While the Super Bowl is now set and just a couple of weeks away, NFL Draft preparation is in full swing for the rest of the league. Following last week’s East West Shrine Game, focus shifts to Mobile, Alabama. The top seniors eligible for the NFL Draft take the field at the Senior Bowl in hopes of impressing teams enough to get the call and start the process of achieving their dreams at the highest level.
While free agency is still months away, let’s take a look at the current needs in the draft for the Dallas Cowboys.
There is a real chance that the Cowboys could be without Cole Beasley, their slot receiver and first down collector. Beasley’s three-year deal that he signed back in 2015 expired following their loss to eventual NFC Champion Los Angeles.
Beasley was believed to be one of the players critical about play-calling on the offensive side of the ball. With Scott Linehan out of the fold, could that open the door for his return in 2019? Perhaps, but wide receiver is still a position that cannot be overlooked come April.
Outside of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Noah Brown there are huge question marks at the position. Last year, the Cowboys took Boise State’s Cedrick Wilson but he sat out the year due to injury. He is one player who could fill a role should Beasley depart.
The name that has been tossed around in mock drafts is Andy Isabella of UMass. He is a sub six-foot receiver much like Beasley but he has electric speed and could become a huge down-the-field weapon. Even if Beasley is retained, the Cowboys could use more weapons.
At the tight end position, the team could use a more consistent threat to challenge teams vertically and create mismatches. Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz made strides throughout the season following the injury to Geoff Swaim as all three were thrust into the spotlight after Jason Witten’s sudden retirement.
It is quite possible that Swaim could walk in free agency and nothing that Rico Gathers was able to do this year should lead you to believe that the team has long-term plans with him. Luckily, in this upcoming draft class, there will plenty of options at the position.
Without a first-round selection due to the trade with the Oakland Raiders for Cooper, you can cross off names like Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, Irv Smith and likely Dawson Knox, but there are more tight ends who could be on the Cowboys radar.
Schultz played for Stanford with Kaden Smith and he could be a name to consider. Smith is likely to be one of the players brought in for the “Dallas Day” team workout as he is a local kid who played at Flower Mound at Marcus High School. Smith finished with over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons for the Cardinal.
The Cowboys weren’t as strong on the offensive line as in years past as they handed a starting gig for the most part to a second round pick in Connor Williams at left guard and also saw journeyman Joe Looney forced to take the reins at center when All-Pro Travis Frederick was out battling Guillain–Barré syndrome.
All reports indicate that Frederick should be able to return to the offseason program, with the hopes of rejoining the action next season, which would be a huge boost for this team. The Cowboys still need to address some depth with this group. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they could look to upgrade the right tackle. La’el Collins is going into the final year of his deal in 2019.
Defensively the team needs to find a way to generate pressure from the interior of the defensive line. The failure to pester up the middle is where they missed the impact of David Irving all season. Maliek Collins has dealt with his own injury issues since he entered the league but when he is healthy, he can create fits for interior offensive linemen.
The “under tackle” is a real concern moving forward for this defense and one that cannot be overlooked throughout the offseason. A free agent option could be Gerald McCoy, if he is indeed released by Tampa Bay, but this team has shown a propensity for looking the other way when the free agency period opens so take that for what it’s worth.
In the secondary, the front office needs to find a safety to play next to Xavier Woods. Jeff Heath is a special team’s ace who was thrust into the starting lineup out of need. Before we knew it, that desperation turned into loyalty for a good organizational soldier.
The running joke being that Heath is the GOAT on social media, but his inability to make the big tackle or take a proper angle is what got his predecessor J.J. Wilcox run out of town. Not to mention the fact that the Cowboys need a ball hawk who can generate turnovers on the backend. The leaders in the interception department in 2018 were linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and Woods with two apiece.
The fact that DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence had as many interceptions as any of the cornerbacks this year is a huge issue. A player the caliber of Nasir Adderley out of Delaware falling to Dallas would be a potential coup for the Cowboys. He has the range and the ability to play coverage while at the same time bring the wood to ball carriers. Keep that name at the top of your lists.
Of course the Cowboys need to find a pass rusher, it seems like this is a focal point every offseason. Lawrence and a revitalized Randy Gregory led the charge in getting to the quarterback but in the playoffs, the team had issues in generating a consistent pass rush. The Cowboys should look to add a player or two to challenge Dorance Armstrong and Taco Charlton this offseason.
The NFL Draft will be here again before we know it and the Cowboys will need to be ready and able to improve the team so they can get to where the team that knocked them out of the playoffs is headed for Super Bowl LIII.
Do you think the Cowboys should strive to address more of their needs in free agency or continue to try to find viable solutions in the draft? Share your thoughts with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.