Can the Dallas Cowboys change their depressing offseason narrative with a strong draft?

There are 20 teams with higher picks in the first round than the Dallas Cowboys and a plethora with more total picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.

But few teams are as excited to get the draft started on Thursday than the Cowboys.

After losing five starters in free agency and signing just one starter, linebacker Eric Kendricks, in free agency because of salary cap constraints, the draft offers the Cowboys an opportunity to fill holes and hopefully boost a depressing offseason narrative surrounding the team.

The inexplicable and devastating loss to the Green Bay Packers in NFC wildcard playoffs and the lack of movement in free agency have Cowboys fans as disillusioned as ever about the team’s prospects for the coming season.

So the draft can’t get here fast enough for Cowboys who are scheduled to make seven picks, beginning with the No. 24 selection of the first round on Thursday night.

On Friday, the have picks No. 56 in the second round and No. 87 in third round. They finish on Saturday with pick No. 174 in the fifth round, 216 in the sixth round and 233 and 244 in the seventh round.

“I know that I don’t know when I’ve ever been in a draft that I didn’t feel like the players we were drafting were gonna be on the field for us and making significant contribution,” owner Jerry Jones said. “But today you have to have rookies contribute or you aren’t getting the value that you need to have. So you got to have youth and you got to have those players that fill in there and how you fill it in is gonna be the difference in the future.”

The Cowboys are a team with needs across the board: at center, tackle, running back, defensive line, linebacker, cornerback and receiver.

Look for them to target the offensive line Thursday with a center or tackle following the departures of center Tyler Biadasz and eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith in free agency.

Names to consider are Oklahoma tackle Tyler Guyton, Duke center Graham Barton, Georgia tackle Amarius Mills and Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson.

The Cowboys don’t know who they are picking because they won’t know who will be available until they get on the clock.

The presence of Tyler Smith allows the Cowboys to play at little option quarterback. Smith was drafted in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft to be the future replacement for Tyron Smith at left tackle.

He was slated to start at left guard, but a Tyron Smith injured forced him on the field at left tackle as a rookie. He moved back to left guard in 2023, making the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro.

Ideally, the Cowboys would like to keep Tyler Smith at guard. But he gives them the flexibility of staying true to their board while also filling a need.

“I think the biggest thing is you’ve got to take the best player, the best value,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s why we have the draft process. Tyler’s flexibility gives us something unique to have. The fact that he’s started at both positions at such a young age is pretty special. I look at these players, regardless of the position, do they make the offensive line room better. I have great confidence in our process that if we do select one high, that we’ll make the offensive line room better and we’ll figure it out.”

While there may be a run on offensive tackles early, the good news is the draft is deep and talented at center and tackle.

And Cowboys have a history of success of taking quality offensive linemen in the first round.

The aforementioned Tyron Smith was ninth overall in 2011. Center Travis Frederick was picked 31st in 2013 and made five Pro Bowls before being forced to retire. Left guard Zack Martin was picked 16th in 2014 and has made 9 Pro Bowls. Tyler Smith has since joined the successful run.

“It’s great to be drafting a position when there’s a lot of them,” Jerry Jones said. “If you’re where are, of course it’s the 24th pick, but my point is if you can go in and it happens to fit need and there is a long numbers of them in the draft, that’s fortuitous. That’s a good thing to have happen. So that’s very good. It’s fun to be able to take a good offensive lineman.

“It’s a good feeling. [McCarthy’s] got a great feel for what we need to be doing in the offensive line.”

With just seven picks, the Cowboys could also trade down in the first round to add add another mid-round selection.

It depends on who is left on the board.

“It’s very likely to have an opportunity to do that,” Jerry Jones said. “Really, there’s a lot of variables here as to whether you’d go up or down. Obviously we’d like to have some mid-round picks. But by the same token, [All-Pro edge rusher) Micah Parsons might be sitting there with that pick. Do you want more picks or a player?”

And the Cowboys most certainly will add a running back in second or third round to replace the departed Tony Pollard.

The process begins Thursday.

The Cowboys, who generally have a good feel for what they are doing in the draft, are excited.

While they haven’t gotten over the hump in terms of reaching the Super Bowl, the Cowboys have won more games than any team in the league over the past three seasons with the exception of the back-to-back Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

And the draft has been the foundation of their success, thanks in large part to the leadership and direction of vice president of player personnel Will McClay.

Over the past 10 drafts, the Cowboys are tied with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers for the most players selected, six, who have earned first-team All-Pro honors.

Dallas drafted 14 players who earned Pro Bowl selections during that span.

“You embrace draft and develop when you draft well,” vice president Stephen Jones said. “That’s when you start to embrace it when you have the success that we’ve had as an organization. The coaches that have been doing the developing, that play them and had the confidence to play these players right away and you develop them and you have success. . .We have had success in the drafts. I think it’s pretty well documented.

The draft is the Cowboys wheelhouse. After a dismal offseason, it’s their time to shine.