For the first time in a long time, Dallas Cowboys fans had a reason to smile when the team signed free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton to a conditional multi-year. Shortly thereafter, Cowboys fans began to wonder whether or not the team would alter its draft strategy now that the three-technique position is filled. Although Dallas has a ton of holes to fill in the 2014 NFL Draft, defensive tackle should not change as a huge need, regardless of whether the prospect is a better fit as a three-technique.
Aaron Donald, a solid pass-rushing defensive tackle prospect from Pittsburgh, has been linked to the Cowboys with the No. 16 overall pick in the first round of May’s draft and he was obviously the topic of debate after the Melton signing. Many are arguing Dallas should now not consider taking Donald if he’s available at No. 16, but that would simply be foolish on the team’s part.
Now that’s not to say the Cowboys should only consider a pass-rusher in the first round; on the contrary, passing on a stellar safety like Hasean “Ha Ha” Clinton Dix would be tough. As mentioned, the Cowboys have a truckload of needs to fill in this year’s draft, so the flow of the draft could really determine which player they take.
As for the three-technique situation, Melton’s health isn’t guaranteed. Sure, it’s probably safe to assume he will be back at full strength in 2014, but that’s certainly not guaranteed. And even if he is, Dallas still has arguably the worst defensive line in the NFL with no depth whatsoever, so having two great defensive tackles wouldn’t be a bad thing, regardless of whether they’re both three-techniques.
On an extreme note, Melton could potentially play the one-technique next to a player like Donald if Dallas uses its first-round pick on a defensive tackle. If he’s no longer a Pro Bowl-caliber player coming off the torn ACL, he might still be a solid starter and with less speed, he could end up as the perfect one-technique combination with a guy like Donald.
The examples and scenarios are endless, but the point is Melton isn’t going to fix the Cowboys’ defensive line by himself. Even with DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, who are no longer with Dallas, the Cowboys’ defense was a joke in 2013. Rod Marinelli will undoubtedly make the defensive line better in 2014, which should improve the entire unit as a whole, but he’s not a miracle-worker. Having plenty of depth — and options, depending on Melton’s health — definitely isn’t a bad thing. Thus, the Cowboys should still plan to take the best defensive lineman or safety available in the first round, regardless of the former’s speciality.