As the 2012 NFL Draft draws near, the Dallas Cowboys are in a prime position to draft the best player available with the No. 14 overall pick after signing several key free agents this off-season. While Dallas will still look to solidify certain positions during the draft, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday he knows which position he doesn’t want to draft.
“We probably wouldn’t prefer that. I wouldn’t,” Jones said. “That would keep us from maybe having to pick a top [defensive] player there in the first round and the offensive line. I did it both ways. It left us totally flexible there. You might want to move down and pick up a player that’s going to be there rather than being at your 14th — you might not have been able to do that had you not had the success that we had in free agency.”
The Cowboys signed Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings to shore up the guard position on the offensive line and Dallas head coach Jason Garrett is confident second-year centers Kevin Kowalski and Bill Nagy will provide ample competition for Phil Costa in 2012. Based on the depth at center and guard following the free agent signings, Jones and Garrett are confident in what they have.
“Jason [Garrett] is right,” Jones said. “The competition is a big part of why Costa should have success here and why he ought to be better. There is some competition here. It gives us great depth.”
By at least making these statements, Jones has all but guaranteed the Cowboys won’t draft an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft. It might as well be a full guarantee considering these comments came just a day after Jones said the Cowboys are looking to add a pass-rusher on April 26.
While the Cowboys’ offensive line can be improved, and will be with the additions of Bernadeau and Livings, Dallas is wise to focus on defense in the first round of the draft. The Cowboys’ Achilles heel was the pass rush and pass coverage in 2011, both things that can be helped by drafting a premier pass-rusher.
Jones mentioned his team might even trade down to take a player he and Garrett know will still be on the board past the 14th pick. Dallas might pick up an extra middle-round pick by doing so, which always helps.
In short, Jones’ statement should be music to the ears of Cowboys fans, who know Dallas’ defense desperately needs improvement, especially on the front line. The Cowboys should leave all options open as Jones mentioned, but focusing on a pass-rusher is by far the best move for Dallas.