How to properly grade the Dallas Cowboys 2021 draft

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons (11) Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons (11) Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2021 NFL draft has commenced. No matter what you read or what you listen to, the talk surrounding football immediately has turned to “grading” that exercise. There is rarely a consensus on which team drafted the best amongst pundits and even fans. That is especially true when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys.

If you were to poll 100 fans of this organization, I guarantee most would consider last week’s selection process of rookie talent to be underwhelming. Most people who follow this team passionately had a very different version of how last weekend would end up going.

That does not mean that the Dallas Cowboys failed in the draft, however. The truth, in fact, is that grading a draft immediately following the process is a pointless exercise that only serves one purpose. That purpose is to attempt to keep the business of football relevant when really, football is about to enter a hibernation of sorts.

While the league does its best to be relevant 365 days a year, that is an unattainable task. Next week, the league will make a spectacle of releasing the 2021 schedule. No other league attempts such silliness. There are mini camps and organized team activities in late spring and early summer but the truth is last week’s draft was the last major piece of the puzzle until training camp begins.

So, how do you wade through all the minutiae and decide how the Dallas Cowboys truly did in the 2021 NFL Draft? The key is to analyze the process which truly helps understand the direction this organization took over the three-day event.

In a perfect world, the Dallas Cowboys would have drafted either Jaycee Horn or Patrick Surtain, II. Unfortunately, both players were selected right before Dallas was set to make their selection. Truthfully, neither player is likely to be worth what it would have taken to move up to draft them.

The fact that the Cowboys were able to trade down, obtain another pick, and still draft a top player for their defense should be considered a win. Will Horn or Surtain end up better players than Micah Parsons? Only time will tell, however, Dallas made the best of the situation as it presented itself.

As the second round evolved, many fans wanted this team to select safety Trevon Moehrig from TCU. While the local prospect would have fit a need at a position long overdue for an upgrade, he, too, was selected right before it was the Cowboys’ turn to make their pick.

Instead, Dallas once again was able to adapt, address the cornerback position that was not an option in round one, and bring in a top prospect at that spot in Kentucky defensive back Kelvin Joseph. The Cowboys did not stop there, using their next four picks on defensive players as well, highlighted by linebacker Jabril Cox from LSU chosen 115th overall.

Like it or not, the front office is no longer sitting on their hands when it comes to overhauling the defense. Joseph, teamed with last year’s second-round pick Trevon Diggs, gives this team two young cornerbacks who will not back down from a challenge and compete to get better every day. The Cowboys did not stop there, however, as they added two more cornerbacks in Nashon Wright and Israel Mukuamu to the mix.

Parsons and Cox give Dallas supreme flexibility both on and off the field. The linebacker group went from highly questionable to deep and talented.

If incumbents Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch continue to underwhelm, both could be gone next year with Parsons and Cox taking their place. If all four perform at the level expected of them, this team all of a sudden has the ability to attack any offense while also being adept in coverage.

The additions of Osa Odighizuwa, Chauncey Golston, and Quinton Bohanna provide more depth along a defensive line that allows Dallas to come at teams in waves. All three will push veterans signed in free agency to create true competition in training camp.

At the end of the day, this draft was exactly about just that. Whenever a team uses their top six picks on one side of the ball, they are instituting change. No one expected the Dallas Cowboys to use all eleven picks and no one expects all eleven to make the team.

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Whether some or all “make it,” this draft was exactly what this team needed at the exact right time. The offense can hold its own against anyone but they need some help from their teammates on the defense. This draft is the organization’s best attempt at making that happen. For that, it is hard not to give this team a passing grade in the 2021 NFL Draft.