2018 NFL Draft Reset: Cowboys continue to search for defense

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The Dallas Cowboys went into the offseason needing to shore up the offensive line at tackle and guard and hoping to upgrade the receiver corps after going 9-7 last season. The decision to move Byron Jones from safety to cornerback and the losses of middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens made filling holes at those positions paramount as well.

The Cowboys signed receivers Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in free agency as well as tackle Cameron Fleming and guard Marcus Martin. The addition of linebacker Joe Thomas has allowed them to head into the draft focusing on taking the best player with the 19th overall pick.

They could target one of those positions early on but there is need to force a fit, per vice president Stephen Jones.

Here is a closer look at where the Cowboys are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.

THE BREAKDOWN

2017 finish: 2nd NFC East (9-7)

STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 331.9 (14th)

RUSHING: 135.6 (2nd)

PASSING: 196.3 (26th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 318.1 (8th)

RUSHING: 104.0 (8th)

PASSING: 214.1 (11th)

TEAM NEEDS

  1. Linebacker: Sean Lee’s injury and Jaylon Smith’s uncertainty has the Cowboys hunting for an every-down linebacker, preferably one that can play in the middle.
  1. Safety: The Cowboys are looking for a true free safety, one that can play centerfield. They passed on a number in free agency because they were considered box safeties.
  1. Wide receiver: The Cowboys still haven’t made a final decision on Dez Bryant. He would already be gone if they would have signed Sammy Watkins. They eventually signed Hurns and Thompson, but the Cowboys will still target a receiver in the first three rounds.

KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

–LS L.P. Ladouceur: UFA; $1.105M/1 yr, $720K guaranteed/$90K SB.

–C/G Joe Looney: UFA; $2.1M/2 yrs, $250K SB.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

–DE Kony Ealy: UFA Jets; terms unknown.

–T Cameron Fleming: UFA Patriots; $2.5M/1 yr, $1M SB.

–WR Allen Hurns: FA Jaguars; $12M/2 yrs, $2.5M SB.

–C Marcus Martin: UFA Browns; $880K/1 yr, $90K SB.

–FB Jamize Olawale (trade Raiders).

–LB Joe Thomas: Not tendered as RFA by Packers; $3.6M/2 yrs, $600K SB.

–WR Deonte Thompson: UFA Bills; $1.8M/1 yr, $1M SB.

PLAYERS LOST

–CB Bene Benwikere: UFA Cardinals; $790K/1 yr.

–WR Brice Butler: UFA Cardinals; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

–G Jonathan Cooper: UFA 49ers; 1 yr, terms unknown.

–LB Anthony Hitchens: UFA Chiefs; $45M/5 yrs, $25.09M guaranteed ($3.8M injury only at signing at signing, $14M SB).

–DE Benson Mayowa (released).

–DT Stephen Paea (UFA/retired).

–CB Orlando Scandrick (released/post-June 1 designation).

–FB Keith Smith: Not tendered as RFA/Raiders; $4.2M/2 yrs.

–LB Kyle Wilber: UFA Raiders; terms unknown.

*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 19 overall)

Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):

–Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. Hurst’s draft stock was in flux after medical tests at the Combine indicated an abnormality with his heart, although he was later cleared to resume football activities. It should be noted that a similar test did not keep the Carolina Panthers from making then-Utah defensive Star Lotulelei the 14th overall pick five years ago. The Cowboys have shown a willingness to gamble on medical red flags in the past and could see as the perfect interior complement to explosive edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence.

Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):

–Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. Some might see this as a reach, but the Cowboys don’t. Vander Esch is an ascending talent who has very encouraging tape, traits and production, giving Dallas immediate depth at linebacker and a potential Pro Bowler.

Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.

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