Cowboys on the Clock
Dallas sat out the first round of the 2019 draft due to their trade for Amari Cooper which the Raiders used to pluck Mississippi State safety Jonathan Abram at No. 27 overall. As an aside, Abram suffered a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his professional debut against the Broncos and landed on the IR for the remainder of the season.
But the Cowboys are back in the game and now the debate rages in the Lone Star State as to which player best fits their needs. It was a disappointing 2019 that saw Dallas bow to the Eagles in the penultimate game of the season where they lost control of the division and ended with a .500 record and a ticket out of the playoffs. The bettors can get Dallas at +600 to win the NFC and +2000 to win the Super Bowl on 5dimes for next season.
Yet, hope springs eternal in April when free agency is in full swing and the draft begins. To that end, it’s our annual right as Cowboys’ fans to debate which top-tier talents should be welcomed into the lovin’ arms of the Dallas organization. Let’s take a look at a few of the oft mentioned names that are rumored to be the apple of Jerry Jones’ eye and a weapon that can be fully utilized by new head coach, Mike McCarthy. Barring a trade, let’s meet the candidates at No. 17 in the opening round of the 2020 NFL draft.
A.J. Epenesa – DE (Iowa) – Despite a bounce-back season by defensive end Robert Quinn, in which he registered double-digit sacks (11 ½) for the first time since 2014, he is expected to get a big paycheck as a free agent and Dallas may not care to match. If Quinn does walk away, then the prospects of calling A.J. Epenesa’s name get greatly enhanced.
Hawkeyes’ longtime head coach, Kirk Ferentz, had this to say about his departing junior defensive lineman, “He has things you can’t teach. I’m not saying he’s (former Iowa product and long-time NFL player) Adrian Clayborn, but he’s like Adrian. He’s really explosive through his lower body and he can use his hands and keep moving. He’s not mechanical.”
C.J. Henderson – CB (Florida) – The Cowboys have voids to fill in their secondary and will need to improve with an injection of young talent. Many of the draftniks and pundits are betting that Dallas selects either Henderson at cornerback or Alabama’s Xavier McKinney at safety while some are opining for LSU’s Grant Delpit in place of the latter.
Veteran draft guru, Mel Kiper, stated the following about Florida’s star corner C.J. Henderson, “Dallas likely has budgeted to pay up for [Dak] Prescott and [Amari] Cooper (it gave up its 2019 first-rounder for him), but [Byron] Jones could be the odd man out on a team that is already paying top dollar at several positions. That means the Cowboys will need a cheap option as a replacement corner. With smooth hips and great recovery speed, Henderson is a natural cover corner with a 6-1 frame.”
Xavier McKinney – S (Alabama) – Expressing many of the same thoughts as ESPN colleague Mel Kiper, Todd McShay felt Dallas’s need at safety was a bit more pressing than corner and offered the following regarding McKinney, “Jerry Jones has quite an offseason ahead of him. Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Robert Quinn and Byron Jones headline a talented — and expensive — list of players headed toward free agency. If cornerback Jones is one of the odd men out, a secondary that mostly held passing offenses at bay but struggled to produce takeaways gets weaker. And the Cowboys have needed a safety since the days when Roy Williams and Darren Woodson roamed the defensive backfield. McKinney has some range as a deep safety — he pulled in three interceptions on the back end for Bama last season.”
Grant Delpit – S (LSU) – A bit of a longshot at No. 17, Delpit benefitted from ending his collegiate career as a national champion after LSU defeated Clemson in the title tilt. However, Dane Brugler, National NFL writer for The Athletic, believes the Boys can trade down a few notches, swapping the 17th pick for the Saints’ 24th along with a third-round pick this year and next, plus a fourth-rounder in 2021, while still landing one of the top safeties in the draft. Brugler explains, “In this scenario, the Cowboys trade back seven spots, add three draft picks and draft a player they likely would have considered at No. 17 overall. Delpit is far from a perfect prospect, but his coverage awareness and speed allow him to make plays sideline to sideline.”