DALLAS - With the NFL offseason already upon the Dallas Cowboys, they will look to improve the team in a variety of ways. The most cost-efficient avenue is the NFL Draft. The Cowboys already have six picks and that doesn’t include the potential for the team’s compensatory picks for losing free agents last offseason.
The NFL Draft will be held in Arlington, Texas come April. The Cowboys have five positions that need to be addressed for the team to improve upon their 2017 season and make a return to the playoffs.
Brice Butler’s contract has now expired and at this point it doesn’t appear that he will return in 2018. Cole Beasley hadn’t had as poor a season like he had in 2017 since 2013. Dez Bryant hasn't meshed well with Dak Prescott in their two seasons together. The Cowboys need another weapon from the wide receiver position.
Calvin Ridley may be a pipedream since the Cowboys don’t have a pick until number 19 in the first round. The names fans should familiarize themselves with are Deon Cain (Clemson), Michael Gallup (Colorado State), Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Courtland Sutton (SMU) and D.J. Moore (Maryland).
Year after year the Cowboys must survive a large portion of their schedule without Sean Lee. This season the Cowboys were 1-5 in the six games they were without him. The team needs to look for depth beyond the captain of the defense.
In addition, Anthony Hitchens may very well leave with as an unrestricted free agent. Jaylon Smith showed promise having appeared in all 16 games and the Cowboys will be counting on him in 2018. Beyond these three the depth chart gets a bit murky.
Much like the wide receiver position, the best linebacker (Roquan Smith) is another pipedream unless Dallas is willing to trade up. There are many names in the draft to potentially target but another linebacker with the name Smith like Jaylon is unlikely to be in the cards. Rashaan Evans (Alabama) and Josey Jewell (Iowa) are two players to keep on the radar for linebacker help.
The Cowboys offensive line had its ups and downs during the season. The health of Tyron Smith was the main concern. The team doesn’t have a trustworthy swing tackle on this roster and there could be an opening at offensive guard with the contract and health status of Jonathan Cooper.
Jerry Jones and company has shown (in recent years) they aren’t afraid of spending premium picks to address the offensive line. The only position this season that would be worth that is the guard position next to Tyron. The best player in April's draft at guard is Quentin Nelson of Notre Dame. He is dominant and downright nasty in the trenches.
If the Cowboys decide to address the swing tackle position, Connor Williams (Texas) and Orlando Brown (Oklahoma) are two potential targets.
This position has been ignored for the most part when it comes to the draft. The Cowboys brought in Stephen Paea to take over the position before he retired midseason. The team played musical chairs with David Irving, Datone Jones and Maliek Collins at the nose tackle.
It may be finally time that the Cowboys address the position with a premium pick if Vita Vea of Washington is still available at 19. Vea stands 6’5” and 340 pounds and he can bring what this defense needs and allow the linebackers some protection. Da’Ron Payne (Alabama) could also provide some consistency from the position in this defense.
Heading into 2018, running back is still a need for this team. With Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension now behind him, the team can make him the focal point of the offense once again. Alfred Morris is likely leaving and that only leaves Rod Smith as a backup running back next season. The Cowboys still need depth and possibly another explosive playmaker.
With the NFL being a copycat league, teams will now look to find their Alvin Kamara like the New Orleans Saints did in last year's draft. The player who may fit that role best is Sony Michel out of Georgia. Michel has that big play ability as both a receiver and runner. He can be a huge mismatch for an opposing defense. Ronald Jones II of Southern California is another back who can fit that role.
Which positions do you think the Cowboys should focus on in the NFL Draft this year? Share your thoughts with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.
© 2018 WFAA-TV