Cowboys: Drafting A Quarterback Still Best Call

Nov 14, 2015; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff (16) warms up before the game against the Oregon State Beavers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 14, 2015; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff (16) warms up before the game against the Oregon State Beavers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys hold the fourth-overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, and biting the bullet and selecting a future quarterback is still the smartest call.

When the Dallas Cowboys signed former Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris to a two-year, $3.5 million contract, which could reach $5.5 million, I found myself ending up right back where I started once the offseason began following that Week 16 loss to those same Redskins on January 3.

By bringing in Morris, the Cowboys did two things that were offseason necessities.

First of all, they replaced the gaping hole at running back left by the flame-out of Joseph Randle, a name we’ll likely never hear again within the circle of the NFL. Nothing against Darrren McFadden, but the Cowboys obviously needed to bolster their committee of running backs.

Finally, Dallas also wrote with invisible ink the message that it’s not likely at all to select either of the top-two running backs available in the 2016 NFL Draft next month. Either 2015 Heisman Trophy-winner Derrick Henry of Alabama or Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State would have been justified selections as early as the fourth pick, but with the addition of Morris and the re-signing of third-down back Lance Dunbar, it’s not looking like running back is any kind of urgent need, at least not in the first round.

Mock drafts are a dime-a-dozen at this time of year, and just about all of them offer little more than hits on websites for commercial purposes. Anything posted before free agency begins is a complete waste of time – even those thereafter simply can’t foresee the future that unfolds once 32 NFL teams start taking turns on the clock and jockeying for position while trying to acquire the best talent available from the college ranks.

For the Cowboys, the choice is probably more simple than it may seem. It’s no secret that the pass rush needs to be addressed, but it’s also a fact that Dallas has spent its last two second-round picks on young pass-rushers. Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State, a soon-to-be third-year veteran, led the team in sacks last season, but only with 8.0. Randy Gregory, heading into his second season in ’16, will get a late start due to his league-mandated four-game suspension to begin the season. This former end from Nebraska has exactly zero sacks as of right now.

Compounding the apparent need for more help where rushing the passer is concerned is the pending departure of free agent Greg Hardy. Assuming the controversial lightning-rod really doesn’t return for 2016, there’s a serious issue at defensive end for the Cowboys, no matter if the franchise just signed free-agent defensive end Benson Mayowa away from the Oakland Raiders.

Related Story: Re-Signing Greg Hardy Is A Must

So, selecting a player like Joey Bosa from Ohio State to kick off the draft would make a ton of sense.

However, given the recent allocation of resources already committed to this position, the high bust rate for NFL pass-rush prospects should more than post a yellow flag of caution before simply drafting for need. There’s other potential players that might offer greater upside that could be selected later on, such as Emmanuel Ogbah of Oklahoma State or Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky.

What we can’t get around is the fact that the quarterback position is the most valuable in football, and the reality is that the Cowboys have the chance to draft for the future at this vital position this year – the opportunity doesn’t come all that often, and this is a team that went 12-4 just two seasons ago with a healthy Tony Romo, who will turn 36 just before the draft gets underway.

Each of the three teams selecting above the Cowboys have franchise quarterbacks in place, including the Cleveland Browns, who just signed free-agent Robert Griffin III. There’s a great chance that the Browns could hold off on a younger passer until later in the draft – or even next year, or later.

In other words, what if the Cowboys go on the clock with that fourth pick, can’t trade down, and Bosa is gone. Would owner and general manager Jerry Jones, as out of touch as he seems lately, really pass on a future quarterback like Jared Goff of California or Carson Wentz of North Dakota State?

If so, expect Dallas to trade down in any way possible – no, cornerback Jalen Ramsey can’t be a serious option with the fourth-pick. No rookie cornerback is worth more than a franchise quarterback, period.

Next: Cowboys Are Slowly Getting Better

Quarterback it is for the Cowboys. There’s simply no room for a bust following a pick as early as the one the Cowboys have in the first round. Developing a blue-chip prospect for what likely will be just a couple of seasons under Romo is how Jones avoids the Y2K quarterback disaster that he brought the franchise when Troy Aikman was released in early 2001.

Jones might no longer be well-focused enough to avoid that plight, but I’ll bet more than a wooden nickel that son Stephen Jones certainly is.