Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential solutions in May's draft.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
No. 1 Team Need: Defensive End
The Cowboys shook up their defensive end depth chart before the draft, releasing DeMarcus Ware to save cap space and signing journeyman Jeremy Mincey, who is currently penciled in as a starter. The Cowboys got positive 2013 contributions from George Selvie, but he should be a role player. Dallas currently possesses the weakest defensive line in the league.
First day option: Dee Ford, Auburn - Ford showcased his burst and flexibility around the corner throughout the season and during the pre-draft process. His bend takes advantage of the extra space he creates, and from all accounts Ford is a gym rat who feverously works to get faster, stronger and more flexible. Do not pigeonhole him as solely a speed rusher, as Ford showcased hand use and countermoves against Texas A&M and Missouri. He is best suited in a rotation early until he learns how to read reach blocks more effectively.
Second day possibility: Scott Crichton, Oregon State - Crichton is a bit of a straight-line player in the mold of Charles Johnson, but don’t take that as a huge negative. He has strong holds to jolt and converts speed to power at a high rate. Add on his motor to chase down plays, and Crichton could generate plenty of buzz in the final few weeks of the process. He knows where and how he wins.
Third day flier: Will Clarke, West Virginia - Clarke has a tremendous frame at 6’6/271 pounds and 34-inch arms, which will come with the upside tag. I liked Clarke’s in-season action more than his all star circuit, the latter of which is less important, and if he learns how to convert a first step burst with powerful hands… watch out.
No. 2 Team Need: Safety
Barry Church and Jeff Heath would be the Cowboys' starting safeties if the season began today. 2013 third-round pick J.J. Wilcox flashed promise as a rookie run defender, but was out of his depth in coverage. Church is a replacement-level player, while Heath is best suited for special teams. Adding at least one starter via May's draft is an absolute must. Two wouldn't hurt. Safeties must have range and be able to play deep in new DC Rod Marinelli's Tampa 2 scheme.
First day option: Calvin Pryor, Louisville - Pryor was asked to play plenty of single high safety very deep in the secondary. This offered plenty of exposures for evaluators, and even though Pryor timed many hits that became highlights, he was late on other targets. We doubt he plays this deep in the NFL, but he offers a bit of versatility. Pryor missed a number of open field tackles, however, this is a trait that has been masked in the NFL for many other prospects turned pros.
Second day possibility: Terrence Brooks, FSU - Watch for Brooks’ name. He is one of the top safeties in this class despite being mentioned in a large clump of late second or early third day players. He offers everything teams want at the position, including frame, speed, anticipation and timing. His man to man skills could use work.
Third day flier: Ed Reynolds, Stanford - Reynolds fits the Cover-2 label. Many of his plays in the deeper portions of the field were as a last line of defense, even outfield type, leading to interceptions on overthrown passes. If he can track the quarterback's eyes and anticipate where they are going with the football based on keys, he can have success.
No. 3 Team Need: Defensive Tackle
The Cowboys were lit up in 2013 run defense and couldn't keep opposing offensive guards from getting to the second level to remove their linebackers from plays. Even after signing Terrell McClain to a cheap three-year deal and affordably landing Henry Melton, this position needs depth and talent upgrades. Marinelli favors one gap shooter next to a space eater. Dallas needs a starting one-technique nose tackle to complement Melton. McClain is a rotational type.
First day option: Aaron Donald, Pitt - This could be Donald’s floor, and although he plays a similar role to Henry Melton, it would be unwise to pass on him. Donald is so explosive and disruptive thanks to hand use, leverage and power. He consistently has a positional advantage on his opponents and forces them into a constant state of catch up and recovery.
Second day possibility: Timmy Jernigan, FSU - I know Jernigan is frequently listed as a first-round pick, but I stand by placing him outside of the top 40. Jernigan is also consistently called a three technique. I do not see it. In fact, I would rather he play the one-technique and work through blockers. He can be effective when getting a good jump off the ball, delivering a strong punch, and playing a yard in the backfield. Jernigan struggles most when attempting to move laterally, especially as a pass rusher.
Third day flier: Zach Kerr, Delaware - Kerr is a top-100 prospect in my eyes. He played from a variety of different alignments and likely projects best as a one-technique. If he comes out of the gate low, Kerr offers a very natural anchor and enough strength to press and control offensive linemen to shed.
Cowboys 2014 Draft Picks (11)
First Round (No. 16)
Second Round (No. 47)
Third Round (No. 78)
Fourth Round (No. 119)
Fifth Round (No. 158)
Seventh Round (No. 229)
Seventh Round (No. 231)
Seventh Round (No. 238)
Seventh Round (No. 248 - Compensatory)
Seventh Round (No. 251 - Compensatory)
Seventh Round (No. 254 - Compensatory)
Cowboys Current First-Team Offense
QB: Tony Romo
RB: DeMarco Murray
WR: Dez Bryant
WR: Terrance Williams
TE: Jason Witten
TE: Gavin Escobar
LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Ronald Leary
C: Travis Frederick
RG: Mackenzy Bernadeau
RT: Doug Free
Cowboys Current First-Team Defense
RE: Jeremy Mincey
LE: George Selvie
DT: Henry Melton
NT: Terrell McClain
MLB: Sean Lee
WLB: Bruce Carter
SLB: DeVonte Holloman
LCB: Brandon Carr
RCB: Orlando Scandrick
FS: Jeff Heath
SS: Barry Church
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