Would the Dallas Cowboys dare to draft a tight end in the first round in 2021?
When the Dallas Cowboys signed Blake Jarwin to a three-year, $24.25 million contract extension in March, it not only cemented him as their starting tight end but as the spiritual successor to Jason Witten.
Unfortunately, Jarwin suffered a season-ending knee injury in the team’s regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Rams. And while backup Dalton Schultz has performed well in his place, the starting role is clearly Jarwin’s to lose when he returns.
With both Jarwin and Schultz being under contract through next year, the tight end position would appear to be a low priority when it comes to addressing team needs next offseason and upon entering the 2021 NFL Draft.
But according to a recent mock draft by Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus, he believes the Cowboys could look to again add to their already stacked offense. Renner has Dallas drafting Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the fifth-overall selection in 2021. Here’s his explanation of the odd pick …
"“This is how you take the Cowboys’ offense into the unstoppable stratosphere (assuming they re-sign Dak Prescott). Pitts could be a first-rounder if solely considered a wideout and is one of the biggest mismatch weapons in recent history. He’s already caught seven touchdowns in four games this year.”"
Putting aside whether the Cowboys actually have a need at the tight end position for a moment, any player selected in the top five of the NFL draft has to be a potential superstar. The first question is whether Kyle Pitts is that type of transcendent talent, especially at a position that’s generally rarely drafted that high.
In fact, the last time a tight end was drafted in the top five was 1972, when Houston’s Riley Odoms was drafted by the Denver Broncos. The Lions recently drafted Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson eighth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. But Hockenson was the highest tight end taken since 2006 when Maryland’s Vernon Davis went sixth overall to the San Francisco 49ers.
But is Pitts at least worthy of top-five consideration? Early last month, three-time National Championship winning head coach and current FOX college analyst, Urban Meyer, called him the most impressive player in 2020 so far.
Pitts is a 6-foot-6, 246-pound tight end that plays more like a large wide receiver. His production so far this season has been outstanding, recording 22 receptions for 355 yards and seven touchdowns in only four games while averaging an impressive 16.1 yards per catch.
As a sophomore for the Gators last season, Pitts brought in 54 catches for 649 yards and five scores in 13 games. So at least he’s shown he’s more than a one-year wonder.
Now whether that kind of production warrants a top-five selection likely depends on how an NFL team envisions Pitt’s role on their team. And in Dallas, adding yet another playmaker to the already crowded mix would surely leave someone on the outside looking in at this point.
While this year’s selection of wide receiver CeeDee Lamb proves the Cowboys are willing to draft for pure talent over team need with their first-round pick, the current state of the Dallas defense demands that side of the ball be addressed early and often in 2021. Using another top selection on an offensive player not only seems unlikely, but unwise. Although, for the right player, not impossible.
In the end, the Dallas Cowboys selecting a tight end with their first-round pick in 2021 over a potential defensive superstar seems a bit ridiculous based on what we’ve seen from America’s Team this season. In fact, I can’t envision the Cowboys drafting for offense in the first round next year unless it’s for an offensive lineman or a replacement for Dak Prescott at quarterback.