Last year at this time, I wrote this same themed article choosing seven players that were not considered part of the core but who needed to step up and be at the very least, the next group outside the core to take this team where it wanted to go. If you’d like to review that, here is the link.
As football fans prepare for the Super Bowl next Sunday, the same concept I wrote about last year rings true this season. The draft is the single most important aspect to having an elite team that sustains its success. Look no further than the two teams vying for the Lombardi Trophy this year and how they have drafted.
2009 – Knowshon Moreno – RB
2010 – Demaryius Thomas – WR, Zane Beadles – G, Eric Decker – WR
2011 – Von Miller – LB, Rahim Moore – S, Julius Thomas – TE
2012 – Derek Wolfe – DT, Danny Trevathan – LB
2013 – Sylvester Williams – DT
Yes, I know the football world revolves around Peyton Manning and without him blah, blah, blah… Look, Moreno, Thomas and Decker made TIM FREAKING TEBOW a playoff winning QB, so it’s not exactly like Manning is doing it all by himself. In five years, the Broncos landed ten starters via the draft. Two of their three best defensive players and four deadly weapons that would make any quarterback a very happy man. Their opponent has done even better.
2009 – Max Unger – C
2010 – Earl Thomas – S, Golden Tate – WR, Walter Thurmond – CB, Kam Chancellor – S
2011 – Richard Sherman – CB, Malcolm Smith – LB
2012 – Bruce Irvin – LB, Bobby Wagner – LB, Russell Wilson – QB, J.R. Sweezy – G
The entire “Legion of Boom” defensive backfield as well as two incredible linebackers and their franchise quarterback were all drafted within the last three years. The draft gave the Seahawks eleven starters in four years and took Seattle from a team that won sixteen games in three years between 2008-2010 to a team that has almost doubled that total (31 wins since 2011) and is on the verge of winning their first championship ever.
This brings us full circle to the Dallas Cowboys. While Dallas has done better in the last four years at procuring talent via the draft, they are not close to being on the level of these teams. Dallas has only been able to land six starters through the draft since 2009. While those starters are certainly huge cogs to the engine, Dallas needs some other young guys to step up, especially given the restraints this team puts on itself with cap mismanagement and a lack of activity in free agency. Here are the seven Cowboys that Dallas most needs to step up their game if they are to get into the playoffs next year, listed in descending order from least to most crucial.