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2013 Cowboys draft needs: Line woes loom large

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LAST SEASON Rush Offense - 79.1 ypg (31st)
Pass Offense - 295.6 ypg (3rd)
Total Offense - 374.6 ypg (6th)
Scoring Offense - 23.5 ppg (15th)
Rush Defense - 125.2 ypg (22nd)
Pass Defense - 230.3 ypg (19th)
Total Defense - 355.4 ypg (19th)
Scoring Defense - 25.0 ppg (24th)
MOST PRESSING NEEDS Offense: Offensive line and offensive line
Defense: Keeping everyone healthy, defensive line and safety

QUARTERBACK The Draft Board

6th round Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah (6-4, 237)
Marqueis Gray, Minnesota (6-3, 240)

As long as Jerry Jones is calling the shots and Jason Garrett remains the head coach, Tony Romo will be entrenched as the starter in Dallas. As polarizing as Romo is, he's not this team's main issue, not to mention the fact that there are 20 other teams that would take him right now as their signal-caller. Kyle Orton is under contract as his backup, so the need just isn't there to draft a quarterback any sooner than the sixth round.

Neither will be starters within the next couple of years, but Brad Sorensen has a strong arm and a gunslinger's mentality. Marqueis Gray's future may ultimately be at wide receiver or even at running back, but he's a tremendous athlete who could eventually impact an offense.

RUNNING BACK The Draft Board

2nd round Eddie Lacy, Alabama (5-11, 231)
Joe Randle, Oklahoma St. (6-0, 204) 3rd round Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (5-10, 205)
Giovani Bernard, UNC (5-8, 202) 4th round Mike Gillislee, Florida (5-11, 208) 5th round Michael Ford, LSU (5-9, 210) 6th round Knile Davis, Arkansas (5-10, 227)

DeMarco Murray has the potential to be a consistent threat in this offense, but he needs to stay healthy. He's the unquestioned starter but the Cowboys need to find him some company this offseason. Felix Jones is an unrestricted free agent who has probably played his last game as a Cowboy. Expect the Cowboys to add exceptional value from this deep class of running backs in Rounds 2, 3 or 4.

One thing that could help out the Cowboys offensive line is a guy who can create his own space with power. That's Eddie Lacy.  He's pure power, but runs with patience and has more burst and quicker feet than a 231-pound back should have. Joe Randle didn't impress with his speed at the combine, but he rarely gets caught from behind and he's got the complete package for a running back.

WIDE RECEIVER The Draft Board

5th round Ace Sanders, South Carolina (5-7, 173)
Denard Robinson, Michigan (5-11, 199) 6th round T.J. Moe, Missouri (6-0, 204)

Led by star Dez Bryant, this group of receivers is as mercurial as it gets. Bryant finally flashed the talent that many raved about going back to his days at Lufkin High School, finishing the year with 92 receptions, 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns – the best year of his career by far. Bryant can go off the deep end at any point, but he seems to have his act together for the time being. Last week, Miles Austin restructured his deal, keeping him around for another season. The only minor question is whether unrestricted free agent Kevin Ogletree returns. The Cowboys may only look at specialized slot receivers to bolster the receiving corps.

Ace Sanders is quick as a hiccup in space and could complement the offense well. Denard Robinson has the ability to play slot receiver or even running back in a complementary role. T.J. Moe didn't have a great season last year, but he has solid slot receiver instincts with excellent hands.

TIGHT END The Draft Board

4th round Dion Sims, Michigan St. (6-5, 262) 5th round Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6, 269) 6th round Michael Williams, Alabama (6-6, 269)
Justice Cunningham, S. Carolina (6-3, 258)

Jason Witten gets older and better at the same time. Following Austin's lead, Witten reworked his deal to remain a Cowboy in 2013, but his backup John Phillips is an unrestricted free agent.  As such, the Cowboys should target a tight end on Day 3 of the draft. Considering Witten's pass-catching prowess, the Cowboys should investigate tight ends that can be better in-line blockers to assist the offensive line.

Dion Sims needs work on his blocking skills, but he's an old-school, hand-in-the-dirt tight end who played in a power offense at Michigan State. Nick Kasa is a former defensive end who loves being physical, but he needs work on his feet and technique. That said, he has excellent speed and could be a weapon down the seam against linebackers and safeties. Michael Williams is perhaps the best blocker of this tight end class and will find his way on to an NFL roster for that particular reason.

