The NFL Draft is now less than 20 days away and despite the current pandemic altering the pre-draft process for the Dallas Cowboys and NFL teams alike, their draft board and the draft plan continue to take shape. After the initial frenzy of free agency, things have gotten quiet on the player acquisition front.
Aside from the heightened excitement coming from a Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant workout, the Cowboys are likely finished with their pre-draft roster building and will now focus primarily on finding the best players possible when the draft starts on April 23rd.
One of the more popular scenarios for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason has been the idea of selecting a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. The idea of adding Jerry Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb, or Henry Ruggs, all considered top 15 prospects by most draft analysts, to the Cowboys top-five offense from 2019 sounds like a dream come true.
And while I’m certainly open to that idea and would be ecstatic if they were to draft Lamb out of the University of Oklahoma or either of the Alabama star wide receivers, several reasons point to the Cowboys looking to the defense when they go on the clock with the 17th overall pick.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
First, the Dallas Cowboys secondary has an opportunity to upgrade at both cornerback and safety in the first round of the draft. While there is significant depth at the wide receiver position, cornerback doesn’t share the same quality in the later rounds. Though the Cowboys could potentially find a starting-caliber corner in the second round, the drop off from a player like C.J. Henderson, Trevon Diggs, or Jeff Gladney in the first to Cameron Dantzler, Jaylon Johnson, and Damon Arnette in the second is significant.
Further exploration into the secondary depth chart reveals that Xavier Woods, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie are each in a contract year in 2020. As things stand right now, that’s 80% of your starting secondary that will be a free agent next offseason.
The next thing to consider is the age of their starting interior defensive line. Though they’re upgrades, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe don’t stop the Cowboys from drafting Javon Kinlaw out of South Carolina at 17. Poe, McCoy, Antwaun Woods, and Trysten Hill certainly helps to bolster the Dallas Cowboys interior, but it doesn’t do much for the long-term prospects of that group.
Though it’s still much too early to write off 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill’s career, it isn’t off to a great start. Now with Rod Marinelli coaching the defensive line in Las Vegas, Hill’s biggest proponent isn’t here to push for him. New Cowboys Defensive Line Coach may be able to get the best out of Hill, but he also won’t have a long leash for him either.
Kinlaw is a potential game-wrecker on the interior of the defensive line that could be far too enticing for the Cowboys to pass up even if one of the top three wide receivers are still on the board.
Finally, the Cowboys wide receiver duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup might be one of the five-best wide receiver combinations in the NFL. The Cowboys just invested in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup has two more years on his third-round rookie contract. If they have hopes of extending Gallup next offseason or re-signing him in the 2022 offseason, it makes it unlikely they’d invest a first round pick at the position as well.
Wide receiver is probably the deepest position in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys could certainly find someone to start from day one in the slot and be an instant contributor in three wide receiver sets. That depth affords them the opportunity to focus on their defense in the first round of the draft.
It would be amazing to see the Cowboys lineup in 11-personnel (3 wide receivers, 1 running back, 1 tight end) with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Blake Jarwin, Ezekiel Elliott, and Ceedee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, or Henry Ruggs III. The Cowboys offense, on paper, would be incredibly difficult to stop. Opposing defensive coordinators would be up at all hours of the night trying to figure out where to focus their defense’s attention.
If you were to list the Cowboys needs on draft day, wide receiver would likely be far down your list. They could use a wide receiver to come in and help them in the slot, but it’s certainly possible that the option is either in-house or a reunion with a former Cowboys wide receiver.
The Cowboys have options that will allow them to forgo drafting a wide receiver in the first round. It’s a fun idea and would almost guarantee the Dallas Cowboys would have one of the best offenses in football in 2020. Unfortunately, there are too many holes on the defense in 2020 and in the future for the Cowboys to draft what would, in essence, be a luxury selection.