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Guiding Jerry Jones Through The Draft

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The Dallas Cowboys must address the offensive and defensive lines in the 2013 NFL Draft. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images.
The Dallas Cowboys must address the offensive and defensive lines in the 2013 NFL Draft. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images.

With the 2013 NFL Draft approaching fast, the Dallas Cowboys draft team is still weighing its options when it comes to its first-round pick on Thursday. Should they draft an offensive lineman at No. 18, and then take a defensive tackle in the second? Or should they reverse the order and grab a much needed pass-rusher at No. 18, and see if a solid starter on the offensive line can be found in the second round? Do they trade up in the draft for a better player? Or does bad GM Jerry Jones rear his ugly head and trade the Cowboys down, if not completely out of the first round altogether?

The Cowboys dealt with one area of need by signing free agent S Will Allen, meaning they can wait until later in the draft to pick up another player at the position. It gives them the ability to focus on the two bigger areas of need: the offensive and defensive lines.

Which way they go on Thursday will likely depend on how the first 17 picks go. If there is a run on either position, the Cowboys will have the decision made for them. But if there are quality players at both spots still on the board, the Cowboys might be able to move down a spot or two to still get a player of need plus an extra pick on Friday or Saturday.

Here's a look at the Cowboys needs, potential fits and strategy for the 2013 draft.

Top Needs: Offensive lineman, defensive tackle and safety.

An inability to keep Tony Romo on his feet and unable to clear running room for Demarco Murray makes fixing the offensive line an absolute must. Unless Dallas is certain a quality offensive lineman will be there in the second round, they need to take care of this position on Thursday. There are several good offensive linemen in this draft, and one should fall to Dallas at No. 18. Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack would fit the bill, as would Larry Warford, and one of them could be there for Dallas depending on how Thursday plays out.

Dallas struggled to pressure the opposing quarterback in 2012, and this is an area they need to address. If they do wait until the second round, Brandon Williams out of Missouri Southern would be a nice pick unless one of the projected first rounders just happens to tumble to them at No. 47.

Even with the signing of Allen, the safety position is not a rock solid unit in Dallas. Taking another young player in the third round makes sense. Perhaps Phillip Thomas out of Fresno State, who merely led the nation with eight interceptions last year?

Secondary Needs: Running back, quarterback and wide receiver.

Getting a reliable back up for DeMarco Murray needs to be on the to-do list for Dallas this weekend. If UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin is still on the board in the third round, the Cowboys should take him and address their safety issue in the fourth. But if not, there could be a few good options still there at running back in the fourth round.

Tony Romo’s reworked contract makes him the starter for the next few years, but grabbing his successor should be on Dallas’ radar on Saturday. Two or three seasons on the bench learning the position while still having the skill set to come in should Romo get injured are the qualities the Cowboys will look for. Southeastern Louisiana’s Nathan Stanley could be that man.

With Kevin Ogletree in Tampa Bay and neither Cole Beasley nor Dwayne Harris as a can’t-miss starter, Dallas should use one of its six picks on getting a slot receiver or perhaps the next Miles Austin. Auburn’s Emory Blake should be on the board in the sixth round, and the Cowboys should give him a long, hard look.

Potential First-Round Picks (in no particular order)

1. OG Chance Warmack, Alabama

Warmack played in an NFL-type offense, and knows how to keep his quarterback clean and the path clear for his running back. It’s probably a bit too much to ask for him to fall all the way to No. 18, so Dallas might have to move up to get him as they did last year to grab Morris Claiborne.

2. OG Larry Warford, Kentucky

If you’re betting money on who Dallas is going to take, Warford is probably the safe bet. Worford played against defensive tackles that will be going in the first round on Thursday and fared quite well. Overshadowed in this draft by Cooper and Warmack, Warford is a top guard in his own right.

3. DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri

In a draft bereft of quality skill players, there could be a run on offensive lineman and defensive backs on Thursday. If that happens, Dallas could easily take Richardson on Thursday and grab Oregon guard Kyle Long in the second round. Coming off a monster total of 75 tackles in 2012, Richardson would improve the Cowboys defensive line just by having his name called at No. 18.

4. DT Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia

Another veteran of the SEC wars, Jenkins is a quality run-stuffer and can flush out a quarterback with a powerful bull rush right into the heart of the pocket. Just ask Warmack, who Jenkins got past for a sack in the SEC Championship game last year.

5. S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

The only way this happens is if all of the top linemen on the offensive and defensive line are off the board and Vaccaro somehow falls to No. 18. If the cards fall this way, though, Vaccaro would make his presence known and would solidify the defense. But that would force Dallas to make perfect selections and find solid players on both sides of the line in the next two rounds.

With the blatantly obvious issues on the lines, it would be hard to see Dallas making this pick. Then again, it is Jerry Jones who will be making the call, so it can’t be completely discounted.

Second Round And Beyond

The most likely scenario is Dallas takes an offensive lineman at No. 18, and then takes a defensive tackle in the second round at No. 47. The next likely pick is defensive tackle at No. 18 with an offensive lineman at No. 47.

The third round is anyone’s guess. It could be a safety or it could be a running back depending on who is still on the board at No. 82. Much like the first two rounds, look for the third and fourth picks to be running back and then safety or vice-versa.

The final two picks should address the slot receiver and the player to be groomed as Tony Romo’s replacement. With plenty of possibilities, Dallas can pick the best player available between the two positions.

No matter the players — and their respective positions — Dallas selects this weekend, the Cowboys must make smart, solid decisions and find players that will make the roster and stay on it. In 2009 they drafted 12 players; none of them are on the Cowboys roster today.