The Dallas Cowboys have 10 picks and plenty of options entering the 2021 NFL Draft next week. Here are three ‘Do’s’ I think the Cowboys should take care of next weekend.
‘Do’ address the defense early (and often). The Cowboys have done a solid job, at least from my perspective, of filling some needs on defense in free agency. In the secondary, bringing in Keanu Neal (who is actually listed as a linebacker on the Cowboys roster), Damontae Kazee, and Jayron Kearse give the Cowboys some options at safety.
Plus, Neal and Kazee have experience in new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s system.
Defensive tackles Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins can help on the inside and are immediate rotation pieces.
Defensive end Tarell Basham, to me, could see an uptick in production now that he’s out of New York. Keeping Jourdan Lewis and protects some depth at cornerback.
But, with the exception of Lewis, all of these defenders are in Dallas on either one- or two-year deals. So the Cowboys will be right back in talent acquisition mode next season.
I would also argue that none of these players are the type of defenders that one would consider ‘elite.’ Or, frankly, close to that.
If you want special players on your defense, especially at cornerback (Patrick Surtain or Jaycee Horn?) and defensive end (tough to find up top in this draft), where the Cowboys need them, you need to spend the capital to get them. That means Day 1 and Day 2 picks. The Cowboys shouldn’t be shy about it.
‘Do’ explore the trade market. We know Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones loves to trade. But this is one of those drafts where the ‘itch’ to make a move might not be a bad thing, depending upon the deal.
With 10 selections, including four in the first 100 selections, the Cowboys have the capital to move up in this draft. If they’re spending that capital to move up, it needs to be focused on grabbing starter-ready or close-to-starter-ready players. But the Cowboys also have the flexibility to move down, especially if you believe a team like New England at No. 15 is focused on taking a quarterback of the future and sees Dallas, at No. 10, as a viable partner. If that’s the case, the Cowboys should listen, but make the Patriots pay for it.
I saw one scenario where the Pats could send the Cowboys their No. 15 pick and their first-round selection in 2022. If I were Jones, I’d make the Pats throw in a third-rounder this year as a sweetener. Then, I would take those three third-rounders and find a trade partner to grab an additional second rounder and nail down a third potential starter to go along with their first-rounder and second-rounder.
‘Do’ draft a quarterback (but do it late). Dak Prescott is now under contract and isn’t going anywhere. But, with Andy Dalton now in Chicago, the Cowboys don’t have a capable backup.
I suspect the Cowboys won’t spend the money to bring in a player of Dalton’s caliber this year.
When I look at the Cowboys’ current backups — Ben DiNucci, Garrett Gilbert, and Cooper Rush — I don’t see a quarterback capable of filling Prescott’ shoes long-term (as in most of a season). While Prescott is recovering well from his injury and appears pointed toward starting this year, the Cowboys have to plan as well as they can in case they lose him again. And once a player like Prescott gets hurt, especially as seriously as Prescott was hurt, you have to plan ahead.
I’d have no problem with the Cowboys grabbing a passer like SMU’s Shane Buechele or Texas’ Sam Ehlinger late in the draft and let them compete for a spot with three players that, to this point, really haven’t distinguished themselves enough to be trusted as the No. 2.
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