The 2018 NFL Draft is just under a few weeks away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Dallas Cowboys 2018 NFL Draft profile.
The Cowboys had a disappointing 9-7 season last year and barely missed out on the playoffs. There was a lot of drama, as Ezekiel Elliot started the season, but then got suspended in the middle of the season for four games. They were almost able to get to the playoffs for back to back seasons, but came up short and will have to build for next season.
Dallas still has one of the best offensive lines in football, but it isn’t quite as good as a few seasons ago. Cameron Fleming was signed to play right tackle, which should help round out the starting lineup anchored by Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. They helped the team rank second in rushing last season. This line has helped clear holes for Elliot, who should be ready to play a full season again after the suspension last year. He rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in his rookie campaign and is capable of doing so again.
Dak Prescott had a down year for his sophomore season but is still learning on the job. Whether he is a franchise quarterback remains to be seen, but he has had a solid start to his career. Between Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley he has some nice targets, but could use another solid wide receiver to play opposite Dez Bryant. They ranked 26th in passing yards last season and an extra weapon could be added to help out.
The rush defense ranked eighth in the league last season and benefitted from Dallas controlling the clock. They were also able to rank 11th against the pass. Their overall defensive talent has been upgraded over the last few years. The defensive line has a star in Demarcus Lawrence.
When linebacker Sean Lee is healthy, the Cowboys are significantly better on defense. Jaylon Smith got his first taste of action last season and didn’t play great, but was coming off of the serious knee injury two seasons before when he was in college. In the secondary, Dallas has a few young players who can develop, but a big decision needs to be made whether Byron Jones will continue to play safety or cornerback.
Picks and needs
The Cowboys have 10 picks in this draft to try and shore up the roster for another run at the playoffs.
First round (1 pick): 19
Second round (1): 50
Third round (1): 81
Fourth round (2): 116, 137
Fifth round (1): 171
Sixth round (3): 192,193, 208
Seventh round (1): 236
Wide receiver- Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson were both signed and Dallas needs them to step up. If they can’t a number two receiver will be needed. If they can get a receiver who can start off as a number two and develop into a number one option, they can take over for Dez Bryant down the road.
Offensive line depth- The signing of Fleming makes this less of a need. If all the players perform like they are capable of and stay healthy, it should be a productive group. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. When Tyron Smith went down with an injury last year it was apparent Dallas wasn’t prepared for it.
Running back depth- Right now, the Cowboys have Rod Smith and Trey Williams behind Elliot on the depth chart. Elliot is a workhorse who can handle a lot of carries but will need someone to take some carries at some point in the season. If he goes down with injury or suspension, the rest of the running backs on the depth chart may not do the trick.
Safety- Dallas addressed their corner issue in a big way last year, with several draft picks spent on the position. The secondary still isn’t great and the safety position could use a draft pick. If Jones is moved to corner this is a desperate need, but if he stays at safety, they will still need to draft a safety to play next to.
Linebacker- Lee is often hurt and Smith needs to improve. Other than that, the Cowboys still do need linebackers for the third linebacker spot and for depth.
Defensive line depth-The defensive line did get a little deeper this offseason, but more depth couldn’t hurt. The pass rushers should be fine, but the interior of the defensive line could use some better backups.
Pick No. 19: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
There are a few notable linebackers who are first-round talents, so one may fall to the Cowboy’s first round pick. Evans can play next to Smith and Lee to start his career. In two-linebacker situations, he can take over for Smith if he doesn’t improve. When Lee isn’t on the field the Cowboys are significantly worse, so getting another talented linebacker would be a failsafe in case he gets injured again. Evans is a good run defender but does need to polish his coverage skills.
Pick No. 50: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
Reid had a huge jump in productivity in his junior year and entered the draft. The Cowboys need secondary help and can pair Reid with Jones or use this pick to help facilitate Jones’ move to corner. His brother Eric has been a decent safety in the NFL for the 49ers, but is currently a free agent. With NFL bloodlines and good production, Reid should be selected within the first two or three rounds.
Pick No. 81: Rasheem Green, DE/DT, USC
The Cowboys can get some defensive line depth here. Green could play either defensive end or defensive tackle but probably fits better as a defensive tackle for the Cowboys. He gets good pressure on the quarterback for a player so big. Green could be a backup this season but could see a lot of time as an interior pass rusher in third-down situations.