The NFL released its official schedule on Tuesday evening and everyone from Valley Ranch to Timbuktu is quickly putting out their predictions for the Dallas Cowboys’ 2012 season. The avenues for such predictions range from Twitter to television, but all have one thing in common – they’re premature.
That’s not to say that all NFL predictions this time of year are too early; teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens know they’ll be in contention for a Super Bowl title this year, so forecasts for their seasons aren’t off-base, even now. However, inconsistent teams like the Cowboys who could finish 5-11 or 11-5 this season cannot be properly gauged prior to the 2012 NFL Draft.
While some powerhouse teams will simply add depth and firepower in this year’s draft, teams like the Cowboys will use the event as a way to fill gaping holes in their lineups. For example, Dallas won’t make a serious playoff run until its defensive is solidified. The Cowboys won’t be anywhere near the Super Bowl if Jerry Jones doesn’t draft a defensive lineman that can start right away and make an impact.
There are obviously other areas in which the Cowboys can and need to improve, but the defensive line is a make-or-break factor for Dallas. Jones improved the secondary by replacing Terence Newman with Brandon Carr and signing Brodney Pool to take Abram Elam’s spot. Many fans don’t realize how much better the Cowboys’ secondary is already, although it can still be drastically improved.
However, Dallas’ defensive line is one area that is still as awful as it was a year ago. Rob Ryan is itching to make his complex 3-4 scheme work, but it can’t without the proper up front. The Cowboys have three real options with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and they include LSU’s Michael Brockers, Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Memphis’ Dontari Poe.
Many believe Poe is overrated and that’s true. Many of those same folks think Cox will be gone by the time Dallas is on the board in the first round, which is also very likely. That means Brockers is bound to be the Cowboys’ first pick in this year’s draft unless Jones trades down, which might be in his team’s best interest. That’s highly unlikely unless Brockers, Cox and Poe are all gone by No. 14.
The cries by Cowboys fans for their team to select Alabama safety Mark Barron at No. 14 overall aren’t going unheard, but they’ll likely go unheeded unless Dallas is put in a position to where he becomes not the best, but the only option in the first round. The Cowboys have a new safety in Pool and third-year pro Barry Church could easily win the long-term starting job sometime during the season.
Regardless, Dallas has options back deep and a huge hole up front. Brockers seems like the most sensible pick in the first round and he might be the difference-maker to make Ryan’s defense finally click this season. Only time will tell, but it’s impossible to accurately predict the outcome of the Cowboys’ games against the likes of the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers before the draft.