The Dallas Cowboys have several directions they can go when their number is called, 10th overall, in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft taking place this Thursday night. But one area many are hoping the Cowboys address with their top selection is along their defense.
Last season, the Cowboys fielded one of the worst defensive units in franchise history. Dallas ended the year allowing the fifth-most points to opposing offenses (29.6) and the second-most yards on the ground (158.8) as the 31st ranked run defense.
Possessing 10 total draft picks heading into the upcoming draft, four of which being in the top 100, the Cowboys have an opportunity to inject their entire roster with young talent. And the team believes they’ll have the opportunity to find a true defensive difference-maker with their top pick.
During the Cowboys’ pre-draft press conference on Tuesday, here’s how owner and general manager Jerry Jones responded to a question about the entire defensive class potentially being available at the team’s top draft pick in the first round.
"“I think we’ve got a good chance to have a top defensive player, the top or one of the top, be there at 10.”"
Yet, who’s considered the top defensive player in this draft class? Obviously, that answer will vary from team to team and Dallas certainly has someone in mind. But is it possible we can divine the answer using the collective knowledge of the draftniks out there?
Below, we’ve compiled multiple big boards from across the internet to try and determine which prospect is considered the top defensive player in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Who is the top defensive player on big boards across the internet?
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com – Patrick Surtain II, CB – Alabama (9th)
Gil Brandt, NFL.com – Patrick Surtain II, CB – Alabama (11th)
ESPN.com – Patrick Surtain II, CB – Alabama (10th)
Michael Renner, Pro Football Focus – Micah Parsons, LB – Penn State (9th)
Josh Edwards, CBS Sports – Micah Parsons, LB – Penn State (4th)
Charlie Campbel, Walter Football – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (8th)
The Draft Network – Caleb Farley, CB – Virginia Tech (7th)
NFL Draft Bible via SI.com – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB – Notre Dame (9th)
While there certainly are some outliers, it seems that the consensus of our big board search is that Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II is the top defensive prospect in this draft class. And that conveniently aligns with many of the mock drafts that have Surtain being the Cowboys’ likely selection in the first round.
The position of cornerback is believed to be the team’s biggest need heading into the draft after losing starter Chidobe Awuzie to free agency this offseason. And the team struggled without their Pro Bowl corner, Byron Jones, last season who was signed by the Miami Dolphins as a free agent in early 2020.
In Patrick Surtain II, the Dallas Cowboys would be able to pair him with his former college teammate, Trevon Diggs, who was a second-round selection last year. And as a rookie, Diggs flashed his potential leading the team in interceptions (3) after being an 11-game starter in his first NFL season.