Can the Draft Save the Cowboys?

It goes without saying, the NFL draft is the team-building foundation for all NFL franchises.  One bad draft can have lingering implications. One great pick can save a draft. One player can cover up for the signs of bad picks. Look no further than the 49ers 2022 draft. They traded their first and second-round picks, and with their first pick, 61st overall, they selected USC defensive lineman Drake Jackson. When the draft was over, the Forty Niners received an A- for their efforts, causing 49ers Nation to write:

“Given the picks they had, it will be a fantastic draft for the 49ers if they come away with one Pro Bowl player, two above-average starters, or three consistent contributors. That’s markedly lower than the standard they needed to meet to find solid value in previous drafts. With that in mind, the 49ers did an excellent job addressing their short and long-term needs despite having the least draft capital of any year in the Kyle Shanahan era.”


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Today, the draft is still an “A” because they found their franchise quarterback, Brock Purdy and nothing else. Niner Nation was correct for all the wrong reasons. One great player saved them from years of hardships. Every team wants to find a Pro Bowler, 4 starters, and three contributors. However, that’s not reality. Getting immediate production from one or two players in the draft is a home run, especially during their rookie season. Rookies take time to develop. They might start their first year, making all the draft experts praise the pick. Starting and being a quality starter are two vastly different players. Just because a player is starting doesn’t mean he is good or playing above the acceptable line.

As an example, former first-round pick Evan Neal has started for the Giants at right tackle when healthy. He isn’t an acceptable starter, which has been an issue for the G-Men. So, before examining the number of starters teams uncover in the draft, make sure they are acceptable. 

And finding acceptable starters is the biggest challenge for the Dallas Cowboys. I know Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he was going “All In” at the start of the off-season. Fans were expecting the Cowboys to be aggressive, but instead, Jerry has been passive.  His “All In” statement had more to do with resigning Micah Parsons, CeeDee Lamb, and Dak Prescott than going into free agency waving dollar bills. Jerry never intended to “splash the pot” like Teddy KGB in Rounders, as he was only assuring his fans that his best players were not leaving Big D. 

Since the Cowboys’ off-season has been a nothing burger, the draft is their only chance to fill some huge holes. Can they find a left tackle to replace Tyron Smith? Can they find a back to replace Tony Pollard? Can they find a corner to replace Stephon Gilmore? 

The “can they find” players are starting to stack up for the Boys and with limited picks, all in the bottom half of the rounds. The chances of finding one starter are slim, let alone finding the three or four they will need to stay even with the Eagles. 

One thing about the NFC East we have learned is repeating as champions is damn near impossible. Over the last ten years, the Cowboys are 98-65, winning the East five times.  The Eagles are in second place, 93-69-1 and three East titles. The Commanders are 64-97-2 with two East titles, and the Giants are 60-102-1 and have not won the East since 2011.

And based on the off-season, the Cowboys on paper don’t look as good as last year, while the Eagles look vastly improved. The Eagles have added 17 new players to their roster, filling needs and depth, and they enter the draft with only one “can they find” need—a corner. If the Eagles land a man-to-man corner, and more depth, they will be in great shape entering the summer.

We all know “paper” depth charts are meaningless. What we view as a weakness, the teams believe they have a young player ready to step in. Yes, Tyler Smith might be an answer at left tackle, but who then plays left guard?  And who is their runner?

Because of their cap situation, the Cowboys are not a team filled with great depth. Will McClay, their personnel director, does a great job of finding talent in the later rounds, which will be more important this weekend than ever before. Head coach Mike McCarthy has always been an “I’ll coach who they bring me” type of coach, going back to his Green Bay days with Ted Thompson. He has never been in a rush to go shopping for groceries, willing to let the personnel people deliver his ingredients. And this year, those ingredients are going to be the most important of his head coaching career. 

The sportsbooks aren’t impressed with Jerry’s work this off-season. They’re not holding out much hope the personnel people are thrifty shoppers, or Chef McCarthy can win a Michelin Star with his cooking. They have lowered their win total to 9.5 after winning 12 last year.  And I agree with the number, favoring the Under.

Most bettors will wait until the draft is over to determine if the Boys have salvaged the off-season. I’m not. I don’t believe the draft has enough depth or quality to allow the Boys to find plug-and-play draft picks. They might find good players, but those players will impact the 2025 team, not the 2024 team. 

The Cowboys have too many needs to fill, which makes the draft so important for their defense of the East. Add in the lack of job security for their head chef Mike McCarthy, and the Cowboys seem like a restaurant in need of Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible crew more than getting another Star. 

The draft will provide more clues. I am sold on the quarterbacks going early and believe there will be six in the first round. I don’t believe six are worthy, only that teams need answers at the most important position. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder in this draft, so like the 49ers draft from 2022, don’t react. Wait and remember, it only takes one giant hit to fix all the ills.