Cowboys: No.4 Pick In Draft Comes Down To Three Positions

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys own the fourth-overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, but there’s less than a handful of positions that should be discussed as options.

When you’re holding the fourth-overall pick in any NFL Draft, there’s a reason, barring a previous trade and some good luck, that you’re selecting that high. The reasons you’re at that spot could be numerous, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts, there’s probably just two or three primary weaknesses that are creating the biggest problem.

Historically speaking, you’ll see quarterbacks, offensive tackles and pass-rushers (3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends) being selected right off the bat. This is because these three positions, or strengths, are the most necessary for any successful football team. There’s few exceptions to be made.

So, how does that translate to Dallas Cowboys draft plans come April?

Right know nobody has any clue regarding the draft or any other aspect of the NFL offseason. We’re not even passed Super Bowl 50, yet mock drafts are already beginning to speculate on the blue sky and thin air.

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Nonetheless, we can narrow down, with a small measure of accuracy, what direction the Cowboys should take once they go on the clock in the first round.

An offensive tackle would seem to rank a bit lower than quarterback or defensive end in this case. Left tackle Tyron Smith is a three-time Pro Bowl talent that’s widely regarded as the best in the NFL at his position. Smith signed an eight-year extension in the summer of 2014 that’ll keep him in Dallas through the year 2023. It’s more than safe to say that left tackle is not a concern.

If we go to right tackle, it’s clear that Doug Free has had an up and down career, especially during his brief stint at left tackle, which obviously inspired the drafting of Smith to begin with. Free has been pretty solid at right tackle over the last few seasons, and with two more years remaining on his current contract, it would seem unlikely that the Cowboys would be looking for a replacement at this position with the fourth selection. Free turns 31-years old on Saturday, so it’s not like age is an immediate concern – at least not yet.

If not an offensive lineman, the two remaining options, at least in terms of positional value, are quarterback and defensive end.

Quarterback Tony Romo, even despite multiple collar bone injuries in 2015, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere for the time being. When healthy he’s a top-5 quarterback in the NFL who’s credentials and abilities aren’t questioned at all. But those injuries are really beginning to mount, and regardless of owner Jerry Jones’ stated belief that his franchise quarterback will remain in his current position for at least a few more seasons, Father Time and Mother Nature might have other ideas.

No, drafting a quarterback fourth-overall doesn’t make a lot of sense if he’s only intended to be a backup.

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In the Cowboys case, this quarterback, if selected in this position, would need to elevate to the backup role no later than 2017 and also be suitable to take over as the face of the franchise as early as 2016 if things were to continue flying south with Romo in the injury department. This dilemma is the biggest one facing the Cowboys during this offseason. No other decision looms larger and the entire offseason leading up to the draft will be filled with speculation on what the Cowboys will do.

History suggests that Jones will not select a quarterback, despite the fact that he certainly should. Since the drafting of Troy Aikman all the way back in 1989, the only serious selection of a quarterback in any draft that Jones was managing was Quincy Carter in 2001. No need to recap how that turned out.

If, in fact, the Cowboys don’t take the quarterback route in the first round, then a selection in the fourth spot would have to turn to defensive end.

Yes, I get the fact that the Cowboys have used second-round selections in the past two drafts in acquiring Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, in that order. Lawrence started to breakout during the second half of his sophomore campaign and led the team in sacks. Gregory is still a lightning-quick prospect that’s quite undersized and might actually develop into a hybrid linebacker and/or situational pass rusher up on the line.

Considering the likely departures of free-agent defensive ends Greg Hardy and Jeremy Mincey, it looks like the Cowboys could have a strong interest in a prospect like Joey Bosa of Ohio State with the fourth-overall selection. If you haven’t watched Bosa in action, he can be real force and he’s not exactly your ‘tweener-type’ when it comes to positions in the front seven.

Standing 6’6” and weighing 275 pounds, Bosa is a true defensive lineman that brings power and strength to the position that the Cowboys haven’t had since Greg Ellis. The fact that Bosa can line up everywhere, much like Hardy, gives him added value and his learning curve coming out of Ohio State shouldn’t be lengthy.

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I’ve never been a betting man, but if I was I’d be laying down some cash that the Cowboys go after a premium pass-rusher to finally replace franchise sack-leader DeMarcus Ware. Dallas has young prospects up front, but you can never have too many pass rushers. This lacking element has kept the Cowboys out of an NFC championship game in 2014 and the NFC playoffs altogether in 2015.

Should the Cowboys trade down, all bets are off regarding what position or player Dallas may grab, but at the fourth spot the options are pretty simple.