Cowboys need walk-in starter in first round of NFL Draft

04/24/2013 11:54 PM

06/08/2013 11:54 PM

This is it for the Dallas Cowboys.

Draft Day is finally here, and if the Cowboys hope to make significant upgrades in personnel heading into the 2013 season, they must come through now. They had virtually no salary cap space and thus little ability to improve the team in free agency.

The Cowboys have six tickets in the 2013 Draft, starting with the 18th overall pick in Thursday’s first round. The second and third rounds are set for Friday with the final four rounds on Saturday.

After finishing 8-8 the past two years and missing the playoffs in each of the past three years, coach Jason Garrett seemingly faces a make-the-playoffs-or-bust mantra in 2013. His job may be on the line, and the Cowboys have needs all around — but namely at safety, the offensive line, the defensive line, running back, tight end and linebacker.

There is also a chance they could draft a quarterback for the future before the weekend is up. But after signing starter Tony Romo to a six-year, $108 million contract extension late last month, that is way down on the list of priorities.

The question is what the Cowboys plan to do with the 18th overall pick. They have gotten starters in the first round in each of the past three drafts: receiver Dez Bryant (2010), tackle Tyron Smith (2011) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (2012).

The Cowboys need a walk-in starter in 2013.

With the 18th pick, however, the Cowboys can’t target a specific player and are at the mercy of the teams drafting in front of them.

In terms of a wish list, standout guards Chance Warmack of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina would be no-brainer selections if they fell to the 18th pick.

The Cowboys must improve the offensive line and put some real insurance behind the long-term investment they made in Romo.

Outside of those two guards, look for Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro and Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to be the other prime choices for the No. 18 pick, in that other order. Other possible picks for the Cowboys — if they stand pat at 18 and none of the above mentioned players are available — are Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker and North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.

If the Cowboys go with a guard in the first round they could satisfy their need for a safety in the second round with LSU’s Eric Reid.

Because the draft doesn’t have 20 bona fide first-round picks but is deep with quality second- and third-round picks, the Cowboys will be in the market to trade down if their top four options of Warmack, Cooper, Vaccaro or Richardson are not available. With only six picks, they are unlikely to move up in a trade and give up a selection.

The 18th pick is worth 900 points in the NFL Draft Trade Chart, meaning the Cowboys could net an extra second- and third-round pick by trading down.

Although the biggest needs are at offensive guard, safety, defensive tackle, running back and a blocking tight end are seen as Cowboys must-gets in this year’s draft.

The Cowboys still like DeMarco Murray’s potential to be quality running back for years to come, but his injury history demands that they find another running back to help carry the load, as well as be a starter if Murray is unavailable. Murray missed nine games the past two years combined.

The Cowboys would love to get their hands on Le’Veon Bell from Michigan State, but he likely will be gone when they start to focus on a runner. Look for Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle to be a fall-back option in the fourth or fifth round.

And while the Cowboys are quite happy with Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, part of the problem with the running game is the lack of a true blocking tight end to help set the edge. Two names to watch in the late rounds are Rutgers’ D.C. Jefferson and Michigan State’s Dion Sims.

Cowboys’ picks

Round 1 18th selection 18th overall
Round 2 15th selection 47th overall
Round 3 18th selection 80th overall
Round 4 17th selection 114th overall
Round 5 18th selection 151st overall
Round 6 17th selection 185th overall
Round 7 None* 224th overall

*Traded to Miami for Ryan Cook (224th overall pick)

Draft base

Thirty-five players currently on the Cowboys roster entered the league through the NFL Draft. Of those, 22 were drafted by Dallas.

A round-by-round breakdown of where in the draft they were selected:

Round 1 (6): DeMarcus Ware (2005), Ernie Sims (2006, Detroit), Anthony Spencer (2007), Dez Bryant (2010), Tyron Smith (2011), Morris Claiborne (2012).

Round 2 (5): Ryan Cook (2006, Minnnesota), Justin Durant (2007, Jacksonville), Brian Price (2010, Tampa Bay), Sean Lee (2010), Bruce Carter (2011).

Round 3 (4): Jason Witten (2003), Jason Hatcher (2006), DeMarco Murray (2011), Tyrone Crawford (2012).

Round 4 (6): Will Allen (2004, Tampa Bay), Kyle Orton (2005, Chicago), Doug Free (2007), David Arkin (2011), Kyle Wilber (2012), Matt Johnson (2012).

Round 5 (4): Brandon Carr (2008, Kansas City), Orlando Scandrick (2008), Cameron Sheffield (2010, Kansas City), Danny Coale (2012).

Round 6 (6): Lawrence Vickers (2006, Cleveland), Nick Hayden (2008, Carolina), Brandon Underwood (2009, Green Bay), Carlton Mitchell (2010, Cleveland), Dwayne Harris

(2011), James Hanna (2012).

Round 7 (4): Jay Ratliff (2005), Mackenzy Bernadeau (2008, Carolina), Sean Lissemore (2010), Caleb McSurdy (2012).

Source: Dallas Cowboys

Historical reference

The Dallas Cowboys have used more first-round picks on defensive linemen than any other position: Here’s a look at the breakdown:

Defensive line=15

Running back=8

Defensive back=7

Wide receiver=5

Linebacker=5

Offensive line=4

Quarterback=2

Tight end=2

Kicker=0

Punter=-0

Source: Dallas Cowboys

Trader Jerry

The Cowboys have made 59 draft-day trades dating to February 1989, when owner Jerry Jones bought the team. In the 24 drafts since, Dallas has taken part in a trade that included its first-round pick every year except six — 1989, 1998, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2011. Of the 213 players selected by the Cowboys starting in 1989, 95 were chosen with picks obtained in trades.

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