Richard Paolinelli

Top Draft Targets For Dallas In 2013

Created on Mar. 04, 2013 12:00 PM EST

With the 2013 NFL Draft just weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys will have the 18th pick of the first round and possibly three glaring positions of need when the time comes to make the selection.

By placing the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, who will play opposite DeMarcus Ware in the new 4-3 defensive scheme, and a solid crop of free agent safeties to browse through, the Cowboys should be able to focus on their biggest area of need in the draft: the offensive line.

Far too many times last year the offensive line could not protect its quarterback in critical situations, leading to too many turnovers. Making things worse, the same line failed to generate any push on third and short yardage situations when the offense needed to keep the ball.

The top six offensive linemen on the Cowboys’ board will be high on many other teams’ boards as well. Alabama guard Chance Warmack and Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel will likely be long gone by the time Dallas’ pick rolls around. So unless Jerry Jones repeats his move from last year’s draft when Dallas moved up to select cornerback Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys first round pick will probably be one of the remaining four offensive linemen on their big board.

North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper is probably going to be available if Dallas stands pat at No. 18. Cooper was the driving force in the Tar Heels’ improved running attack last year, and would open huge holes for Demarco Murray to run through. The greatest threat to the Cowboys taking Cooper may be the St. Louis Rams, who pick at No. 16.

Kentucky guard Larry Warford would be a possible pick in the second round—Dallas picks 15th in the second round—along with tackles Eric Fisher from Central Michigan and Lane Johnson from Oklahoma if Cooper fails to fall to No. 18 and the Cowboys do not move up.

If Dallas does wait until the second round to address the offensive line, then they will need to spend the first-round pick on the defensive line: more specifically, on a defensive tackle. Florida’s Shariff Floyd will not slip to No. 18, and a recent heart issue should steer Dallas away from Utah’s Star Lotulelei. That should put Alabama’s Jesse Williams at the top of the Cowboys’ war room draft board on the defensive line when the 18th pick goes on the clock. Should another team take Williams earlier in the round, Purdue’s Kawann Short could also be available.

Perhaps the most unlikely position for Dallas to fill in the first round will be at safety. Even though the team recently released safety Gerald Sensabaugh, the Cowboys appear to be gearing up to sign a free agent safety. But in a draft with very little to offer in the backfield, the Cowboys’ top targets on the offensive and defensive lines could all be gone if they do not move up. Should that scenario play out, then Dallas could take either Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro or Florida safety Matt Elam, and try to pick up quality second-tier linemen in the second and third rounds.

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