When it comes to the NFL Draft, there are two main philosophies which teams believe in. There is the theory that says you draft to fill a need, and there is a theory that says you take the best player available regardless of position.
Of course, the dream scenario is that the best player available also fills your biggest need, but unfortunately for most teams that is rarely the case. One team that will likely face unenviable task of choosing between talent or need in this year’s draft is the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys have needs all over the field, but most would agree their biggest need is defensive line. There are two top-tier defensive linemen in this draft; Jadeveon Clowney and Aaron Donald. The problem is both will likely be gone when Dallas picks at number 16. So, where does that leave the Cowboys?
There are other defensive linemen the Cowboys could choose with the 16th pick. They could draft Anthony Barr out of UCLA, but the risk there is that Dallas would be trying to convert Barr from linebacker to defensive end. Another other concern with Barr is that he was a running back up until two years ago. He switched to linebacker in order to get more playing time.
A couple of other options at defensive line are Kony Ealy, Dee Ford and Timmy Jernigan. All three are projected as late-first or early-second round picks, so drafting them at 16 would be a reach and mean that Dallas would be passing on a more talented player in order to fill a need.
The second option and a likely one is that Dallas could trade down in the first round, pick up an extra pick or two and then draft Barr, Ealy, Jernigan, or Ford. This strategy worked for Dallas last year when they traded back in the first round, drafted Travis Frederick and used the extra pick on Terrance Williams. While this strategy makes more sense than reaching for a player at 16, there is a strategy I think is better.
I think Dallas should simply take the best player available. Any player Dallas chooses will likely fill a need. If it is Calvin Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, then that’s great because it still meets a major need. The same goes for cornerback, linebacker, or offensive lineman. It even goes for the wide receiver or quarterback.
Everyone knows Dallas must find a couple of defensive linemen in this draft, but they have 11 picks in the draft, so they don’t have to reach for one with their first. Dallas must simply stick to their board and draft the best overall player, unless that player happens to be a tight end. I don’t think Dallas fans could handle them using another high draft pick on a tight end that they refuse to use.