Capitalizing on this year’s draft is an absolute must for the Dallas Cowboys.
They do not have as much leeway for error and can not afford to squander this prime opportunity to retool their roster.
They have 10 selections this year, four of which come within the first 100 picks.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) April 27, 2021
Also, many of their weaknesses align perfectly with the strengths of this draft.
Should they push the right buttons, they can vault themselves back to the top of a wide-open NFC East.
Here are two moves that the Cowboys need to make during the draft this Thursday.
1. Take An Elite Cornerback
Perhaps the biggest issue for the Cowboys last season was their woeful defense.
They gave up 29.6 points per game and allowed opponents to score 30 or more points eight times.
Dallas was particularly inept against the run, allowing 2,541 yards and 5.0 yards per attempt on the ground.
That was the second-worst and third-worst marks in the league, respectively.
New Cowboys DT Brent Urban had a 79.7 run defense @PFF grade in 2018 and 83.7 grade in 2020. Latter was third-highest run defense grade among all NFL interior linemen.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) March 18, 2021
This leaves the pass defense to address.
The @dallascowboys will be looking to turnover their secondary in 2021
S Xavier Woods (89.35% of 2020 snaps), CB Chidobe Awuzie (40.79%) & CB Daryl Worley (23.56%) won’t be returning
They are in a prime position to take the first CB off the board in the draft
— Mike Tannenbaum (@RealTannenbaum) April 21, 2021
Statistically, they were not as bad against the pass as they were against the run.
However, they gave up 34 passing touchdowns, tied for third-most in the league.
They also registered just 10 interceptions and defended 46 passes, both amongst the worst marks in the league.
Dallas did spend a second-round pick on Trevon Diggs last year, but he struggled with consistency in his rookie campaign.
While he still profiles as a solid corner, the Cowboys have the chance to take an alpha corner with their first pick of the draft.
At least one or two of Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, or Caleb Farley should be available at No. 10.
If the Cowboys pass up on any of these corners, it would be a mistake they would come to regret for years to come.
2. Upgrade The Offensive Line
The offensive line was absolutely gutted last season and also needs to be a priority in this draft.
Longtime anchor Travis Frederick retired in the offseason, leaving a gaping hole at center.
Right tackle La’el Collins never played a single snap after dealing with a lingering hip issue that required surgery.
Another stalwart in the trenches, left tackle Tyron Smith, needed season-ending surgery on his neck after just two games.
To add insult to injury, right guard Zack Martin‘s season ended prematurely after he hurt his calf muscle during their Week 11 game.
While Collins has yet to earn any individual accolades, that was still a combined 18 Pro Bowl appearances and seven first-team All-Pros the offensive line was missing between Frederick, Smith, and Martin.
These injuries reduced the team’s identity to shambles, and the offense continually sputtered as a result.
Ezekiel Elliot’s numbers suffered the most, as he rushed for the fewest yards per game and yards per carry in his career.
To ensure that they never endure a fiasco quite like last season, Dallas needs to infuse this group with young talent.
Granted, the Cowboy’s brass is confident that their offensive lineman will be ready for the new season.
Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones said on @1053thefan he believes LT Tyron Smith (neck), RT La’el Collins (hip) and RG Zack Martin (calf) will be “as good as we’ve seen them in a long time. They’re healthy. They’re over their injuries.”
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) April 23, 2021
However, they shouldn’t take their health for granted.
Martin and Smith are still capable of elite blocking but are both over 30 years old.
Durability has to be a concern, and Dallas probably doesn’t want a recovering Dak Prescott to be playing behind a bunch of backups.
Luckily for them, the draft is stocked with talented interior lineman.
If someone like Creed Humphrey or Wyatt Davis tumbles in the draft, the Cowboys should jump on the opportunity and re-establish their offensive line as one of the best in the league.