cornerback position and that's the most obvious fit for the 10th pick. We're there a defensive tackle or safety that fit the bill in the top 10, that could work too.
However, there's one spot that's been talked about a lot that makes very little sense with the 10th overall pick. And that's linebacker.
That isn't to say the Cowboys couldn't use a linebacker. With the decline in play over the last couple of seasons from Jaylon Smith and the injury issues that have mounted for Leighton Vander Esch, there's no position that has as much uncertainty beyond 2021 as the linebacker spot.
The Cowboys held onto Smith though they could have found a way out of his deal with a June 1st designation to a release. The Cowboys probably won't pick up Vander Esch's fifth-year option because of the injuries. The Cowboys are hoping a return to the Seattle Seahawks type of scheme ran under Kris Richard in 2018 and some better defensive tackle play will raise their play in 2022.
But hope isn't a plan. And using the 10th overall pick on a linebacker isn't a good plan either.
Sure, there are some very interesting prospects at the top of the draft like Micah Parsons or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, but linebacker has proven to be one of those positions where you can find starter level play and better in the second-round and beyond.
The Cowboys themselves have found quality linebacker play later with players like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson who have been key figures for the Kansas City Chiefs defense. The San Francisco 49ers found one of the better linebackers in the NFL in Fred Warner in the second round.
If the Cowboys were to trade back in the first and take a linebacker or trade up from 44, that would make a bit more sense. But at 10, it would be a mistake to take a linebacker when you could potentially find your next middle linebacker at 44 or beyond.
But taking a linebacker at 10 would be a mistake when there's likely going to be players available at more valuable positions. Offensive tackle, wide receiver or pass catcher (Kyle Pitts), cornerback, edge rusher, and quarterback are considered the “money five” positions. When need and value matchup as well as it does for the Dallas Cowboys, you stick to taking the player at the more valuable positions.
When the Dallas Cowboys go on the clock with the 10th overall pick, they'll have options to add a really good player in the draft. There could be as many as five quarterbacks taken in the first nine picks, which would leave several options available for the Cowboys. Going with a linebacker when they'll have the choice between an offensive tackle, cornerback, or pass catcher would be a huge mistake and really the only way the Cowboys could mess up the 10th overall pick.