Sep 7, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; South Florida Bulls defensive lineman Aaron Lynch (19) warms up prior to a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL season is already halfway over which means we are officially eight weeks closer to the NFL Draft. This is the first article in a series that will take a look at each team and what is most likely their draft needs as of now. First up will be the Dallas Cowboys. This team has been hit hard with the injury bug for the second straight season, only this time it is with the defensive line and offensive guard with Brian Waters being the latest victim. DeMarco Murray and Miles Austin have made their annual visits to the injury report along with three of the four starting defensive linemen.
As stated above the defensive line has been hit with the injury bug. DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff (now a free agent and Anthony Spencer have all been on the injury list for the Dallas Cowboys this season. Ware’s injury is minor compared to the others, Ratliff’s and Spencer’s injuries cost them their seasons. This season Rod Marinelli has been throwing out a defensive line group being called “Jason Hatcher and the No Names”. While they have been performing okay, could you imagine if they had one or two players to assist Hatcher?
That is where the number one priority should be going into the draft. Round one should be a defensive linemen and I could see a player like Aaron Lynch of South Florida as a replacement for Anthony Spencer next season. Spencer has been the recipient of the franchise tag for the last two seasons and will command a long term deal and a huge sum of money to remain a Cowboy. Next season Dallas is going to be $30 million over the cap and they will need to cut somewhere and I think defensive end is where they will start.
This season the defensive tackle position should have been a strong position for this team. Ratliff and Hatcher were poised to dominate the middle and allow their linebackers to make plays. Unfortunately Ratliff came into camp out of shape and nursing another injury. He was recently released and Nick Hayden has been performing well. Even with the recent acquisition of former second round draft pick Marvin Austin, this is still a need position.
Minnesota’s RaShede Hageman, Louisiana State’s Anthony Johnson or Arizona State’s Will Sutton immediately come to mind as early round targets. The combination of Lynch and one of these tackles would give this defense an immediate shot in the arm. The cornerback trio is a good group but without an improved pass rush, they will continue to get torched.
Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back HaHa Clinton-Dix (6) during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium. Alabama won 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Even though the Cowboys drafted a safety in last year’s draft they can’t overlook this position in the upcoming draft. When starting safetys Barry Church or J.J. Wilcox get injured, who does Monte Kiffin turn to? Currently he has no choice but to turn to undrafted free agent Jeff Heath and special teams contributor Danny McCray. Neither of which could usurp either starter at this point. Even in times of a long-term injury replacement, Kiffin can’t count on either to perform a high enough level to feel comfortable.
Unless the Cowboys have an early enough selection, fans shouldn’t expect a player like Alabama’s HaSean “HaHa” Clinton-Dix. Most likely Clinton-Dix is a top ten to fifteen pick and Dallas most likely have a selection in the twenties. The NFC East is a mess and Dallas has the least problems, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to easily win their division. One mid round safety to keep your eye on is Ohio State’s C.J. Barnett.
Once again Dallas will be heading into the draft trying to find protection help for their franchise quarterback Tony Romo. Last year there were hopes that Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack would have fallen to Dallas at 18, however that just didn’t come to fruition for this team. They were able to grab their center for years to come in Travis Frederick. This time around they should get their man.
Cyril Richardson is an absolute mauler at 6’5″ and 340 pounds. He is the type of player that can knock defenders to the second level and give this team an advantage in the running game. Richardson is most likely a first round type of player and if he is no longer available, Dallas can turn to Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson. With either selection Dallas can’t go wrong and DeMarco Murray will thank Jerry Jones for it.
With four running backs under the age of 26, it shouldn’t be a position to focus on. However, you can’t turn a blind eye if a back is the best player available on the board. Don’t be shocked if they take an offensive tackle or punter in this draft as well. Either way Dallas Cowboys’ fans should be excited about the future of this team as long as Jerry can find the right coach to lead this team moving forward.