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Cowboys Team Needs for the 2012 NFL Draft (Cowboys Draft Blog Entry #2)

April 18, 2012

With the NFL Draft just over a week away it’s time we got down to business and started looking at the Cowboys plans at #14 as well as the rest of the draft. With a flurry of free agent moves that saw the Cowboys sign 4 likely new starters (Brandon Carr, Brodney Poole, Lawrence Vickers, Nate Livings) and 2 others (Dan Connor, Mackenzy Bernadeu) that will be in position battles  for the job the Cowboys have an entirely new set of needs compared to where they were just a few months ago. Below is an up to date breakdown of the team’s needs (in order from greatest to least) and what positions are most likely to be addressed in the upcoming draft.

 

1. Free Safety: It’s always funny to me when one team’s fan base is glad to see a former player go and another team’s fan base is excited about the addition of that same player. Such is the case with the Cowboys signing of Brodney Poole as the Jets didn’t even make the player an offer, he was only a starter for 6 games missing 2 games due to injury and being a backup 8 games, the Jets went out and signed S LaRon Landry despite his injury riddled past, even after that signing the Jets appear to have legit interest in drafting Mark Barron in the 1st round, and Poole’s career stats (13 INTs in 7 years) paint him as an average starter. That’s the issue at the safety spot for the Cowboys as for years the team has had average starters (Sensabaugh,Elam,Poole, Hamlin) but never a true playmaker at the back end of their defense. In this year’s draft there is one guy who would fit that role perfectly. It seems like a match made in heaven but rumors out of valley ranch make it seem like Barron is a backup plan at best at #14.

2. 3-4 OLB: I’m of the school of thought that pass rusher is the most important position outside of quarterback and teams that have an elite pass rush can mask quite a few other issues as it’s such an influential part of the game. The Cowboys have the best pass rusher in all of football in DeMarcus Ware yet continue to keep the underachieving Anthony Spencer hoping he can develop into the player they envisioned when they took him in the 1st round in 2007. It’s not going to happen and it’s time the team moved on as he’s had either 5 or 6 sacks each of the past 3 seasons which is a pitiful number when you take into account the fact that he almost never receives a double team due to Ware on the other side of him and Ratliff in the middle. A legit double digit sacker across from Ware would make the Cowboys D much more dangerous.

3. Center: Phil Costa in my opinion was the worst full time starter on the Cowboys in 2011 and center isn’t the #1 need solely because the Cowboys have not 1 but 2 young players (Costa, Kowalski) at the position that possibly could develop into an average starter for 2012. I have my doubts though about the likelihood of that happening and think the Cowboys are flirting with disaster if they leave the position as is going into the season. I’ve said it for months now but the player I most would like the Cowboys to take is Peter Konz as he’s one of the best centers I’ve ever graded, fills a need, and because of a late season ankle injury that affected his draft stock I think the Cowboys could trade down into the low 20’s and take Konz while adding a 2nd or 3rd rounder in the process. If Konz isn’t taken I would be hesitant to take any other center outside of Philip Blake as I think the position needs to be addressed with a player who can be a Day 1 starter and Konz/Blake are the only two in this draft in my opinion who can do that. Also I think C is more valuable than OG for an NFL team and I would be much more excited to see this position addressed than for the Cowboys to take an OG in the early rounds. Pairing a young C like Konz who is 22 years old with Tyron Smith the 21 year old Pro Bowl caliber LT would be the foundation to build great offensive lines for the next decade.

4. Defensive Line: I’m saying DL instead of 3-4 NT or 3-4 DE because I truly don’t know where they prefer to play Ratliff long term. He’s had a very good stretch at NT but at a listed weight of 287 lbs he’s always been severely undersized for the position and with him turning 31 this season I could see them wanting to move him to 3-4 DE where there is less wear and tear on a player. If that’s the case then the big DTs like Brockers, Poe, Ta’amu are going to be wanted but if they still think of Ratliff as a NT then a stud 3-4 DE like a bulked up Chandler Jones or an athletic tackle like Fletcher Cox or Kendall Reyes would be wanted. Either way the Cowboys need to add a strong, athletic DL to help them as they have been playing average starters (Spears, Hatcher) and retreads (Kenyon Coleman) for far too long. I don’t see this position as a need as much as the Cowboys appear to as rumors have it they are going DL with their first pick unless all of the players they like are off the board.

5. #3 WR: I never thought this position was terribly important as the Cowboys regularly have a FB or 2nd TE on the field putting the #3 WR on the sidelines quite often. Yet there’s no denying the impact Laurent Robinson had for the Cowboys last season and it opened my eyes to the idea that this team could be much more dangerous if they had a field stretching slot receiver. I’m not interested in the slower, possession WRs like Ryan Broyles as the Cowboys need a speed injection to their WR corp as they have too many bigger possession receiver types. Also I think the Cowboys could kill two birds with one stone if they found a speedy WR with punt return capabilities as the position was a non-factor last year when Dez wasn’t lined up back there and due to his brittleness it’s unlikely he will be back there much longer. The player most often linked to the Cowboys is WR Joe Adams and it’s a scenario I like quite a lot as he’s the best punt returner in this draft, Jerry has a history of drafting razorbacks, and he has very good speed. Yet this draft has quite a few options available as TY Hilton and Devon Wylie fit the bill on both fronts (speed and return skills) while Keshawn Martin, Eric Page, and Ryan Broyles fit the bill as slot receivers with return skills but lack the speed I would prefer.

Those are the top 5 needs in my opinion that the Cowboys have. Noticeably absent is CB which is filled from 1 (Carr) to 3 (Scandrick) by young players with good talent. I like the three cornerbacks on our roster right now but would also be comfortable adding a player of talent like Gilmore or Kirkpatrick in the 1st round or a player of value like an Omar Bolden or Coryell Judie in the 3rd round as this is one of the deepest CB classes I’ve ever graded and you can’t ever have too many cornerbacks. Also I think this year is an important draft as next year Spencer and Jenkins are free agents. I really want to see the Cowboys address one of these two positions as both players are overpaid underachievers who could be upgraded. I would prefer to replace both and adding a stud CB at #14 and a stud pass rusher with the team’s 1st round pick next year would accomplish that but I also understand that this team might not be deep enough to allow back to back 1st rounders to be used on upgrading positions that aren’t great but are at least solidly manned. At center and free safety the Cowboys have a glaring lack of talent that might force them to use an early pick to solidify that position and cost them the chance to replace Spencer, Jenkins, or both. The worst scenario would be going into next offseason at the mercy of both Jenkins and Spencer’s agents as both players are average starters but at premium value positions and could command relatively big contracts on the open market. It’s important the Cowboys set themselves up with options for next offseason and finding a pass rusher and cornerback for the future while filling immediate holes like safety and center will be the goal of the 2012 NFL Draft.

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