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Draft Analysis

NFL Draft Needs: NFC East

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
Updated On: April 18, 2020, 2:28 pm ET

The Rotoworld Football crew’s Ian HartitzNick MensioJohn Daigle and Hayden Winks are breaking down every team's biggest needs, division by division, and Josh Norris offers potential solutions in this month's NFL Draft.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

Dallas Cowboys

Notable Offseason Additions: DT Gerald McCoy, CB Maurice Canady, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DT Dontari Poe, TE Blake Bell, K Greg Zuerlein, DE Aldon Smith

Starting Offense

QB: Dak Prescott

RB: Ezekiel Elliott

WR1: Amari Cooper

WR2: Michael Gallup

WR3: Cedrick Wilson

TE: Blake Jarwin

LT: Tyron Smith

LG: Connor Williams

C: Joe Looney

RG: Zack Martin

RT: La'el Collins

Starting Defense

DE: DeMarcus Lawrence

DE: Tyrone Crawford

DT: Gerald McCoy

DT Dontari Poe

WLB: Sean Lee

MLB: Jaylon Smith

SLB: Leighton Vander Esch

CB: Chidobe Awuzie

CB: Jourdan Lewis

SCB: Anthony Brown

S: Xavier Woods

S: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

 

Team Needs

Hartitz’s Analysis

Center: The retirement of Travis Frederick took everybody by surprise. It seemingly sets up Joe Looney to again work as the full-time centerpiece of the Cowboys' luxurious offensive line. Looney was fairly bad as the team's starting center in 2018, finishing as PFF's ninth-lowest graded center among 39 qualified players. At the very least, Dallas needs to add some depth to their front.eds to add some depth to their front.

Secondary: The Cowboys are a bottom-12 team in 2020 dollars devoted to both their corners and safeties. Re-signing Anthony Brown helps, but there's still a massive hole left behind by Byron Jones. Meanwhile, the safety group swapped Jeff Heath for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. They've been in need of a true upgrade here for a while. The secondary was poor against No. 1 WRs (19th in DVOA), No. 2 WRs (25th), other WRs (20th), TEs (26th) and RBs (19th) alike in 2019.

Pass catcher: The Cowboys did a solid job adding pieces across the defensive line, but their one position that remains a true mystery is the No. 3 WR spot. Randall Cobb is in Houston, and Tavon Austin remains a free agent, so Cedrick Wilson and Devin Smith are the current frontrunners to work behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. It'd be borderline erotic if the Cowboys are planning to utilize backup RB Tony Pollard as a hybrid-slot WR, but either way it seems likely that Dallas will take a receiver at some point in the draft.

 

Cowboys' 2020 Draft Picks

Norris’ Options

1 (17). CB C.J. Henderson, Florida - The Cowboys are sitting in a bit of an awkward spot, where their most immediate needs might align well with the middle of the first round. While Jeffrey Okudah deservedly draws all of the corner attention in this class, perhaps no one faced a more difficult receiver resume than Henderson. Week after week Henderson seemed willing to take on the challenge of the opposition’s top receiver, asked to win 1-on-1 isolated situations. This is the style of player who can slide into Byron Jones’ vacated spot.

WATCH NOW: See who our experts believe the Cowboys will select at No. 17 in our First Round Mock Draft Show! 

2 (51). iDL Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M - The Cowboys signed band-aids on the interior in Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy. Depending on the team’s trust in Trysten Hill, the Cowboys could prioritize the interior early in the draft or wait. Madubuike is one of the few disruptors with pass rushing juice. You see enviable movement and a pass rush plan from the Aggie. Madubuike theoretically offers versatility, seeing snaps at 1-technique, 3-technique and also saw snaps outside of the tackle.

3 (82). LB Troy Dye, Oregon - It seems like the Cowboys face linebacker questions every offseason. Sean Lee to Jaylon Smith to Leighton Vander Esch - all have been outstanding, but each has faced significant injury hurdles. Dye is one of the few linebacker prospects who might be more comfortable in coverage than flying downhill against the run. He’s notably adept at trailing tight ends.

4 (123). WR KJ Hill, Ohio State - Perhaps this is too simple of a projection. With Randall Cobb out, the Cowboys currently don’t have a slot-focused receiver. Perhaps Tony Pollard will fill that role, but I’m sure the Cowboys won’t bank on that. Hill lives in the slot, attempting to create separation early in routes and adjusting to any targets off frame to bring in difficult catches.

5 (164). C Kyle Hinton, Washburn - Perhaps this is too early for a non-FBS player, as the Cowboys have not selected a prospect from a lower level of football since 2013 (if my research is correct). The center position looks a bit thin later in the draft, and Hinton, a collegiate left tackle, might be viewed as an upside project.

5 (179). S Julian Blackmon, Utah - Blackmon spent most of his time as a free safety, frequently in a single high role. His main job was to prevent big plays, but there are exposures of Blackmon flying downhill to stop the run in the alley or making a play in the passing game along the sideline after covering ground.

7 (231). EDGE Ron’Dell Carter, James Madison - Carter’s game is built on timing the snap. But if that fails, he’s very active with his hands to disengage and then chase down extended plays.

 

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