With the 2021 NFL Draft just over a month away, the Dallas Cowboys will be putting the final touches on the big board over the next several weeks. The Cowboys have addressed several holes on their roster in the opening stages of NFL Free Agency, with affordable veterans on short-term contracts.
Doing this allows them to stay true to their board on draft night, as opposed to picking for need, which happens when the roster still has glaring holes come late-April. With that in mind, we will be looking at each position on the Cowboys in this series and where Dallas could look to improve their situation in the 2021 NFL Draft.
I’ve broken the positions up into two tiers (shown below). We will be looking at them individually over the coming weeks. Tier 1 is made up of more pressing needs where the position is still searching for a starter or competition to start. In contrast, the second is more about depth or identifying a future contributor at the position.
Cowboys Draft Needs
We are starting with that top need at cornerback. This was one of the Cowboys’ most frustrating positions over a 2020 campaign, in which America’s Team was one of only seven to allow opposing QB’s an average passer rating of 100 or higher.
Without an impact free-agent addition, Dallas could put themselves in a position to force a pick with one of their early selections on draft night. That’s never the ideal situation, but the Cowboys are desperate to find a starter to pair with second-year player Trevon Diggs.
Which Cowboys Cornerbacks Are Returning?
This defense has quite a few players returning that saw time at corner last season, starting with Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown. Diggs had an encouraging rookie campaign as a second-round pick out of Alabama, while Brown struggled with consistency, mainly due to injuries.
Dallas will see slot-corner Jourdan Lewis return after agreeing to a three-year deal at the start of free agency. Special teams ace, C.J. Goodwin will also return at the position after being signed to a two-year deal.
The Cowboys also still have a pair of young players that could step into depth roles this fall. Reggie Robinson, their 2020 fourth-round pick, worked at safety for Dallas as a rookie, but could fit as a corner in new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme.
Maurice Canady also signed with Dallas last offseason before choosing to opt-out due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Rashard Robinson, Deante Burton and Saivion Smith all got time at corner as well, and are signed through the 2021 season.
Awuzie Leaves in Free Agency
Former second-round pick, Chidobe Awuzie will not be returning, after he signed a three-year deal with Cincinnati. Awuzie struggled to live up to his draft slot in Dallas, mostly due to nagging injuries over his four years. Still, he was able to earn a starter’s salary with the Bengals.
What Do the Cowboys Need at Cornerback?
As I mentioned above, Dallas is in desperate need of a starter opposite Trevon Diggs. Lewis and Brown can both handle slot duties, but if the Cowboys’ nickel package includes the pair of them and Diggs, we are in trouble.
We could very well ignore the best player on our board to grab a corner at 10 or pass on someone to move down and draft our guy. We need to make the position a top priority with one of our first two picks, and I’m also not ruling out Dallas double-dipping in this group.
I’ve got 12 corners on my Top-100 Big Board, and several others that just missed the cut. Still, the goal is to get someone who is an option on the perimeter in Dan Quinn’s cover-three/man-heavy system.
Size and arm-length will be highly-coveted, although not a mandatory prerequisite as we saw with Kris Richard. Recovery speed will be another crucial asset as there will usually only be a single-high safety in our defense.
Cowboys Draft Targets at Cornerback
With the tenth-overall selection, Dallas may likely have the top defenders still on the board. Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Alabama’s Patrick Surtain are all options in the first half of day one.
If the Cowboys were to wait until round two (pick 44), there are some intriguing high-risk/high-reward prospects that could grow into shutdown corners, if they further develop. Northwestern’s Greg Newsome, Illinois’ Ifeatu Melifonwu and Georgia’s Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes fit into that category.
I’d also keep an eye on Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph, who only played in 15 games during his collegiate career, but flashes first-round traits. A couple of players just outside my top-100 that could also fit the coverage-scheme Quinn has often favored are Stanford’s Paulson Adebo and Washington’s Keith Harris.