Cowboys Draft: Why an offensive lineman makes perfect sense in the 1st

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 23: Center Travis Frederick
SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 23: Center Travis Frederick /

The Cowboys can go a number of directions in the first round of the upcoming draft. Here’s why choosing an offensive lineman makes perfect sense.

It’s been a hotly contested debate around Cowboys Nation this winter:  Is it a good use of resources to draft an offensive lineman with the 19th pick? After all, the Dallas Cowboys have already invested heavily in the offensive line over the years. Boasting three first round picks, the offensive line is easily the most pedigreed position unit on the roster. Adding yet another may be overkill.

While the law of diminishing returns would agree with this sentiment, picking a lineman may not an absurd proposition to consider if you dive in a little deeper…

The Cowboys currently have four of five offensive line positions occupied by players who were either first round picks, or valued as first round players. Additionally, they have a running back, widely considered to be the best in the NFL, who was drafted No. 4 overall two seasons ago.

With so many weaknesses on the team, it seems absurd to use a first round pick on a strength like the offensive line, right?

Not so fast.

The Dallas Cowboys struggled on the offensive line last season. As a result, the entire offense bogged down. With everything on offense hinging on a dominant offensive line, ensuring that dominance is extremely important.

If the addition of an offensive lineman can change left guard from a weakness to a strength, the benefits will trickle down to all parts of the offense. And as we all know, a ball controlling offense keeps the defense off the field – essentially helping in all areas of the game.

Position Flex

We joke about the Cowboys’ love for position flex all of the time, but in this situation, it may be the perfect long-term solution. While the love for a dominant guard like Will Hernandez is certainly warranted, it could be troublesome down the road.

If you follow the contracts of the offensive linemen, you can probably see that La’el Collins has but two seasons left with the team. After that, the Cowboys will be knee deep in the pricey portions of Travis Frederick’s and Tyron Smith’s contracts. Assuming Zack Martin will also be locked up, the Cowboys will not be able to afford to re-sign Collins again.

Tyron Smith has a history of injuries, the least of which are reoccurring back problems. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that these injuries prematurely end his career. If the Cowboys lose Collins and Smith in the next two seasons, they are left naked on the edge and over-invested in the middle.

That’s why grabbing a player with offensive tackle potential is important this season.

If the Cowboys can draft a player like Isaiah Wynn or Connor Williams, they could serve as the left guard in the short term and a solution at tackle in the long term. We don’t know if that will be at RT or LT, but we know one, if not both, will be vacant.

If you’re going to be predictable you better be unstoppable

What should really sell the idea of drafting an offensive lineman in the first round is our shared lack of faith in the Cowboys’ coaching staff. Jason Garrett is about as creative as a ham sandwich. Opponents usually know what the Cowboys are running before the ball is even snapped. So if you’re running one of the least creative attacks in the NFL, you better be pretty darn dominant. Adding a strength to a strength would accomplish that.

If the Cowboys can regularly grind out positive yards on the ground against eight, even nine, man fronts, they would be dominant. It may not be exciting but it’s effective. See also 2016 season.

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Bust rate

Finally we weigh the risk. The Dallas Cowboys have had enormous success with blue-chip offensive linemen. The same can’t be said about other positions they’ve drafted in the first round.

With a naturally low bust rate, combined with the Cowboys proven track record of success, you have pretty safe option in an offensive lineman.

Financial ramifications

Dedicating so much money to the offensive line comes with plenty of opportunity costs. One of which is all the money tied up in one position group.

Once Zack Martin gets extended, the Cowboys will have three of the NFL’s highest paid linemen on the roster. It’s safe to say they can’t afford a fourth. But the timing of the contracts may make this all work.

A first round lineman would be highly affordable his first five years playing under his rookie deal. His sixth season is where he’ll command top dollar. But in six seasons Tyron Smith will be 33 and Travis Frederick will be 32. They won’t be over-the-hill but their best days will be behind them. Letting one or both walk wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. And if you factor in Tyron Smith’s back problems, he may not even make it to 33.

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The deeper I get into the draft the more I like the idea of an offensive lineman. Sure, I love Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds, Harold Landry, Marcus Davenport, and Derwin James more, but I’m not hating the idea of Connor Williams or Isaiah Wynn one bit.

What say you? Does becoming an unstoppable force make up for over-investing in one area of the team?