Cowboys 2021 Top 5 Draft Needs: DBs, Please
After six games, the Dallas Cowboys are 2-4, and the front office is already looking ahead to 2021 (because if they keep playing like this, well …). In specific, they’re trying to figure out what position groups to address. Now, it’s hard to say what players might be available when the Cowboys are on the clock next April. But we can start looking ahead to the Cowboys’ Top 5 draft needs with one-third of the season complete.
A note — the Cowboys do not have a fifth-round or sixth-round pick. They spent their fifth-round pick to move up to select center Tyler Biadasz, and spent their sixth-round pick to trade for Michael Bennett last season. Additionally, though, they figure to have a bundle of compensatory picks.
1. Defensive back
Cornerback or safety — does it really matter? The Cowboys need help at both positions and they enter 2021 with some serious reshuffling coming.
A half-dozen cornerbacks and safeties are set to be unrestricted free agents, and they’re not all coming back (nor should you want all of them to return).
Trevon Diggs, this season’s second-round pick, has a starting job locked down for next season (mostly because he’s signed for three more seasons). After that? No job should be safe and there’s no guarantee that any of next year’s free agents — including Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods — will return.
Expect to hear the Cowboys take either a corner or safety on the draft’s early going.
2. Left tackle
Tyron Smith is out for the season. By the start of the 2021 season, Smith will have missed 26 games since 2016. That may not sound like much, but can we say in how many of the games he started since 2016 that Smith was TRULY healthy?
He’s been the ultimate warrior on that side of the ball, but he’ll enter Year 11 in 2021 at age 31 coming off neck surgery (it doesn’t matter to me how serious the surgery is — it’s neck surgery). Unless the Cowboys plan to swing either Zack Martin (my preferred option) or Connor Williams out to left tackle, the time to draft Smith’s replacement is now. Get him in the first three rounds and stash him for a year while the Cowboys try to work out Smith’s contract.
3. Defensive line
Never stop drafting defensive linemen. Ever. It’s a rule.
Aldon Smith is the Cowboys’ best pass rusher this season and he’s a free agent. Trysten Hill is out for the season. End is probably a more heightened need than tackle, with players like Neville Gallimore inside that you can develop. But if Smith leaves, there is no proven defensive end to siphon some attention away from Demarcus Lawrence (who isn’t going anywhere due to money constraints). We'll keep an eye on Randy Gregory starting this weekend, too, but ...
Defensive end could be a Round 4 or Round 7 selection. If there’s a game-changer available earlier in the draft, don’t rule that out, either.
This position is a need going into this draft. You could make the case that Joe Thomas has been the Cowboys’ best linebacker this season, and that’s not good when you have Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee on the roster. It’s time to consider Vander Esch an injury risk at this point, and Lee will be 34 next year and could retire. This could be the position the Cowboys address in Round 3. The Cowboys need at least one linebacker they can develop.
Dak Prescott’s gruesome injury puts his Dallas and NFL future in flux, though both the Cowboys and Prescott are saying the right things. The Cowboys say they’re committed to him. Prescott has said he’ll be back.
That’s all great in theory, and the Cowboys control Prescott’s rights for at least one more year with the franchise tag in 2021. But, watch Prescott’s rehab process carefully, as well as backup Andy Dalton’s play this year and the progress of the rookie, Ben DiNucci. If the Cowboys start seeing a situation brewing that they don’t like for its long-term future, there are several options in the 2021 Draft that are enticing. I fully expect that the Cowboys will, at minimum, tag Prescott again in 2021.
But teams should always be building, at QB and elsewhere. Dak doesn't have to be the entire foundation.