Drafting Defensive Tackle in 1st Round, Not Since 1991

With the NFL Scouting Combine just 2 weeks away, its time to ramp up the draft talk and dig deep into draft day scenarios. The Cowboys 2013 draft was heavy on offense early and I expect the defense to get the concentration this year in the same manner. Forget about trading up for the hot name QB, its not going to happen. This team needs defense and they need a lot of it.

I believe the Cowboys will need to double-dip at the defensive tackle and defensive end positions in this years draft. Coming away with 2 defensive tackles and 2 defensive ends will help the Cowboys lessen any decimating injuries like last season. The biggest question is; does Dallas draft a defensive end or a defensive tackle with its first pick? Either way, Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett will keep this line on course and incoming rookies will develop nicely under the defensive coaches.

Take this into consideration: Jerry has not drafted a DT in the 1st round since 1991 when he used the #1 overall pick on Russell Maryland, that’s 23 years. Depending on who you ask, that was pretty much a Jimmy Johnson selection anyway, that was his boy and it was a position we needed to make that defensive line a super bowl caliber line.

Conversely, the Cowboys have drafted a DE 6 times since Jerry bought the Cowboys in 1989. The last time we used the pick on a DE was in 2007 for Anthony Spencer.

With Jason Hatcher heading into free agency, the void will be huge and potentially worrisome without lending some attention to the position.

After Maryland left the Cowboys, we have filled the position with players like Brandon Noble, La’Roi Glover, Jason Ferguson, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher, but the Cowboys are paper thin now. So, outside of creating money for a Henry Melton or alike, the Cowboys may need to do something they haven’t done in over two decades – draft defensive tackle in the 1st round.

Defensive tackles currently on the roster:

Nick Hayden 6-4 301

Corvey Irvin 6-2 295

Frank Kearse 6-5 310

Ben Bass 6-5 294

All young and nothing spectacular, pure rotational players than anything. Hayden showed the most potential from the group, but we still need someone to be a playmaker at that position. Dallas needs a true playmaker at their respective position and defensive tackle doesn’t have one right now.

I think the key to the draft strategy will be coming from Will McClay, and his ability to scout out talent, gems, and defensive players in particular. With the defensive tackle a position with a high bust factor, the Cowboys will need to examine the prospect thoroughly prior to making the selection.

I anticipate Dallas needs one solid DT at the minimum, but two would be preferable. Its possible they could be following the steps of the Panthers when they did a one-two punch of Lotulelei and Short. Now, I don’t see them doing this with the 1st and 2nd round pick, but I do see them doing this at some point.

The one-two combo I’d like to see is:

Aaron Donald / Caraun Reid

Ra’Shede Hageman / Caraun Reid

Stephon Tuitt / Caraun Reid

Donald, Hageman, and Tuitt can all be had in the 1st round. Whether or not the Cowboys think 16/17 is too rich for defensive tackle will be part of the strategy. Could you trade down the 1st and still pick up one of these guys? Its possible, but you also leave the door open in missing out on a DT, again.

Caraun Reid is a guy that could see his name pop up more, he is also among the list of invitees to this years Scouting Combine. I think Reid can be had outside the 2nd round, but a solid combine could help him move up some boards and be on teams’ radar. Any of these combos would bring instant stability to the line and help loosen up double-teams on the defensive ends. He’s a playmaker and Princeton guy, so maybe Garrett will get a fellow alumni on the team.

I’ll give my defensive end strategy on the next write-up.

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