The Dallas Cowboys haven’t done much to surprise their fanbase when it comes to their first-round picks in recent years. Yet in the pre-draft press conference earlier in the week, owner Jerry Jones hinted towards being contrarians and thinking outside the box. What exactly does that mean in a draft they’ve identified only 14-16 first-round grades, lower than most drafts that come in between 18-20?
The Cowboys could be looking to zig while other organizations are zagging. Or perhaps, they are interested in doing things that run counter to their own trends and tendencies, such as the ones we annually outlined in the Cowboys 10 Draft Commandments. Here are five ideas that do just that, walk what would be for the Cowboys an unbeaten path.
Trade completely out of the first round
If one looks at the 2021 backwards step as simply taking advantage of circumstances, Dallas hasn’t traded back since 2013 when they moved from No. 18 to No. 31 to earn a third-round pick and select Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams. Last season’s move from No. 10 to No. 12 shouldn’t really count because they knew they were still getting their target in Micah Parsons.
But could Dallas move back at least eight spots again and not make a pick on Thursday night?
Make no mistake, if the trade value is there, this isn’t a bad move. But after an offseason where everything has gone wrong, most Cowboys fans have looked at the first-round pick as the salvation. Having all of that anticipation stolen from them and not make a Thursday pick will definitely be something many aren’t expecting.
Use their 2023 first-round pick to move up
More likely but still shocking would be if Dallas moved way up in the draft to ensure they could secure one of those 14-16 first-round graded prospects they’ve identified. The most shocking part was if they parted with next year’s first pick in order to do so.
This isn’t a strong draft by most measures. It doesn’t mean there aren’t great players to be found, just that there aren’t as many as normal and team’s batting percentages are expected to be lower when it’s all said and done.
Maybe teams are willing to accept lesser compensation in order to move back this year compared to other years. The smart money is always on moving back instead of moving up, but if Dallas is able to move up and still end up with the same number of total prospects, it’s not a thought without merit.
Still, giving up a 2023 first rounder is a gamble, especially when they haven’t given this coaching staff reason to believe they’ll be around if things don’t end with postseason success.
Selecting Logan Hall with No. 24
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Houston’s Logan Hall has been a riser and is one of Dallas’ 30 official visitors. Most people see the 3-tech/5-tech as a strong candidate for the second round but there has been some talk of him inching into the bottom half of the first round.
Along the defensive line, Dallas needs a replacement for Randy Gregory and a 1-tech and Hall is really neither of those. He’s more of a DeMarcus Lawrence style defender who can set the edge and also slide inside on passing downs. But what if Dan Quinn is trying to do something outside the box like he used to do with his fronts in Seattle?
Assuming convention when it comes to defense is probably foolish and Dallas fans should be prepared for any type of defender making his way onto the club.
Hall is off the snap and has heavy explosive hands with an array of moves. Here’s his full scouting report in case the shocking happens.
Drafting Lewis Cine or Dax Hill
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys have ignored the safety position for so long, but this year they have changed direction somewhat. Dallas gave Keanu Neal a one-year, $5 million deal last season, but that was with the express intent to convert him to linebacker.
This year, they rewarded two of the three free-agency flyers from 2020 who were actually supposed to play safety. Jayron Kearse played a box role and spent plenty of time at linebacker after Neal was injured and got a two-year, $10 million new deal. Malik Hooker played both safety roles and received a two-year, $7 million deal.
Those aren’t huge investments, but still a shift in philosophy. A bigger shift would be selecting a safety with their first rounder, a position they’ve publicly stated they don’t see that much value in when it comes in the draft.
Michigan’s Daxton Hill is seen as a surefire first rounder and Georgia’s Lewis Cine is a fringe first guy. Selecting either to be the centerfielder of the present and future would be shocking after years of ignoring high-pedigree prospects at the position.
Niether player was an official visitor.
Drafting Tyler Linderbaum
Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum (65)
When one looks at Linderbaum’s measurables, he shouldn’t be able to win the way he does. But when one looks at Linderbaum’s tape, there he is winning. Would Dallas go against their beliefs of what an offensive lineman should look like to go after the Iowa standout?
Dallas has Tyler Biadasz, but Linderbaum has a chance to be special in a similar way to NFC East rival Jason Kelce as an undersized guy who gets the job done efficacious despite physical limitations.
Linderbaum wasn’t an official visitor, another tendency the Cowboys routinely employ with first-round picks.