With the NFL Draft approaching in a few days, there is less known about what the Dallas Cowboys will do than in recent years. One of the things Mike McCarthy was charged to do when he took over was sealing up the plethora of leaks that the media had access to, and this year is one of the most unknown in recent memory. We have heard names from tight ends, running backs, wide receivers, offensive line, corner, and defensive line. Honestly, this might be the first year that no one actually knows, but there are some educated guesses if they stick to tendencies.
We can look at what the front office says and take the history of how they tend to value positions and make some assumptions. This was the first year in a while they used free agency so robustly, so they could also buck trends in the draft. There are some tendencies that we can point to and it starts with the offensive line.
The Dallas Cowboys are all over the map with names and positions this draft, and with the leaks sealed to the media, we can simply look at tendencies for clues.
We do know the Dallas Cowboys love to pick offensive line in the draft. In the last ten years, they have picked an offensive lineman six times in the first three rounds. So while we know the Cowboys need depth and probably a starting left guard, it would be safe to assume they could go offensive line earlier than later.
Tackle is an option if he is the best player available and they could look to move Tyler Smith back to guard. The only for sure position is Zack Martin, after that the Dallas Cowboys could look at any other position along the line.
Another position the Dallas Cowboys tend to value is running back. While the league has trended toward a lower value on running back the Cowboys have held a long belief that a higher-picked running back offers more value for them.
While they haven’t spent a ton at the position over the past decade early, they did feel the need to pull the trigger on Ezekiel Elliott, who at this moment does not have a team. The Cowboys did use free agency to acquire Ronald Jones, but many feel the position is still thin even with four on the roster. If they still feel running back is a premium position, one could go earlier than later.
Wide receiver has been a bit of a mystery on how they address it. As soon as they seemingly fix the position, they decided to go WR by committee and had to scramble to fix the position. They followed this pattern when they had to trade for Amari Cooper and then again this last year when they felt the need to sign Brandin Cooks in free agency.
With the unknown around Michael Gallup’s health, Jalen Tolbert’s development, and the depth at the position as a whole, if a player falls they could grab one, but more than likely they will look for a depth player in the middle rounds.
Another position the Dallas Cowboys seem to value a bit more than many teams is tight end. While the league has not spent a lot early on a tight end, the Cowboys have said this offseason they could be in the market for one early. The history of first-round tight ends has not been kind as the position tends to be slow to develop, but if we are to believe them, tight end is an option.
Finishing up on offense, the Cowboys are, with high probability, not going for a quarterback early. Dak Prescott is easily a top-10 quarterback in the league and a high pick would have to sit as a backup for the foreseeable future. They could look to get one late, but they have trended toward picking up one as an undrafted free agent when they have a top-tier guy.
On defense, the front office has loved going after cornerbacks. While they did use free agency this year to get 32-year-old Stephon Gilmore, the depth behind him, Trevon Diggs, and either Daron Bland or Jourdan Lewis is thin at best.
Kelvin Joseph has been a disappointment to this point, Nahshon Wright has flashed but hasn’t been consistent, and the rest of the roster is filler at best. Corner could be a pick early to take over for Gilmore next season at the very least provide some much-needed depth should an injury occur.
One position the Cowboys have not valued is 1-technique defensive tackles. While they have done quite a bit at the 3-tech position, a run-stuffing interior player has not been important enough for them to spend a lot of draft capital on. Grabbing one early would be a shift in their philosophy. The middle of the line was an issue for stretches of last season, so they could grab one at some point, but early would be off-brand for them.
Edge is always something the Cowboys like to grab and while they love what Sam Williams has shown, a pass rusher could help free Micah Parsons up to play more linebacker. I do not think an edge rusher is their primary target, but if the cupboard is bare, they could grab one and figure it out. Depth is always welcome at the position so it should never be taken off the table with this front office.
In recent years, the Cowboys have started to value safety play. In fact, the Cowboys have never selected a safety in the first round in their history. It would be a huge shift for this team to pick one in the first three rounds, much less the first round. So while there are some safeties early, it is highly unlikely they draft one early unless they are wiped out and safety is easily the best player available, and even then it would be a bit shocking.
The last position group is the hotly debated linebacker position. One camp feels linebacker is still one of the most important positions on defense, while there has been a shift over the years to off-ball linebacker being fairly low in value for a lot of the league. However, the front office still holds their belief linebacker is extremely valuable early in the draft, so this position is always on the table. It shouldn’t be a shock if the Cowboys grab one earlier than later in the draft.
We are just a few days away and the first pick is still very much a mystery to anyone watching. There are some names we have heard, but you never know how the draft will shake out, so all or none of those names could be available and that’s just how it goes. Will the Cowboys break their own tendencies? Who knows, but right now it is all we have.