OFFENSIVE LINE The Draft Board

1st round G Chance Warmack, Alabama (6-2, 317)
G Jonathan Cooper, UNC (6-2, 311)
RT D.J Fluker, Alabama (6-5, 339) 2nd round T/G Kyle Long, Oregon (6-6, 313)
T Terron Armstead, Ark.-Pine Bluff (6-5, 306)
RT Oday Aboushi, Virginia (6-5, 308)
G Larry Warford, Kentucky (6-3, 332) 3rd round G/T Justin Pugh, Syracuse (6-5, 307) 4th round G Garrett Gilkey, Chadron St. (6-6, 318) 6th round G Eric Herman, Ohio (6-4, 320)
G Jeff Baca, UCLA (6-3, 302)

If Tyron Smith weren't at left tackle, it's possible that the Cowboys could blow up the entire offensive line and start completely over. If the Dallas offensive line was a hand in poker, you'd throw back the other four cards and keep the ace. The saddest part is that the Cowboys have tried for years to get away with five bodies that are just good enough to keep Romo upright. They've drafted just two linemen over the past four years who are still on the roster. The Cowboys may have to rethink that philosophy by drafting a pair of linemen in this draft and perhaps adding another in free agency.

Chance Warmack may have scared a few teams at the combine with a below average physical performance, but don't misunderstand; this is one of the best run-blocking interior linemen we've seen in quite some time. That said, David DeCastro was nearly dominant last year and lasted all the way until pick No. 24. Jonathan Cooper is a bit better athlete and can fit into a zone blocking scheme or a power blocking scheme equally well. Also, keep an eye on Terron Armstead, unquestionably the most athletic offensive lineman in this class.

DEFENSIVE LINE The Draft Board

1st round DT Star Lotulelei, Utah (6-3, 311)
DE Bjoen Werner, Florida St. (6-3, 266)
DT Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-3, 323) 2nd round DE Margus Hunt, SMU (6-8, 277)
DE Sam Montgomery, LSU (6-3, 262) 4th round DE Lavar Edwards, LSU (6-4, 277) 5th round DT Everett Dawkins, Florida St. (6-2, 292) 6th round DT Chris Jones, Bowling Green (6-2, 302)
DT Josh Boyd, Mississippi St. (6-3, 310)

The Cowboys will convert to a 4-3 defense under new coordinator Monte Kiffin, but expect them to mix odd and even fronts in his scheme. DE DeMarcus Ware restructured his contract to open some room under the salary cap and will return. He fits in any scheme the Cowboys run, whether he has to play with his hand up or down. Anthony Spencer will probably depart, so the end spot opposite Ware needs to be filled. If Spencer does return, defensive end priority will fall down the board.  Inside, Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff have a ton of experience, but little depth behind them.  The focus during the draft has to be to add explosive interior players and complete, all-around players on the edge.

The offensive line is more of a priority in the first round, but if Warmack and Cooper are off the board, it probably means that one of the three options listed above could be available at No. 18. Star Lotulelei didn't work out at the Combine due to a heart issue, but he should rebound in fine shape.  The question for the former Utah star is whether he's able to be a consistent dominant force or if he'll disappear for long stretches at a time. He's strong with his hands at the point of attack and could be the linchpin for this Kiffin-led defense for a while.

LINEBACKER The Draft Board

6th round ILB Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech (6-1, 234)
ILB Vince Williams, Florida St. (6-1, 247)
ILB Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers (6-1, 240)
ILB/OLB Michael Mauti, Penn St. (6-2, 243)

The only two questions with Dallas' linebackers are health and depth, which go hand in hand. Sean Lee was having a Pro Bowl year and then was lost for 10 games. Bruce Carter stepped up after Lee went down and had a pair of double-digit tackle games before missing the last five games of the year with an injury. Behind those two, and anticipated starting SLB Dan Connor, there is little depth, so expect the Cowboys to investigate versatile linebackers late on Day 3.

Bruce Taylor is a thumper, although he gets overaggressive at times. Vince Williams underachieved at Florida State, but is worth the value in the sixth round, especially if he's able to contribute on special teams. Steve Beuharnais was overshadowed by teammate Khaseem Greene, but is a solid all-around player who should fit this defense well.  

SECONDARY The Draft Board

3rd round S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (6-1, 211)
S T.J. McDonald, USC (6-3, 219) 4th round CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (5-9, 178), S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse (5-9, 213) 6th round S Cody Davis, Texas Tech (6-2, 204)

After signing CB Brandon Carr as a free agent last year and drafting Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys seemed to solve any cornerback issues for the foreseeable future. But Claiborne underwhelmed as a rookie and Carr had an average season with only three interceptions. Still, the Cowboys made their bed with these two and we'll see this pairing for years. At safety, Barry Church returns after a season-ending injury, but there's no telling what he's got left in the tank. If the Cowboys examine secondary options in the draft, they'll look long and hard at playmaking defensive backs or safeties. The Cowboys picked off only seven passes last year, so any additions must have playmaking skills.

Bacarri Rambo's off-the-field issues are well documented, but he's perhaps the best physical, playmaking combo safety in this class. T.J. McDonald played for Kiffin the last three years at USC, but the son of former 49er Tim McDonald had a less than average senior campaign. Tyrann Mathieu is an all-day playmaker, but his-drug related issues will keep him off some teams' draft boards. Jerry Jones is not scared to take a risk, though, so the former LSU star could land in Dallas.

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