The Dallas Cowboys have been stuck in a rut. You know, the “blow a shot at the division and playoffs in the season finale three straight years” type of rut. They can’t shake mediocrity, despite yearly having enough talent to get it done.
Last year was a tad different. Sure, their coaching and offense were still a little inconsistent, but the big reason why they didn’t make the playoffs was really thanks to an atrocious defense. That, and Tony Romo (back) was too banged up to finish the season.
Going into 2014, assuming Romo is good to go, the ‘Boys should once again look like a team with enough talent on offense to go toe to toe with anyone. What they do in the draft on the defensive side of the ball, however, might decide their fate.
To get a good idea as to what the Dallas front office might be thinking (although no one can predict Jerry Jones‘ decisions), let’s take a closer look at their top needs on both sides of the ball:
Offensive needs: OG, WR, RB
While the Cowboys should remain defensive minded in the early rounds of the draft, they might want to address some offensive issues in the mid-late rounds. They could work on the o-line by drafting the hometown big boys Cyril Richardson, or Cameron Fleming. The o-line mostly just needs depth after attacking it the past few years, but having competition and healthy bodies certainly never hurts.
If they want to add depth at a skill position, they could go after the speedy De’Anthony Thomas in the middle rounds, or one of the many receivers sprinkled throughout this draft. Dallas did let Miles Austin go, so if they’re unsure about Terrance Williams stepping up into a new role, they could surprise with a receiver early.
Defensive needs: S, DT, LB
The Cowboys defense was beyond terrible last season. They can’t completely fix the defense through the draft, but that won’t stop Jerry from trying. The defense’s problems will be around for a while, so it would be wise to draft players with the most long-term upside, as opposed to the instant fixes.
The Cowboys pass protection allowed more people to pass through unchecked than a narcoleptic TSA agent. However, an important part of pass defense is also the pass rush, and the Cowboys defensive line corps are looking a bit barren. Jones and company have made no secret that they’d like to address the line through the draft, and they could potentially have their pick of Aaron Donald, Louis Nix III, and Timmy Jernigan.
If they choose to go for a safety with their top pick, they could go take Calvin Pryor, or potentially Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. I’d guess that they’ll address the defensive line first, and take a safety, like Terrance Brooks, Dion Bailey, or Brock Vareen, later on.
At linebacker, Chris Borland might have the best instincts in the draft. Although he’s undersized, this might be the type of player that the Cowboys undisciplined defense needs. If they don’t go with Borland, they could probably get Shayne Skov later in the draft. Skov has similar instincts and strength to Borland, but his speed is a liability. Sean Lee is a an absolute beast for the Cowboys in the middle, but he’s never healthy. Getting a solid linebacker at some point protects them from further injury to Lee, while also bolsters their depth.
The Cowboys are committed to using the draft to improve the team going forward, and hopefully they’ll be able to improve on more than just paper. To do so, however, Jerry Jones is going to have to quit his wacky antics for a change and actually draft talent at positions that need it the most. If the Cowboys get enough impact pieces, they just might win more than 8-9 games for a change.