The final fiddling with the draft board is done for the 2020 NFL draft kicking off at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday (ESPN/ABC/ESPN app). Now all the Dallas Cowboys can do is wait.
“I like our 17th hole,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “I like the spot we’re in at 17.”
While Dallas will be at the mercy of what happens with the draft’s first 16 picks, Jones likes the Cowboys’ position because it could present all kinds of options.
Let’s take a look:
Stay put at No. 17
This is the most likely of scenarios to play out for Dallas. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys do not feel pressure to draft a player at a specific position. That train of thought could make for a good debate, because the Cowboys could use cornerback and pass-rush help to mitigate the losses of Byron Jones and Robert Quinn in NFL free agency.
If that is how the Cowboys feel, then they believe they will get a good player at No. 17.
So, who are the top options for the franchise, and who might be available?
Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson, LSU defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray and Alabama safety Xavier McKinney are names to watch.
The Cowboys met with all of them virtually before the draft, but Henderson might be gone by the time the Cowboys pick. Chaisson fills the pass-rusher need, even if Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory are reinstated and can suit up for the Cowboys in the fall. Terrell was one of the best players on Clemson’s defense the past two seasons and is versatile enough to play inside.
Linebacker and safety might not be positions of absolute need for the Cowboys, but Murray can make plays all over the field, and he attacks the line of scrimmage. McKinney is an instinctive player who can go get the ball; the Cowboys need a lot of that.
It’s not like a draft-day trade can be accomplished and executed with a snap of the fingers. There has to be a player that would make another team want to move up, and in this year’s draft, that could be a quarterback, offensive tackle or receiver. Of those three positions, the Cowboys need a slot receiver, but in a draft deep with wideouts, they could seek to gain more picks in a trade and grab a receiver later on.
The last time the Cowboys traded down in the first round, they made out quite well.
They moved from No. 18 to No. 31 in 2013 and selected center Travis Frederick, while gaining a third-round pick that turned into wide receiver Terrance Williams. At the time, the Cowboys were ridiculed by many, but Frederick became one of the best centers in the NFL and Williams was a mostly productive player.
“That circumstance is possible if you can in any way look at the makeup of the draft and predict that, which you really can’t,” Jerry Jones said. “But there’s enough here to work with.”
The danger is moving too far back and missing out on players the Cowboys like. Frederick was the last offensive lineman on the Cowboys’ board whom they thought could be a walk-in starter.
When discussing the possibility of trading for a star player, such as safety Jamal Adams of the New York Jets, Jones called it “highly unlikely.” A move up for the Cowboys in this year’s draft would seem unlikely as well.
The Cowboys need as many picks as possible to balance out the team’s top-heavy salary cap that will be made even more top-heavier whenever quarterback Dak Prescott signs his deal. The Cowboys need to have middle-round picks pan out to build depth now and become starters in future seasons.
Trading up a few spots might not be as costly, but the last time the Cowboys made a major move up in the first round was in 2012 when they gave up the 14th and 45th picks to get to No. 6 overall to take cornerback Morris Claiborne. Injuries and inconsistencies led to Claiborne not being the player the Cowboys hoped and he was gone after five seasons.