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Early-round positions the Cowboys are likely to avoid at NFL Draft

Despite the fact that the Dallas Cowboys have needs up and down the roster, there are some areas where they probably won’t use their first round pick to upgrade.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (7), Nahshon Wright (25) and others celebrate Diggs intercepting a Carolina Panthers' Sam Darnold pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

DALLAS — The past few weeks has been an exercise in figuring out who the Dallas Cowboys might select in the 2022 NFL Draft. They hold the 24th overall pick in the first round, along with eight more selections, so the Cowboys are armed with enough picks to make a trade if necessary.

If owner Jerry Jones’ words were any indication, Dallas could be in play for moving up to acquire better talent in the earlier rounds. Or the Cowboys could trade down and acquire more assets for a team that has more than just a few holes on their roster.

We’ll know the organization's plan in less than two weeks, but at this point in draft season, it’s important to take everything that’s said in public with a grain of salt. It’s all just part of the game before the draft kicks off in Las Vegas on April 28.

However, as should be noted, the Cowboys appear to be one of the least secretive teams in the league and the offseason moves leading up to the draft often predict which positions the team will choose from when they’re on the clock.

As it stands right now, the solid money would be on the Cowboys selecting an offensive lineman or wide receiver if they stay at pick 24. The defensive line and linebacker are areas of need as well, but the decisions made this offseason likely point to a OL or WR for the Cowboys in the first round.

While we can reasonably guess where Dallas will focus early in the draft, reading the tea leaves can also tell us which positions the team might bypass. If there is a talented player at a position of lesser need who falls to the 24th pick, would the Cowboys jump at the chance, or would they trade out to gain extra selections?

These are the questions that the team needs to prepare for, and every situation that can arise in the early rounds needs to have a plan of action. A few years ago, it seemed impossible to think that the Cowboys would be able to land receiver CeeDee Lamb in the middle of the first round, yet that’s exactly what happened.

Dallas pulled the trigger on the best player available when they were on the clock, would they do the same this time around with other glaring needs?

The positions that the Cowboys are likely to ignore in the first round include quarterback, where Dak Prescott is firmly entrenched as the franchise man under center. Running back is an area where the offense has one of the best tandems in the league with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard so don’t expect a first-rounder there. But what about cornerback, does that spot also fall on this list?

After using their second round selection on CBs the last two years, and a third-rounder last year as well, Dallas has used premium picks on the position. All-Pro CB Trevon Diggs was a second-round pick in 2020 and he led the NFL in interceptions in his second season. Surprise selection Nahshon Wright isn’t ready for a larger role just yet, but he fits what defensive coordinator Dan Quinn likes in his corners.

The Cowboys also re-signed corners Anthony Brown, who was a starter last season and had three interceptions, and slot corner Jourdan Lewis returned on a modest deal, so they comprise a solid part of the CB group for the Cowboys. That makes a strong five-man CB rotation for the Dallas defense and it would be difficult to draft another one to fight for snaps.

Exceptions can be made, perhaps if LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. or Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner were to somehow fall into their laps, but that could take a Lamb-esque miracle. Both are expected to be top 15 picks, but if one of them made it to 24, the Cowboys would have to think long and hard about going off script.

The Cowboys might draft another CB at some point during the proceedings but doing so in the first round or two doesn’t seem likely.

Safety might be in a different situation. The Cowboys could use an upgrade and a long-term solution, but the need isn’t as prevalent as it usually is at the position. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the team draft a safety early, but by signing both Malik Hooker and Jayron Kearse this offseason, it’s a signal that the Cowboys are probably looking in another direction.

If a top safety like Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton, who’s projected to be a top 15 pick, or Michigan’s Daxton Hill are available, it could entice Dallas to pull the trigger on a safety. Recent history suggests safety is an unlikely target, however. Dallas hasn’t used premium picks at the position even when the need was more dire.

The Cowboys don’t exactly have the best poker face in the league, and they’ve set themselves up to draft from an obvious group of positions in the first round. All the other positions of lesser need will get addressed later in the draft, which is exactly how the Cowboys have prepared themselves.

Which position do you think the Cowboys most need to bolster at the upcoming NFL Draft? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.

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