2017 was supposed to be the year the Cowboys took the next step in their development. After dominating rookie seasons from Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, plus a slightly revamped defense, Dallas looked poised to take off as heavy, early season favorites in the NFC.
But folks this is football, and things never happen like we expect. Zeke got suspended for six games, Sean Lee missed significant time with injuries, Dak, the offensive line, and the receiving core took a collective step back. All of this resulting in a 9-7 record, and on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. In addition, it has set Cowboys Nation into another frenzy of looking at possible draft picks to propel them into next season.
But what is there biggest need? Well, it’s likely too early to tell at this point. Until some of the pieces fall into place in free agency, we’re not going to have an accurate idea of what Jerry and Co. are going to do beginning with the 19th overall pick. Getting Demarcus Lawrence re-signed should be the number one priority at this point. 14.5 sack season’s by an edge rusher like him do not grow on trees. The Cowboys have lacked a presence like his since the departure of Demarcus Ware. Lawrence has made it clear he wants to stay in Dallas. Don’t mess this one up Jerry.
In terms of which way the Cowboys lean come draft day, there are still needs at just about every position on defense, mostly in the secondary and for depth purposes. Regardless, I’d still lean wide receiver in the early rounds of this year. We know Dez Bryant is no longer capable of being a number one, X receiver, but he still isn’t going anywhere. He’s still going to get the share of targets that his contract demands. Preferably, those targets will occur in the red zone rather than the deep balls that begin in Cowboy territory.
Instead, the Cowboys will likely look for a speed option at receiver to line up across from Dez. Yes, that’s the spot we’ve grown accustom to seeing Terrance Williams line up for the last several seasons. Sure, Williams had some nice games in 2017, but he’s not a viable top two receiver on a good team. He still causes too many interceptions and also lacks the downfield ability that we saw years ago. Finding a new target for Dak with speed and the ability to run the entire route tree opens up windows for Dak, and will take some of the pressure off Dez.
Picking at number 19 in the first round though, the mentality should remain to take the best player available and don’t reach too far on something that might be needed. That’s what the later rounds are for. First round talent doesn’t grow on trees.