AT&T Stadium — In just over two hours, the 2018 NFL Draft will begin from the Dallas Cowboys’ home at AT&T Stadium. Over in Frisco, the Cowboys brain trust will prepare to go on the clock with the 19th overall pick. Tonight’s pick is one of ten total selections the Cowboys hold – a team experiencing a youth movement on the heels of a nine win season.
Those nine wins were enough for the Cowboys to keep Head Coach Jason Garrett, along with his top coordinators in Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli. Paired with the Jones family and Will McClay, it is pretty well understood who will be making draft decisions in Dallas.
Last year’s “controversial” selection of Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton was immediately tabbed as a “Garrett pick”, sending McClay on a rarely-seen media tour to perhaps defend his status as the perceived architect of America’s Team.
Claiming the Cowboys have a divided war room or anything of the sort is nothing more than a narrative without merit. This team’s draft classes have spoken for themselves, as they’ll hope 2018 is no different.
Our Staff Writer Brian Martin covered the three prospects the Cowboys are reportedly targeting at 19th overall this morning, and from that we should have plenty of insight on how the decision goes down inside The Star.
Let’s start with Florida State Safety Derwin James, who could be seen as the final piece to a retooled Cowboys secondary. This secondary will be coached by new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, who is already tabbed as the heir to Marinelli’s DC position. Richard has shown his prowess in shifting Byron Jones from safety to cornerback for the upcoming season, but will he convince the Jones’ to trade assets for James?
The likelihood of an all-around athlete and difference maker like James sliding outside of the top 15 picks is unlikely, but difference making prospects is exactly what the Cowboys are after tonight. They feel there are others, still on defense, with Boise State Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and Washington Defensive Tackle Vita Vea.
Both front seven fortifiers sure feel like Rod Marinelli guys, as the Cowboys are in agreement that Vander Esch could provide needed depth behind both Sean Lee at WILL and Jaylon Smith at MIKE. Based on who we know the Cowboys “like”, LVE feels like a safe fallback for Dallas to come away happy with tonight’s outcome.
Trading down for arguably the fourth best linebacker available in this first round may make Cowboys Nation feel better, but NFL teams do not often trade away from players they collectively love.
Vita Vea is not your typical Rod Marinelli 1T DT, but that bodes well for the Cowboys Defensive Coordinator pounding the table for a prospect that many would view as a steal with the 19th pick. The Cowboys do see Vea as a three down player with the versatility to fit their defensive front, a presence in the middle that would undoubtedly boost the play of rising players like DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, and Maliek Collins.
That brings us to the Cowboys most glaring team need, which happens to be in new Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal’s crowded room of pass catchers. It’s likely that we’ll never truly know how Lal ranks the top receivers available, with Calvin Ridley projected to come off the board prior to the Cowboys pick.
The Cowboys are going to come away from this draft with a rookie wide receiver for Dak Prescott to throw the ball to, but it may not be tonight. If it is, we are looking at Maryland’s D.J. Moore or Courtland Sutton of local SMU.
Whether or not either of these prospects are talented enough in the Cowboys eye to pass on Vander Esch or Vea is what I believe tonight’s decision will come down to. The Cowboys war room will watch as their latest first round pick is introduced at his new home stadium in Dallas, with plenty of familiar faces having their say in who that player will be.
Based on the shrinking group of targets the Cowboys have for tonight, their pick will also show signs of influence from new positional coaches expected to significantly improve this team in 2018 – at the cost of those aforementioned familiar faces. Should they make all ten picks, the Cowboys will be a new-look football team by the end of this week.
Happy Draft Day! We are live tonight from AT&T Stadium.