Dallas Cowboys best draft scenario might be trading down this year

Dallas Cowboys fans at the 2018 NFL Draft (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys fans at the 2018 NFL Draft (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Considering the needs of the Dallas Cowboys and the strengths of this draft class, trading back in the first round might be the team’s best option.

Last week, a classic offseason rumor floated in, as if in a soap-bubble, that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to make a big splash in this year’s draft. Seems like I heard something like that last year. And maybe the year before, and yes, the year before that. It happens just about every year.

Jerry likes to yank the chain. Not a surprise. But the pundits immediately sprang into action, theorizing this meant the Cowboys might trade up this year, to grab one of the top players. I have to admit, that could happen. But I don’t think it’s the best idea.

When I read this headline, it reminded me of a trade-back scenario suggested by draft guru Dane Brugler a few weeks ago, as reported by Mike Fisher at Sports Illustrated. Maybe that’s the splash Jones was thinking of. After all, over the years, Trader Jerry has made deals in both directions, both up and down.

In his mock draft, Brugler envisioned the Cowboys trading their 17th draft pick for the New Orleans Saints’ 24th pick, plus two third-rounders (one in next year’s draft) and a fourth. Then he had Dallas choosing safety Grant Delpit from LSU, with that first pick.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since. It sounds like a great deal to me. Frankly, I think it would be a pretty good deal even if Delpit was taken in the meantime. And I’ll tell you why.

I hate to start with the obvious, but I feel I must. Two extra third-round picks, plus a fourth, to drop seven spots? Yes, please! The ‘Boys could wind up with several extra starters with that, plus a role player.

And what would they be giving up? Seven spots, sure. But the point is, even if Delpit is gone, there will be other excellent players still available for Dallas at that point. But, perhaps I should just start at the beginning.

Let’s start with Dallas’s most pressing needs:

  • Safety
  • Cornerback
  • Defensive tackle
  • Defensive end

Sure, Dallas could also use another tight end and a receiver, but those aren’t the urgent needs they face on the defensive side of the ball. Let’s also stipulate that, ideally, the goal of your first-round pick in the draft is to snag a player with the potential to be a Pro Bowler.

This brings up both a problem and the Brugler-offered solution. The problem is that most of the players most likely to be world beaters are likely to be gone before pick No. 17.

The bluest of blue-chip defensive players, like Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young, superstar cornerback Jeff Okudah (also from Ohio State), and Auburn’s monster defensive tackle Derrick Brown are sure to be gone.

So will this year’s LSU poster-boy quarterback Joe Burrow and a bunch of super-talented wide receivers and a few gargantuan offensive linemen. These sure-thing players will be long gone by pick No. 17.

It’s also likely that South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw, the consensus second-best interior defensive lineman in the draft, who many have mocked to the Cowboys, will be gone as well. I’ve seen him taken as high as pick seven or eight in some mocks.

If Kinlaw’s still there at 17, I would hope the Cowboys would throw any other plans in the circular file and take the guy. We haven’t seen a dominant defensive tackle in Dallas since maybe the glory days of the nineties. Or was it defensive tackle Randy White from the Tom Landry years? I’m not even sure. It’s been a long time.

But like I said, he’s likely to be off the board, along with the rest of the superstars. Who will still be there that would suit the Cowboys’ needs?

Probably Delpit and the other safety frequently mocked to them, Alabama’s Xavier McKinney, plus a few excellent cornerbacks, like C.J. Henderson, from Florida, or Trevon Diggs from Alabama. Also, at defensive end, we could see K’Lavon Chaisson of LSU or A.J. Epenesa from Iowa.

Are you seeing my point? All six of these defensive stars look like they could be excellent players, and most of them have been linked to the Cowboys in different mock drafts. I think Dallas would be happy with any of them.

I’m not sure any of the six is that big a step up over the others. And since there is always some super stud some team feels like they must have, trading down seems like the best idea to me. Say Dallas trades down five or seven spots. Several of those players will still be on the board. Maybe more.

Now, a lot can change between now and draft day. The Cowboys could lose their minds and decide to cut loose Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper. Yeah, I know, that’s extremely unlikely.

In fact, it would be crazy. They just traded a first-round pick for him a year and a half ago. But if it happened, the Dallas brain trust might decide they have to draft the best wide receiver available at pick 17.

But absent that scenario, if the draft were tomorrow, and I was somehow magically put in charge of the Cowboys first-round draft pick, I’d trade down. I’d do it in a heartbeat, and then I’d take the best safety or cornerback available and thank my lucky stars I just got a few extra third-rounders that I could now, hopefully, use to take more starting-caliber players.

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Frankly, I’d be breaking my arm patting myself on the back. I’m not sure what the Dallas Cowboys will do, or even what I’ll think two months from now. But right now, trading down’s got my vote. What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.