Dallas Cowboys Are Draft Winners In The NFC East

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Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the crowd in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

It may be the off season, but it’s always a battle between the teams in the NFC East. Pre draft talk was dominated by the Philadelphia Eagles in their acquisition of Tim Tebow and pursuit of quarterback Marcus Mariota. I’ve looked back at the listed team needs of each NFC East team on NFL.com to see who has filled in the gaps on their roster.

Dallas Cowboys
Needs: Cornerback, Running back, Defensive Line, Offensive Line, Linebacker

On paper this could be the greatest Cowboys draft since the Herschel Walker trade of 1989. The team have added three first round graded players to the roster within two picks and no trades.

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At cornerback, Byron Jones will be competing immediately. Brandon Carr is still in limbo regarding his contract while Orlando Scandrick is reportedly unhappy with his own contract and seeking a pay rise. Then there’s the 6th overall pick in the 2012 draft Mo Claiborne, who has had an injury riddled career in Dallas thus far.

Last year the team were an injury away from disaster at cornerback but Jones adds to the depth and quality. He’s fully capable playing at safety so any problems with Barry Church or J.J. Wilcox then Jones can slot in comfortably.

In the second round the Cowboys rolled the dice on Randy Gregory. A player with top ten calibre ability but questionable off field behaviour. He was struck from teams boards prior to the draft, everyone too scared to bite the bullet and draft him. At 2.28 the Cowboys did it. Listening to Gregory and the Cowboys coaching team after the selection, there’s every chance this transpires into a steal. He sounds humble and hungry. And Dez Bryant is a solid example of a troubled young man turning a corner with the right team around him.

The offensive line is arguably the strongest area of the Cowboys team. The departure of Jermey Parnell left a spot open for a swing tackle. And Cowboys filled that need adding Chaz Green and and Laurence Gibson. Both will compete as a back up to Doug Free.

The most surprising addition through the draft though is that of La’el Collins. Considered one of the best offensive linemen available. After going undrafted due to a legal wrangling in which he’s since be cleared, Jerry Jones produced the goods once again in sealing a deal.

Retaining Rolando McClain and getting a fit Sean Lee on the field together is a dizzying prospect. Anthony Hitchens had an impressive rookie year at linebacker and adding Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar certainly boosts the options for the Cowboys. So it was something of a surprise to see the position considered as a need on NFL.com. The fourth round selection of Damien Wilson though indicates the Cowboys wanted to add as much competition as possible. Wilson is an explosive athletic player; he could have as good a season as Hitchens did last year should he get a chance on the field.

Prior to the draft you would have struggled to find a mock that didn’t contain the Cowboys drafting a running back. Finding a successor to DeMarco Murray was quite simply a ‘no brainer’. Darren McFadden, Ryan Williams, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar were considered by fans as contributors to the run game, not lead man material. Jerry Jones suggested otherwise.

"“McFadden made a big difference here…we didn’t know that McFadden was going to be available when we initially started to think about this year and in our decisions regarding that…It might have been a little different story had we not had McFadden on our roster in this draft.”"

Career Yards Per Carries
DeMarco Murray: 4.8
Joseph Randle: 4.8
Darren McFadden: 4.1
Lance Dunbar: 4.1
Ryan Williams: 2.8

There’s so many differing opinions around the running back situation. Are McFadden’s statistics suffering as he played behind an inferior o-line? Are Randle’s enhanced due to his limited carries? Are Murray’s numbers inflated after one good year and are Williams so poor as he’s never been given a legitimate starters role? We’re likely find the answers out this year.

The Cowboys have a group of backs with a variety of skills as opposed to the ‘one back does all’ they lost in Murray. Should the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs this year then not recruiting a back could be the major draft failure under Jason Garrett. But I’m confident that won’t be necessary. Even a middle aged Emmitt Smith could clock up the yards behind this o-line.

Next: Giants In Second With Stellar Selections