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Cowboys Need What Position Most in Draft?

Dallas Defense

The NFL draft is less than two weeks away and the Dallas Cowboys will be on the board with the 28th pick. Whether the team moves the pick or selects at that spot is anyone’s guess, but they will likely be taking a defensive player with their first selection.

Who the team takes with that pick is up for debate and there are a few schools of thought with Dallas. Some people believe they are just one defensive piece away from the Super Bowl because Jaylon Smith will be back and ready to play.

Others see the glass as half empty, Smith won’t be ready to go and the Cowboys need to add a few good defensive pieces in the draft to have a team worthy of a Super Bowl run.

Regardless of which side you’re on, there is an even bigger debate raging with the Cowboys. Which position is more important for the team to draft first, cornerback or edge pass rusher?

First things first, the defense needs help at both spots. They are also two of the premium spots, not only for a defense, but for an overall organization, that determine whether a team wins or loses. Quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher and cornerbacks are routinely the biggest difference makers on a roster.

So which is more important for the Cowboys to place a priority on in the draft? There are cases to be made for each position.

The biggest need for the team appears to be at defensive end. Rod Marinelli has done some great work with this unit since he’s taken over as defensive coordinator, but his scheme works best with a dominant pass rusher. Dallas lacks a premier edge player, but they have a nice rotation of young players. Benson Mayowa, David Irving, and DeMarcus Lawrence are part of a healthy rotation, but the defense also has Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford and Charles Tapper, who they are very high on, to help get after the quarterback. Irving might be on the verge of stardom if he puts it all together in his third year. If Randy Gregory stays clean (for the future) and Jaylon Smith can rush the passer like Jerry Jones thinks he can, the team isn’t as desperate as many think to draft a pass rusher.

Then there’s the cornerback position, where the team might have a bigger issue. Orlando Scandrick can still play, but he’s getting older and remains the top player at the position for Dallas. The Cowboys also have second-year corner Anthony Brown and veteran Nolan Carroll to fill out the top three spots. Brown had a nice rookie year and should be able to build on it and Carroll fits the system, but the group needs help.

Luckily for the Cowboys, both positions have good depth in the draft. The NFC East has good quarterbacks and very good receivers, so disrupting the passing game is of the utmost importance. No position affects the quarterback more than an elite pass rusher, but at 28, can the Cowboys draft a premiere guy? It looks more likely that the team can pick a better cornerback at that spot and find the same kind of edge player later in the draft.

It’s all up for debate and the Cowboys will need to make their decision next Thursday (or Friday if they trade back), but corner looks like where they need the most help. It’s probably also the place where they can get the better player at pick 28. However, it’s hard to resist the temptation to draft an edge rusher when it’s what the defense is built around and winning games is predicated on disrupting the quarterback.

The Dallas Cowboys can’t go wrong by drafting either position; hopefully they select a player who plays up to his draft status. We’ll find out soon enough.

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Ben Grimaldi

Ben Grimaldi

Senior Analyst at SportsTalkLine
Writer for ProFootBallTalkLine.Com. Associate sports producer. Lets talk sports! On Twitter @BenGrimaldi and Podcasting for STL!
Ben Grimaldi

  • Jon B

    Carr Claiborne and Church. Played a lot of snaps last year. Listening to church in an interview they jelled knew their system and trusted each other. That came from playing together for 4 years. That is all gone. Jones Scandrick and brown will need new CB and S help. As poor as the Dallas rush was the secondary was pretty solid last season. This is a major concern.

    Of course a pass rusher would help this as well.

  • jrcowboy49

    I am not high on Jaylon Smith being a contributor in 2017.The SS, CB, DT 1 tech, and MLB are concerns that need to be addressed. Obi Melifonwu (can play SS, FS, and CB) and Kevin King CB should be strong considerations in the 1st round.

  • McShrek

    One would think that they have more pieces on the d-line, Irving/Crawford being able to pay both tackle and DE…….corners are the immediate need due the losses via FA………but a Von Miller-type would be very nice…………IMO the o-line seems set with the signing of both Bell and Cooper, along with Cleary, Green and Looney…….no need to go there in the draft unless a huge BPA drops to them……….young RB, speedy WR, and possibly a QB might be targets………but 5/6 should address the defense.

