During draft season, we all like to sit around and talk about the needs the Dallas Cowboys need to address in the draft. Then we get into debates about need vs best player available. The reality is, teams go into the draft considering both the areas the team needs to address in concert with their draft board which tiers players together creating the framework to define the best player available.
As we try to determine where the Dallas Cowboys might allocate their first-round pick, number 17 overall, it’s also important to note what positions they won’t use their first-round pick on. By using process of elimination, we can begin to create an outline to determine how the draft might go based on areas the Cowboys need to address in the draft.
Again, need isn’t everything, but it’s a real thing that every team considers as they make their way through the annual player selection process.
Here are the positions I think the Cowboys won’t use their first-round pick on.
Like it or not, Dak Prescott will be the Dallas Cowboys quarterback for 2020 and beyond. They’ve invested too much into him in his development and Head Coach Mike McCarthy signed on with the full understanding that Dak Prescott will be their quarterback for years to come.
Dak Prescott’s big-money contract is inevitable. It will happen. Locking up Amari Cooper to his five-year $100 million deal is a signal that they’ll continue to build their offense around their star quarterback.
There’s a 0% chance the Cowboys will use pick 17 on a quarterback.
When the Dallas Cowboys gave Ezekiel Elliott his long-term contract extension, they pretty much ruled out the possibility of drafting a running back in the first three rounds of this years draft. In addition to Elliott, the production of Tony Pollard gives the Dallas Cowboys a really nice backfield depth chart.
It’s certainly possible the Cowboys will add another running back in the draft or as an undrafted free agent, but with needs elsewhere, they won’t bother spending an early draft pick at the position.
There are two things that make tight end in the first round an unlikelihood. First, the extension given to Blake Jarwin, though not all that rich, is enough money per year to make him the 16th highest paid tight end in the game. It’s not nothing. They plan on Jarwin being their starting tight end this year, and I’m here for it.
He was too good in a limited role last year to not give an extended opportunity to in 2020.
The second thing is that there isn’t a tight end in the draft this year that’s worth a first-round pick. Unlike last year, which was an excellent draft for tight ends, this one seems relatively week. It’s certainly possible the Cowboys could add a player at the position, but I don’t imagine it’ll happen until day three.
Of all the positions on this list, this is the one I feel less confident in. There are some excellent tackles in this class and it’s deep in the first round. Given the depth, teams may opt to wait at tackle and attempt to select a wide receiver or defensive player. This could cause one of the top tackles to fall to 17. Would the Cowboys take one? Who knows?
The thing that makes this an interesting proposition is Tyron Smith‘s back. He’s been forced to miss three games each of the last four seasons. The Cowboys have had mixed results with his replacement and could see this as the time to find his eventual successor.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not trying to replace Tyron Smith. I constantly argue that 75% of Tyron Smith in a season is way better than not having Tyron Smith. He’s still an elite player even if you only get him for 13 starts a season. The problem is at what point does 13 games become 10 games or worse.
At some point, the Cowboys may need to plan for the unfortunate scenario that they may not have their All-Pro left tackle available to them enough.
I don’t see them being at a point where they have to find their next left tackle, which is why I don’t think they’ll spend a first-round pick at tackle this year. With La’el Collins developing into one of the better right tackles in the NFL, the Cowboys are set at the position as long as Tyron Smith’s back holds up.
Like tight end, there doesn’t appear to be a guard in the draft this season that merits a selection in the first round. There is no Zack Martin or Quenton Nelson. There isn’t a plug and play guard that you can start and plan on All-Pro awards year after year.
Looking at the Cowboys specifically, they have options. Incumbent week one starter Connor Williams will be returning and looks to be the lead-horse to start at left guard for the third season in a row. His main competition was supposed to be Connor McGovern, but the sudden retirement of Travis Frederick leaves them with a bigger void at center that the Cowboys will look to fill with a competition between McGovern and 2018 starter Joe Looney.
Connor Williams improved in 2019, but injuries limited him. If he can find some good health luck, he should be the Cowboys left guard this season. Especially if the Cowboys feel their best offensive line includes McGovern at center.
As we just talked about, Connor McGovern and Joe Looney will battle it out with Adam Redmond getting an outside shot to win the competition. The Cowboys have options that they should explore and like guard, there isn’t a center in this draft that’s worth spending your first-round pick on.
The Cowboys have numbers that should lead them to explore the in-house options between Looney, McGovern, and Redmond to see which player asserts himself as the Cowboys center for 2020. It’s possible that the Cowboys not only find their center for 2020 but for the future as well if McGovern or Redmond proves to be ready to take the next step. If not, Joe Looney showed in 2018 that he’s fully capable of running the show from the middle of the Cowboys vaunted offensive line.
If there’s one position on the defense that seems pretty much set for training camp and the 2020 season it’s the linebacker spot. With Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch returning as the starters and Sean Lee, Joe Thomas, Justin March, and Luke Gifford to provide depth, the Cowboys are already pretty deep at the position.
The only way they draft a linebacker at 17 is if someone like Isaiah Simmons falls to them and they feel he’s just too good of a player to pass on. Or, if the neck issues Leighton Vander Esch dealt with in 2020 are potentially career shortening and they see someone like Patrick Queen out of LSU or Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma as long-term replacements for Vander Esch.
The other possibility is if they have plans to move to a 3-4 and make Jaylon Smith an outside linebacker. He’s at his best when he’s coming downhill and attacking the line of scrimmage. He showed some excellent pass rush ability in college. It’s unlikely this would be the case, but with a new coaching staff, you never know what they’re thinking.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
It’s pretty obvious that the Cowboys have a lot of needs on the defensive side of the football. They could use it at pretty much every level of the defense and it could make sense. Wide Receiver is the only spot that makes sense on the offense, which should be a good sign for the Cowboys as they move toward 2020.
With only Jason Witten and Randall Cobb departing from what was one of the best offenses in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys are set to repeat the success they had in 2019, especially if they can find a player to have a similar impact out of the slot as Randall Cobb.
This year’s draft will be absolutely fascinating because the Cowboys could go any number of directions in the first round. We obviously hope that when they make their selection at number 17 it’s a player that is considered the best player available that fills a need on the defense. At the moment, the biggest need looks to be at cornerback. If C.J. Hendeson, the second-best corner in the draft doesn’t fall to them, does it still make sense to select a corner in the first round? It may not.
That’s why this draft is so interesting. It could go any number of directions. Even with several acquisitions on defense, none of those signings preclude the Cowboys from taking a player at defensive tackle, safety, or cornerback.
Anything and everything is fair game and I can’t wait to find out. Amidst everything going on, the NFL Draft will provide an excellent distraction as the intrigue builds toward the end of April.