COMMENTARY | The Dallas Cowboys are currently in playoff contention during the 2013 season, but they have a few glaring issues as a team that need to be addressed before they can be considered elite in the NFL. The Cowboys need to address these issues in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Dallas still has a very weak running game. The Cowboys rank in the bottom third of all NFL team when it comes to running the football. They struggle to run the ball because their offensive line is mediocre, and they do not have a viable alternative at running back when DeMarco Murray is injured.
Backup running backs Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner have combined to rush for 273 yards on 84 carries. That is an average of 3.3 yards per carry, which is not good enough in the NFL.
The Cowboys are also one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to stopping the run. You cannot win in the NFL if you cannot run the ball or stop the run. The Cowboys cannot currently do either with any kind of consistency.
In order to solve this dilemma, they need to add an offensive lineman, a defensive tackle and a running back to the team in the 2014 draft. There are plenty of prospects available at these positions, but there are three that team owner Jerry Jones and the Cowboys brass should focus on.
OT Taylor Lewan Michigan
The Cowboys need help on the offensive line in a big way. Taylor Lewan is a 6'7", 315-pound left tackle for the Michigan Wolverines. Lewan passed on the 2013 draft and a likely first round selection, to return and play his senior season at Michigan.
Lewan is a dominant left tackle at the collegiate level. The Cowboys already have an excellent left tackle in Tyron Smith, but have a huge hole on the right side where Doug Free is struggling again.
Lewan could step in immediately at right tackle for the Cowboys. He and Smith could give the Cowboys solid protection on the edge for years to come.
Jones invested $108 million in quarterback Tony Romo during the offseason. It is time for Jones to protect his investment by building up the offensive line through the draft. The Cowboys drafted center Travis Frederick in the first round of the 2013 draft.
If they select Lewan in the 2014 draft, then they will have a left tackle, center and right tackle starting for them who are all under the age of 25 years old. You build a championship team by building up the trenches, and that would be a heck of a start.
Lewan is projected to be selected in the first round of the draft, but it is unclear exactly where right now. Some believe he is a top-10 pick while others think he will last longer. The Cowboys exact draft position is unknown right now.
If they win the NFC East then they will likely have to trade up to get in a position to choose Lewan. It would be worth it to solidify the offensive line for the next decade.
DT Will Sutton Arizona State
Will Sutton is the most dominating defensive lineman in college football today. The 6'0", 305-pound defensive tackle has twice been named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.
In 2012 Sutton registered 63 tackles with a mind-boggling 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Opposing offensive schemes focused on him in 2013, but he still managed 44 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Sutton is a disruptive force on defense. You cannot watch an Arizona State game without being impressed with his relentless effort on every play. He is the kind of player that Cowboys' defensive line coach Rob Marinelli would love to coach.
Jason Hatcher is playing in the final year of his contract. He is leading the team in sacks and is having a Pro Bowl-worthy season at defensive tackle. Expect Hatcher to cash in on his tremendous 2013 season and leave the team in free agency.
This will create a hole at defensive tackle that the Cowboys will need to address in the draft. Since Sutton does not have ideal height for an NFL defensive tackle, he will likely slip out of the first round in the draft.
The Cowboys need to select Sutton in the second round of the draft. The possibility exists that a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh who values effort over prototypical size could select Sutton in the first round. If he is available after the Cowboys make their first round pick, then Dallas needs to add him to the team.
RB Andre Williams Boston College
The Cowboys desperately need a running back to run between the tackles and share some of the rushing load with DeMarco Murray. Andre Williams is the best college running back in the nation in 2013, and would be ideal as a change of pace from Murray.
Williams is a 6'0", 227-pound power back whose punishing style would be a nice change of pace from Murray's slashing runs. Murray has missed games in every season since the Cowboys drafted him in 2011.
He has not proven that he can stand up to the pounding of a full 16-game NFL season. Williams could share some of the carries with Murray and alleviate some of the wear and tear on him.
Williams led the nation with 2,102 yards rushing in 2013. He scored 17 touchdowns and averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Boston College literally rode Williams to a 7-5 regular season record and an appearance in the Independence Bowl.
Williams would give the Cowboys the type of powerful presence at running back they have lacked since Marion Barber suited up in a Dallas uniform. The Cowboys passed on the chance to draft Eddie Lacy in the 2013 draft, and should not make the same mistake with Williams.
Since running backs are not deemed as a high-value position in the draft, Williams is not viewed as a first round pick. He should be available when the Cowboys make their selection in the third round.
Williams is the best running back in the nation and the best power-back available in the draft. He is someone the Cowboys should focus on for their pick in the third round.
Michael Taglienti lives in Dallas, and has been covering all levels of football for five years. His articles have been featured on CNN and numerous other websites.
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- Andre Williams
- DeMarco Murray
- Taylor Lewan