  • Taylor

    A stout DT would fit as well. A strong interior push would help the edge guys. We need playmakers (playbreakers?) on defense, I prefer them to be in the middle of the field rather than the perimeter, but we need those guys.

    • Michael

      It would be hard for me to agree more. All the attention goes to the edge but quickness in the middle is the surest way to shutdown an offense. I like Caleb Brantley at 28 for exactly this reason. Though I think Steve is right and the Cowboys are ready to go forward with Crawford at the 3T.

      Playbreaker is a great coinage.

      • Taylor

        I just haven’t seen Crawford be the guy. Overpaid, under performing for the role he plays. I would be fine with Brantley, let Collins be the three, maybe somebody will have an injury in TC and we can move on from TCraw. Paea should be a rock against the run, but not much push, Thornton has been disappointing.

        • McShrek

          Have to agree, Ty Crawford has underperformed his contract extension

      • Daniel Bollman

        Doubt Crawford plays 3T anymore, he and Lawrence are at LDE with Mayowa, Tapper and a rookie at RDE. Thornton and Paea at 1T with Collins and Irving at 3T. That’s nine right there, so excluding injury, there’s only room for one more. I still say, that for this defense to get to the elite level, they must get an outside speed rusher that OC’s have to game plan for. If not in the draft, then a veteran FA next year after Romo’s money comes off the books.

        • Michael

          I am of the opinion that you cannot have too many quality linemen on either side of the ball. I hope they draft one high and bring in the Sparq-iest FAs to compete.

          In general I think the distinction between weakside and strongside DEs is not as strong as it once was just as the distinction between right and left Tackles is not as strong as it once was. The way to win now is to have versatile defensive linemen that can move around to create matchup problems for various offensive linemen on passing downs. The speed rusher against the LT is an artifact of the past in many ways. If you are committed to 4 down linemen on the LOS, what you want on the edge are guys (like Irving) with length and long arms who can affect passing lanes and get their hands on Tackles. No surprise but I like Taco Charlton as a DE at 28.

          But what I really want is a stronger DT rotation. Everything flows outward from there.

          • McShrek

            That is the Parcells’ Manifesto………..control both lines and you win much more, than not; Jimmy was on board with that, that d-line rotation of the 90s was savage……..Maryland, Casillas, Hennings, Lett, Jones, Haley, Jeffcoat, Tolbert was all about pressure all the time; do any of the current guys earn a roster spot back on those teams?
            Collins maybe?

          • Daniel Bollman

            Jimmy was a 1 gap guy, Parcells was a two gap guy.
            Totally different players needed and totally different scheme although you are right, they both controlled the LOS but in different ways. Speed and quickness versus power and strength. It’s why I keep saying, they need a Haley type to make the rest of these guys into Maryland, Hennings, Lett, Jones Jeffcoat and Tolbert. Since 1960, they have only been able to draft three, George Andrie, Harvey Martin and D. Ware. Maybe they are due this year for the same kind of luck that got them Dak.

          • McShrek

            Drafting is a combination of art, skill and luck…………..where they really got lucky was with drafting Zeke, they were salivating at drafting Rosa, but then the Chargers spolied that, and they “settled” for Elliot…………agree they need the 2017 version of Haley so offenses have to double team someone and allowing the others to go one on one

          • Daniel Bollman


          • Daniel Bollman

            Charlton is an Ohio kid, watched him play at Paul Brown stadium in HS, doubt he gets by Cincy at 9, he’s perfect in their 4-3. Plus he doesn’t play hard all the time, and the Bengals always think they can fix those guys. I think he’s also perfect for Detroit across from Ziggy. Will be long gone by 28. Harris, Watt or McKinley, one of those three or it’s a corner. I’m still pissed at R. Gregory for messing this up, he was the key piece to this puzzle and might have been a superstar going into his third year

          • Michael

            Good point about the secondary. The Cowboys need to replace an absurd number of snaps in the secondary this season.

  • Daniel Bollman

    If there is an edge rusher they have rated higher than Tapper was last year, take him at 28. If not , go with the CB that best fits their defense. Better to gamble with a 2nd or 3rd rounder on DE, have to have as sure as possible hit with the 1st rounder.