Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft preview: Biggest needs, best fit, other names to know

VP Stephen Jones says Cowboys will watch Amari Cooper highlights during first round of NFL Draft

When asked what the Dallas Cowboys would be doing during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, team VP Stephen Jones said they would be watching highlights of wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Up Next
When asked what the Dallas Cowboys would be doing during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, team VP Stephen Jones said they would be watching highlights of wide receiver Amari Cooper.

The Cowboys did yeoman’s work in free agency to improve their roster from the end of the season so they could take the best player available in the 2019 NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday.

The return of tight end Jason Witten out of retirement, the trade for defensive end Robert Quinn and the free agent additions of receiver Randal Cobb, defensive linemen Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder, and safety George Iloka has given Dallas legitimate options and answers at trouble spots so they can draft as purely as possible.

Forcing a pick to fill a need leads to mistakes, which explains the regrettable decision to take defensive end Taco Charlton in the first round in 2017.

You don’t want to force a need but you also should draft with the makeup of your roster in mind.

The beauty of free agency for the Cowboys is they don’t have to have a particular position, but because most of the signees are on one-year deals they won’t be prohibited from taking a player at those spots in their mission to build for the future.

Here are their top five needs heading into the draft:

1. Safety: That the Cowboys brought in six safeties for pre-draft visits tells you they are targeting that position at the top of the draft. The Cowboys like Xavier Woods at free safety and would prefer a strong safety. Mostly, they are looking for a playmaker at the position who can generate turnovers with forced fumbles and plays on the ball.

2. Defensive line: The Cowboys signed Covington and Hyder and traded for Quinn. All are on one-year deals. The team will most certainly take a defensive tackle in the draft and have high interest in Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylen Ferguson.

3. Running back: Ezekiel Elliott is the starter and workhouse out of the backfield. But the Cowboys are looking for a primary backup and someone who could take over it Elliott is unavailable. They have shown no interest in bringing back Rod Smith. The Cowboys will take a running back at some point after Round 2.

4. Receiver: The Cowboys signed Randal Cobb to replace Cole Beasley but he is only on a one-year deal, as is Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns. Dallas need to shore up the position for the future with the ability to play the slot and contribute on returns.

5. Cornerback: You can never have too many cornerbacks in today’s NFL. And the Cowboys’ embarrassment of riches at cornerback is about the run out with Byron Jones and Anthony Brown in the final year of their contracts and Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis signed for just two more seasons.


Washington Safety Taylor Rapp

If the Cowboys had their choice, they would probably hope that Washington safety Taylor Rapp is on the board when it’s their turn to pick at 58th overall. He is a true strong safety and would fit well with Xavier Woods at free safety. Of course, the Cowboys are targeting a number of safeties in the draft and would be happy with Mississippi State’s Jonathan Abram or Virginia’s Juan Thornhill.

5-Year Cowboys Draft Breakdown

The foundation of the Cowboys success has been built through the draft.

Six Pro Bowlers have been drafted over the last five years, including 13 starters during that time.

Clearly, the 2016 Draft leads the way with four starters, led by Elliott, quarterback Dak Prescott, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Jaylon Smith. Guard Zack Martin, the top pick in 2014, might be the best at what he does on the roster.

That draft also netted defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round. And he just signed the richest contract in franchise history, at least until Prescott gets his extension.

The Cowboys have had a few misses. Guard Chaz Green, picked in the third round in 2015, is the biggest disappointment so far. But Charlton, a forced first-round pick in 2017, is arguably the biggest mistake. Heading into his third year, he seemingly has no future as a Cowboys starter.

Best pick

QB Dak Prescott, 2016, fourth round: What else can be said about a pick that was the second one in the fourth round after defensive end Charles Tapper and has now turned into the franchise quarterback?

Worst pick

DE Taco Charlton, 2017, first round: The jury is still out on Charlton. But this 1st-round pick is heading into a make-or-break season. He has yet to become a starter and has seemingly no prospects of becoming one in Dallas.

Total picks20142015201620172018
On other teams23020
Out of the league53121
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.