Cowboys can upgrade defensive line without using top pick

The defensive line always seems to be a concern in Dallas but there is value beyond the first few rounds if the Cowboys choose a different path with their first pick

DALLAS — #CowboysDraftTwitter is throwing names at defensive tackle to take at pick No. 19 such as Virginia Tech's Tim Settle and Washington's Vita Vea.

Vea is projected to go in the first round while Settle's projection is commiserate with his NFL combine and pro day performances given the redshirt sophomore's limited collegiate film.

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If neither of these tweet favorites make it to The Star in April, one name the Cowboys can keep in mind is Deadrin Senat from USF. Senat exhibits what head coach Jason Garrett is looking for in a "right kind of guy." The 6-1, 305-pound defensive tackle has overcome numerous tragedies in his life -- chiefly his mother's death during his freshman year of high school and his father's death in his sophomore season in college -- so, he has an approach that is grounded and not as drawn to the customary distractions of other young athletes in their twenties.

Senat earned second-team all-American Athletic Conference along with the team's defensive MVP honor his junior year. He improved upon those accolades in 2017 with a first-team all-AAC recognition as he recorded 10.5 tackles for loss six sacks to go along with his 66 combined tackles.

The Immokalee High School product has shown the ability to shed blockers and provide run support. This is a trait he could bring immediately to the Cowboys. Clearly his pass-rushing prowess has improved with each year as he went from just one in his junior season that represented his entire career's worth to six in his senior year. He produced half of that sack total in the Birmingham Bowl against Texas Tech.

Senat would give the Cowboys options at defensive tackle. Currently, Maliek Collins, Richard Ash, and Daniel Ross are listed on the roster with the latter two well over 320 pounds. Collins plays the 1-technique in the Cowboys scheme after having played the 3-technique initially. Dallas would be able to either keep Collins at 1-technique, where he had 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2017, and put Senat at the 3-technique. Or the Cowboys could put Senat at the 1-technique, given he weighs exactly the same as Collins, and kick Collins back to the 3-technique where he had 23 tackles, five sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in his rookie season.

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If Dallas doesn't value some of the other big names in the defensive tackle world, a name to keep in mind is Senat's. He would not garner a bad grade if taken on day three. The Cowboys would also have him on the cheap contractually for four seasons, which would allow them to use their cap space to improve other areas.

Now comes fixing defensive end, where Dallas won't have a shot at taking Marcus Davenport from UTSA, who would be an effective rushman from the outside but won't be available at pick 19.

David Irving is a jack of all trades on the defensive line who has given the Cowboys no other choice but to place a franchise tag on him to see if he is worth the trouble in 2018. Of course, the Irving conundrum is compounded by the fact the league's second-highest sack producer in DeMarcus Lawrence is also a free agent.

The Cowboys can make a small investment with the drafting of Ohio State's Jalyn Holmes, a defensive end who had to compete with the likes of Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis, and Sam Hubbard for snaps in 2017. Holmes fits what the Cowboys are looking for with a 6-4, 279-pound frame. He also has an estimated arm length of 34 inches, very close to Taco Charlton's 34.25, who the Cowboys took in the first round in last year's draft.

Don't think the Cowboys aren't already aware of what Holmes can bring to the table. Dallas has had a predilection for taking Buckeyes since the 2016 NFL draft with running back Ezekiel Elliott. Factor in receiver Noah Brown in last year's draft. They know what Urban Meyer cooks up in Columbus.

Mind you, this is not a recipe for what the Cowboys should do. What has been presented is a cost effective way to still address needs along the defensive line if Dallas fails to do so with their first two selections.

Do you believe that the Cowboys should address the defensive line with their top picks or do they have more pressing needs? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.