If you’ve been following the NFL Draft coverage surrounding the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, you’ve probably heard pundits speak about them drafting an offensive lineman. In particular, you’ve probably heard about the impressive interior offensive line class in this draft.
Whether it be Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn, UTEP’s Will Hernandez, or Iowa’s James Daniels, the Cowboys should have their pick of the litter in the first round. Will they pull the trigger on an offensive lineman in round one? That remains to be seen. But the options should certainly be there for the taking.
This has left some fans wondering, however, what happens to Jonathan Cooper? The former first round pick of the Arizona Cardinals, Cooper started 13 games at left guard for the Cowboys in 2017. Overall, Cooper did a fine job, and certainly showed that he has a place in this league.
Despite Jonathan Cooper performing relatively well in 2017, left guard is still a glaring need on this roster. Cooper is a free agent, and while I believe Dallas should bring him back, they should do so to play in the Joe Looney role. Cooper is still a replacement level player, and would be most valuable as the 6th linemen on the roster, and the first-backup on the interior.
But if Jonathan Cooper can do a “good enough” job, why spend a first round pick on his replacement?
Well, hypothetical person, it’s because of how the Dallas Cowboys are built. Years ago they made a conscious decision to build this team around a strong offensive line and an elite running game.
In 2016 they selected Ezekiel Elliott to complete the puzzle, and be the final piece to that rushing attack. The Cowboys want to punch teams in the mouth and control the game on the ground. To do so, and to regain their 2016 form, they’ll need to upgrade that left guard spot.
Both Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden were fine running backs heading into 2016, but Ezekiel Elliott took the offense to another level. Similarly, Jonathan Cooper is a fine left guard heading into 2018, but taking a first round guard would make this offense whole again.