Jerry Jones needs to pull off a solid draft for the Dallas Cowboys to retool the roster. The Cowboys have a few areas where there are some needs, particularly in the interior of the offensive line and in the secondary.
Hopefully, Jones addresses these issues. Tony Romo was the sixth-most sacked quarterback and suffered a broken rib in Week 2. The Cowboys wouldn't want Romo to get hit hard again and suffer a significant injury for the third time in four seasons.
Also, the Cowboys need to improve upon their No. 23 pass defense of 2011 that gave up numerous big plays.
Following is a best-case scenario for the Cowboys in this year's draft.
In the first round, Jerry Jones should trade down for the No. 21 pick currently held by the Cincinnati Bengals. The trade should net the Cowboys third- and fourth-round picks. Then he should select center Peter Konz from Wisconsin.
Konz, who is thick at 6'5" and 315 pounds, is a quick, aggressive blocker. He jumps up into position quickly after the snap. He can get to the second level to make blocks in space.
A First-Team All Big Ten selection, Konz is just the guy to help the Cowboys on the offensive line. He has good balance and uses consistent positioning in pass-blocking. Also, he has a great understanding of pass-blocking technique.
Konz could easily steal the starting job from Phl Costa, who struggled in 2011.
Following his Wisconsin teammate, Kevin Zeitler should hear his name called in the same breath as the team name "Dallas Cowboys" by Roger Goodell.
At 6'4" and 318 pounds, Zeitler is a big, heady blocker with good technique. Zeitler has a low center of gravity and uses his hands well.
Zeitler is a solid pass protector. He can stop quick interior pass-rushers and stuff nose tackles. He'll throw off guys on the inside before going to help his mate on the other side. Zeitler's great at making blocks in space.
He's reputed as a hard worker. In 2011, he earned the Badger Power Award for weight room ethic.
Zeitler would be a big help for an injury-plagued guard set.
Cam Johnson should be on Jerry Jones' lips if he is looking to make his first defensive pick in the third round. The pass rush was lacking at times for the Cowboys last season, and picking up a speed rusher like Johnson would help enhance the rush.
Whether the Cowboys decide to go with a 4-3 or 3-4 defense in 2012, Johnson would be able to excel. Johnson is quick, with a 4.76-second 40-yard dash time and an explosive burst off the snap.
He's a good tackler and shows great power. Johnson brings a great bull rush.
With this predicted second pick in the third round, which the Cowboys would receive from the Bengals when trading down for the No. 21 pick, they should start building at the cornerback position. Shaun Prater would be a great help for a cornerback group that often gave up big plays and was tattered with injuries early in the season.
Prater is small at 5'11" and 185 pounds. However, he uses his speed to play receivers. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds. Also, Prater has a quick backpedal.
Prater is solid in man coverage. He can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. His speed allows him to stay in step with receivers. Prater is good at sniffing out the ball for interceptions. Also, he's great at knocking the ball away and at wrapping up players while tackling.
In the fourth round, the Cowboys should take another cornerback in Jamell Fleming from Oklahoma. With the possibility of players in the secondary being released, especially Terence Newman, the Cowboys would do well to grab two cornerbacks.
At 5'11" and 192 pounds, Fleming isn't that big. However, he hangs with receivers with his physicality, quickness and length. He can jam receivers at the line. Fleming won't be beaten on the first move, although receivers might get separation on him downfield.
Fleming runs the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds.
He had 14 pass deflections and five interceptions in 2010, and then picked up 10 pass deflections and two interceptions in 2011.
Fleming is aggressive, shows great effort in tackling and often goes to strip the ball from ball-carriers.
His tenacity is just what the Cowboys need.
Continuing with the secondary theme, the Cowboys should go for a strong safety in Duke Ihenacho from San Jose State with the second pick the Cowboys would receive when trading down in the first round. Abram Elam was a disappointment in 2011, often failing to pick receivers up.
Grabbing the right strong safety depends on who's on the board in the fourth round. If Harrison Smith of Notre Dame is still around in the fourth round, the Cowboys should go for him.
Still, Ihenacho would be a nice pick. He's the only San Jose State player to be named first-team All-WAC three times. In 2011, Ihenacho had 73 tackles, four tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and one returned for a touchdown.
In 2008, Ihenacho returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
Ihenacho has great size for a safety at 6'1", 210 pounds. He has nice speed. His ability to swat the ball away and pick up interceptions demonstrates great ball skills. The Cowboys need those types of ball skills in a safety.
The fifth round is due time for the Cowboys to look at defensive tackles. Hebron Fangupo would be a sound pick for Jerry Jones to make. He helped BYU rank 19th in the nation in rush defense and allowed only one rusher to gain more than 100 yards against the Cougars in 2011.
Fangupo is thick at 6'1", 331 pounds and can ably plug the middle. He has nice speed for a defensive tackle, running the 40-yard dash in 5.08 seconds. In 2011, Fangupo put up 26 tackles, five tackles for loss and knocked down two passes.
He would be a good help rotating at nose tackle with Jay Ratliff.
Chris Rainey would be a great late-round pick for the Cowboys to add depth at running back. The Cowboys had injuries to DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. Another running back, especially a lightning quick one like Rainey, would help carry the load.
Rainey is a dynamic speedster. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds. He has amazing straightaway speed and shows terrific lateral quickness. His moves make him elusive.
Rainey showed amazing speed on special teams, setting an SEC record with six blocked punts.
He also has the ability to return kicks and punts.
Rainey demonstrated an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and when lined up as a receiver. He can easily make catches in the flat and also has the ability to make over-the-shoulder catches.
Rainey is a superb all-around talent who could help the Cowboys significantly.
In the seventh round, the Cowboys would likely be looking for reserves and players who would serve a role on special teams.
Shawn Loisleau would be a good pick in the last round. Loiseau had a good showing at the Shrine Game, calling plays for the defense.
Loiseau put together a good resume at Merrimack, which has yet to see one of their players get drafted. He was a Division II All-American and the Northeast 10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 while throwing down 121 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
In 2011, Loiseau was the Northeast 10 Defensive Player of the Year, as he was second in Division II in tackles (133) and first in solo tackles per game (7.2).
At 6'0" and 241 pounds, Loiseau has average size. Meanwhile, he has great instincts, showing an ability to see plays develop.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com said, "He will be a special teams standout at worst and will make it tough for pro coaches to cut him."
If the Cowboys draft Loiseau, he should make a positive addition to the team.