Chicken or Egg: Offensive or Defensive Line?

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Any surprise that the 1st-round
pick is the best player on the line?

While we debate whether Dallas should draft an offensive or defensive lineman high, a look at what the final four have done to build their offensive lines:

AFC
New England
LT — Nate Solder, 1st round pick
LG — Logan Mankins, 1st round pick
C – Ryan Wendell, UFA
RG — Dan Connolly, UFA
RT — Sebastian Vollmer, 2nd round pick

Baltimore
LT — Bryant McKinnie — 1st round pick for Minnesota
LG — Kelechi Osemele — 2nd round pick
C — Matt Birk — 6th round pick for Minnesota
RG — Marshall Yanda, 3rd round pick
RT — Michael Oher, 1st round pick

NFC
San Francisco
LT — Joe Staley, 1st round pick
LG — Mike Iupati, 1st round pick
C — Jonathan Goodwin, 5th round pick for Jets
RG — Alex Boone, UFA
RT — Anthony Davis, 1st round pick

Atlanta
LT — Sam Baker, 1st round pick
LG — Justin Blalock, 2nd round pick
C — Todd McClure, 7th round pick
RG — Peter Konz, 2nd round pick
RT — Tyson Clabo, UFA

All of the finalists have invested heavily in their offensive lines.  All of them have had some luck on late-round selections and on un-drafted free agents, but the fact remains that at least three starters on each of these teams were high round picks by the home team.

Compare this to the projected starters on the current Cowboys line:
LT — Tyron Smith, 1st round pick
LG — Nate Livings, UFA
C — Phil Costa, UFA
RG — Mackenzy Bernadeau, 7th round pick
RT — Doug Free, 4th round pick/Jermey Parnell, UFA

Now, compare it to the last above-average Cowboys line, the ’07 edition, which had a strong pedigree:
LT — Flozell Adams, 2nd round pick
LG — Kyle Kosier, 7th round pick for 49ers
C — Andre Gurode, 2nd round pick
RG — Leonard Davis, 1st round pick for Cardinals
RT — Marc Colombo, 1st round pick for Bears

You get what you pay for, and as we well know, the Cowboys have not been willing to pay for top round offensive linemen.   They can convince themselves that they don’t need to do it, and lean on Bill Callahan one more year, but he likely knows what Hudson Houck learned in ’09, ’10 and ’11, once that ’07 bunch got old together.  There’s no substitute for talent.

Sooner or later, you need to stop fooling yourself and make the investment.  It does not have to be in the first round, but it needs to be in the high rounds and in multiples of more than one.