This weeks signing of Henry Melton shaped the Cowboys draft a great deal. Leading up to free agency the hot name attached to the Cowboys was Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh and rightfully so. Donald to the Cowboys at #16 made a lot of sense especially when Jason Hatcher jumped ship for the hated Redskins, but now with Helton our #16 pick could go to any position.
The darkhorse pick at #16 could be a QB, and specifically, Johnny Manziel. The Cowboys think very highly of Manziel, and if Manziel is still on the board Jerry Jones will make the pick. With free agency two weeks in, the draft has already shifted quite a bit and there’s word that several of the early consensus picks for QB could fall.
Teddy Bridgewater could be this year’s Geno Smith. Who remembers seeing Geno Smith mocked very high during last year’s mock drafts? I do, I didn’t get it, and when the draft started it agreed, Smith fell several rounds. I think Bridgewater is better than Smith, but I would not doubt at all that he will slip in the draft. Some indications are showing that the Browns and Jaguars could go defense. The Browns have the luxury of picking up a QB later in the draft since they have two picks.
Back to Manziel. If he get’s past Minnesota, then I could see him falling down the 1st round as well, but there will be some suitors that will be tempted at taking him. The Titans could be looking to replace Locker and Manziel could get a look at 11; The Rams have two first rounders early, and they could get Bradford’s replacement here at 13; after that, Manziel would fall to the Cowboys at #16.
Here’s where it gets interesting for the Cowboys. For me, the Cowboys need to come away with DeMarcus Ware’s and Doug Free’s replacements in this year’s draft, but if Manziel is there, Jerry will take a long look and could get Romo’s replacement right here. Keep an eye on Manziel’s March 27th (Thursday) Pro Day. If word gets out that the Cowboys were in attendance, then the thought process could be reinforced further.
The other pick to watch at #16 would be Zack Martin. He’s a blue chipper and could be a day one starter. Martin could play guard or tackle, but ultimately he’ll be Free’s replacement. Free will be a free agent in 2015 if the Cowboys forgo his 2015 option which carries at $8 million dollar price tag, and I don’t see that happening. The Cowboys will likely use that option for Henry Melton who also has the 2015 option for about the same amount.
Outside of a player like Manziel or Martin, the Cowboys will likely trade down a bit, picking up an extra 3rd rounder at the minimum. Trading down the first will still be deep with talent for the Cowboys and they can still pick up an offensive tackle like Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia, if they think he can be Free’s replacement. The Cowboys will also have plenty of options defensively. Players like Dee Ford and Scott Crichton will likely be there in the 2nd half of the 1st round.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Cowboys’ draft board will shape up, and whether or not they stick with it. If Aaron Donald was there at #16 and he was still very high on their board would they still take him? Would you still take him? Can you imagine a rotation of Melton and Donald, the potential could be ferocious, unlikely to happen, but nice to dream of.
The defense took a step in the right direction with Melton, but they still have a lot of work to go. I think some returning defenders like Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass will be nice players in the mix, but for Rod Marinelli, a constant presence of pressure in a QB’s face is paramount. With pressure come the turnovers, and with the turnovers come more chances for our offense to light up teams.