The Cowboys have the seventeenth pick in the draft, courtesy of their 8-8 record. It was a year of disappointment in Big D, with playoffs and possibly Super Bowl expectations. Several defensive needs need to be addressed and that is where many of the picks will be. New coach Mike McCarthy takes over and will bring his West Coast offense with him.
Dallas has seven picks in the draft: a first, second, third, fourth, two fifths, no sixth, and a seventh. The extra fifth round pick is compensatory.
I list the needs below, including major, for depth, and areas they are unlikely to look at. I may add categories for a particular situation.
Major Needs (No Particular Order):
Wide Receiver: The Cowboys are in good shape with their first two receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cooper had his fourth 1,000 yard season in five years, while Gallup hit 1,100. The depth, however, is shaky. The main backups are Cedrick Wilson and Devin Smith, while the others are Ventell Bryant, Lance Lenoir, Pope John alum Noah Brown, and Jon’Vea Johnson. Randall Cobb left for Houston in free agency and Tavon Austin is unsigned. It pays to pick a wide receiver in a draft that has plenty of them. I don’t think it will be in the first round, but it could happen in the second or third round.
Edge Rusher: DeMarcus Lawrence has been a centerpiece for the Cowboys front four, but only had 5 sacks last year. With Robert Quinn leaving in free agency, the other ends are Dorance Armstrong, second year player Joe Jackson, Tyrone Crawford, and Daniel Ross. Michael Bennett is unsigned. This is a major need for the Cowboys and picking an edge rusher might happen in round one.
Interior Defensive Line: The starters will probably be free agent signings Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe – both from Carolina. Antwuan Woods started in the past and he may be a free agent next year. Trysten Hill was their second-round pick, but he rarely played. Christian Covington is unsigned. They should be solid this year, but they need to look at the future; Hill may be part of it, but more is needed.
Cornerback: Losing Byron Jones in free agency hurts and this is one of their biggest needs. Chidobe Awuzie plays the opposite side and is on an expiring contract. Both Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown have started at nickel corner, while Maurice Canady was a free agent signed from the Jets. Others include Deante Burton, DJ White, Savion Smith, Chris Westry, and CJ Goodwin. One, maybe two picks will be taken here and it could come in the first round.
Safety: Help is needed here. Xavier Woods returns and he can be a free agent next year. Jeff Heath left for Vegas in free agency and HaHa Clinton-Dix was signed away from the Bears. Darian Thompson is the top sub and Donovan Wilson is on the roster. Kavon Frazier is unsigned. Both Woods and Clinton-Dix have expiring contracts, causing Dallas to look for quality and quantity.
Quarterback: The Cowboys put Dak Prescott on the franchise tag, while continuing to negotiate a multi-year deal, and he’ll only be 27 this year. Cooper Rush is the backup going into his fourth season and has only thrown three passes in his career. Clayton Thorson was a fifth-round pick of the Eagles who was cut and signed to Dallas’ practice squad. If I were a betting man, I say they don’t address this position.
Running Back: Ezekial Elliott is one of the game’s best and rushed for 1,357 yards last year, averaging 4.5 yards a carry. However, he did not have as many big runs as he had in the past – that might have had something to do with his holdout throughout training camp. Tony Pollard was a fourth-round pick last year and rushed for 455 yards and 5.3 yards a carry, providing quality depth. Jamize Olawale is used in fullback situations. Jordan Chunn fills out the roster. I don’t see a need to pick here, but it could be addressed in the last day of the draft.
Tight End: With Jason Witten signing with the Raiders, the job belongs to Blake Jarwin, who signed a four-year extension. Jarwin shined in part-time appearances and has the chance to take the ball and run with it. Dalton Schultz is behind him and they signed Blake Bell as a free agent and his fifth team in six years. Cole Hikutini is also on the roster. While they could pick here, I expect the mid-to-late rounds.
Offensive Line: Zack Martin at right guard is one of the game’s best and he teams with La’el Collins for an awesome right side. Tyron Smith is one of the better tackles on the left side and Connor Williams is up-and-coming at guard. At center, the retirement of Travis Frederick may hurt, but they re-signed Joe Looney to replace him. Reserves are third-round pick Connor McGovern and Wyatt Miller at guard and Mitch Hyatt at tackle after his rookie free agent season. Others include Adam Redmond, Cody Wichmann, Marcus Henry, and Brandon Knight. Gone from the line are guard Xavier Sua’Filo to Cincinnati and tackle Cameron Fleming to the Giants, which may create the need for more depth.
Linebacker: The Cowboys have a good, young pair in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Vander Esch was bothered by a neck injury, which affected his play. Sean Lee is a long-time player in Dallas and can still be effective. The Cowboys like their depth in Joe Thomas, Chris Covington, Justin March-Lillard, and Luke Gifford. Currently unsigned are Malcolm Smith and Ray Ray Armstrong. The Cowboys are not likely to pick anyone here.
*Information from various sources, including Pro-Football Reference, Sportac, and ESPN.