So far this offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have used free agency to address their most pressing need, adding Henry Melton, Terrell McClain and Jeremy Mincey to support a troubled defensive line.
They may not be done adding free agents just yet, but one can presume that Melton will be the biggest team addition prior to the NFL draft.
This year’s draft will be crucial to the team’s 2014 prospects, as Dallas will need to find several contributors who can start right away in order to dramatically reverse its fortunes. With the D-line somewhat addressed, the Cowboys have a new sense of flexibility and will be better able to draft the top talent, and not just the top need, on their board.
One position group with lots of depth this year is at wide receiver. Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys take one in the second or third round to further bolster one of the league’s best receiving corps.
Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Jarvis Landry, Martavis Bryant, Cody Hoffman—the draft is loaded with attainable difference-makers at the receiver position. Not all of them will catch on, of course, but the depth of this class ensures that talent will still be available in round three if the Cowboys want it.
Why bother with a receiver at all? Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams seem to have the position locked down for years to come. There are three very practical reasons, however, to draft a receiver despite the quality up top.
The first reason would be to replace Miles Austin. No, Austin didn’t do much last season. He caught 24 passes for 244 yards and no touchdowns. Production like that is probably already on the roster. But cutting Austin leaves the ‘Boys with only four receivers on the team, and since they are unlikely to address the position in free agency, the draft may be the only way to ensure that one injury doesn’t send the team into scramble mode.
The questionable quality of the receivers behind Bryant and Williams is another great reason to add on. No one is denying the potential of Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris, but neither feels like a real No. 3. This is especially true because Beasley is 5-8 and Harris is 5-10—it would be huge (no pun intended) for the ‘Boys to pick up the 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin or the 6-6 Brandon Coleman in the early/middle rounds this year.
Finally, and perhaps least obviously, the Cowboys could use another elite receiver to leverage Dez Bryant’s contract situation. If Bryant believes himself to be Dallas’s only option, the Cowboys will have to shell out even more than they already will to keep him next offseason. It’s possible that the ‘Boys will extend Bryant before this season begins, but I’d be surprised
to see them do so before the draft. No one they pick could make Bryant feel pressured for a starting job, but it could make him feel like a less-than-invincible piece of their offense. Bryant will be expensive, but there’s no need to push his price higher by neglecting the receiver position in the draft.
Personally, I like a guy like Donte Moncrief out of Ole Miss or Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt. Both have experience against SEC defenses and have the size and strength necessary to execute blocks from the slot or give Tony Romo a viable third option. A healthy Romo should be back to throwing the deep ball with effectiveness, and a lethal deep game should open up the Cowboys on the ground and give their offense even more to work with for new playcaller Scott Linehan.
The defense will not be neglected during this year’s draft, no doubt about it. It’s possible Dallas could go through the draft without selecting a single receiver. But concerns about depth and a solid No. 3 guy could lead the Cowboys to pick from this year’s extremely deep and talented receiver pool, and I’ll wager they’ll be glad they did.
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