The Dallas Cowboys had the advantage of owning 11 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. This was tied for the most picks in the draft with the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings who also had 11.
Going into the draft, Dallas had 10 picks. However, they gained an additional third-round pick when they moved back two spots (from 10 to 12) and traded with the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the 12th overall pick, Dallas decided to select linebacker Micah Parsons out of Penn State. Then, they went on to select cornerback Kelvin Joseph of Kentucky in the second round. Overall, the Cowboys selected eight players on defense and only three on offense.
What grade should the Dallas Cowboys get for the first three rounds?
Round 1: (12) Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Round 2: (44) Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky
Round 3: (75) Osa Odighizuwa, DT, UCLA
Round 3: (84) Chauncey Golston, DE, Iowa
Round 3: (99) Nahshon Wright, CB, Oregon State
The Dallas Cowboys arguably did what they needed to in this draft. Their defense was considered one of the worst last year and they needed to improve it. Last season, Dallas’ defense ranked 28th in points allowed per game (29.6), 31st in rush yards allowed per game (158.8) and 26th in opponent’s yards per completion (11.1).
As a result, the Cowboys likely knew what needed to be done in this draft, defense, defense and more defense. Consequently, they drafted five straight defensive players in the first three rounds.
The Cowboys likely had to adjust to unforeseen circumstances in the draft when both cornerback Jaycee Horn and cornerback Patrick Surtain were taken off the board on consecutive picks before their selection. Cornerback was a major need for the Cowboys. However, instead of reaching for a cornerback, they rather decided to arguably take the best defensive player in the draft, Micah Parsons.
America’s Team possibly made one of the smartest moves in the first round in this year’s draft. They traded back two spots and got an additional third-round pick in return. This move likely didn’t affect the Cowboys as they were taking Parsons all along at either 10 or 12.
The Cowboys possibly recognized that their defense needed plenty of help so that’s probably why they passed on Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater. Even though many Cowboys fans were likely shocked that both cornerbacks went before Dallas’ pick, the team was very aware of this scenario. Here’s what Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told The Dallas Morning News.
"“We had long discussions about ‘if the corners go, what’re we going to do here?’ And that’s where we spent a lot of time on Micah, not to mention a couple other players that we really felt like we could get real comfortable with if the two corners went. Which, obviously, that happened.”"
Dallas would then make the smart move and take likely their biggest need in the second round, cornerback. With that pick, they selected cornerback Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky.
He likely has the tools to be a solid cornerback in the league. He comes in at 6-foot-1 and ran a 4.34, 40-yard dash. This pick likely shows that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is trying to switch things up in the secondary.
The biggest surprise in the draft for the Cowboys was the selection of cornerback Nahshon Wright out of Oregon State in the third round. Wright was ranked as the 34th best cornerback in this year’s draft, per ESPN.com. This rank likely meant that the former Oregon State star would be undrafted.
Nonetheless, Dallas saw the size of Wright, who comes in at 6-foot-4, and likely thought he has the potential to be cornerback Richard Sherman 2.0. Quinn coached Sherman for three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.
Overall, the Dallas Cowboys should not get anything lower than a B+ for their first three rounds. They took five defensive players with their five possible picks. Although some of these picks were considered reaches, the Cowboys possibly saw something special.
The only reason they don’t receive a higher grade for the first three rounds is the absence of selecting a safety. They had the opportunity to trade up and select arguably the best safety in the draft in Trevon Moehrig. However, they did make the most of their picks and winded up with a plethora of new defensive players.