2012 NFL Draft: 5 Possible Prospects for Dallas Cowboys to Draft in First Round
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a rather mediocre 8-8 season full of ups and downs in 2011, ending in an opportunity for the NFC East division crown in the season finale against the New York Giants.
The eventual Super Bowl champions would cruise on to a 31-14 victory, sending the 'Boys home packing for the offseason. The glaring weaknesses of the team were quite notable down the stretch, as the December struggles for the Cowboys would continue, posting an abysmal 1-4 record in the final month of the regular season.
The offensive line, secondary and pass rush were clearly in need of change at certain positions.
As the offseason stands now, the Cowboys' front office has already made a great push in fulfilling their needs, bringing in six new free agents. Dallas' biggest signing was former Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr, who is easily an instant upgrade over released veteran Terence Newman.
Other key pickups were free safety Brodney Pool, offensive guard Nate Livings, and inside linebacker Dan Connor.
With that said, the Cowboys still have multiple areas that still need to be addressed in the 2012 NFL Draft, which is only about a month away from now.
There are many directions the team could go with the 14th overall pick of the draft. Let's take a look at the possible players the Cowboys could draft in the first round come April.
David DeCastro, G, Stanford
David DeCastro is undoubtedly the best interior offensive lineman in the draft and would immediately make an impact on the guard position for the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2011, the interior line struggled to pick up blitzes for Tony Romo, one of the reasons why the veteran quarterback dealt with numerous injuries throughout the season.
The Cowboys have recently released aging Kyle Kosier, and have brought in guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau via free agency in the past week.
Livings is projected to be the starter at one of the two starting guard positions when the season starts.
As for Bernadeau, he's barely gotten any significant playing time, having only 20 career starts in the last four years. He will likely be used as a backup for depth purposes, which leaves Dallas in need of another starter at the position.
DeCastro would be a perfect fit, hardly getting beat in pass protection and an excellent run blocker. The chances of him falling to the 14th pick are not very high; however, if he does fall to the Cowboys, he would be a absolute steal.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Dre Kirkpatrick was a shutdown corner for Alabama, playing with a physical style which Rob Ryan would be eager to have on his defense. This is not a major need for Dallas since the cornerback position has been upgraded with the signing of Brandon Carr.
However, the team still lacks depth at the position, and it would be hard to pass up a guy who's team led the nation in total defense, passing defense, and scoring defense, according to ESPN Dallas' Draft Preview Series. His physical attributes and playing style would help the Cowboys in solving their problem of being too "soft" on defense.
With Mike Jenkins being inconsistent and injury prone, and Orlando Scandrick being fit solely for the slot position, the Cowboys will need capable defensive backs to step up when needed.
Dallas should have learned their lesson in 2011 for trusting players like Alan Ball and Frank Walker when the starters went down to injury.
As the saying goes, you can never have too many solid cornerbacks in the NFL. Kirkpatrick should be available when the 'Boys go on the clock, and this pick could only improve the current squad.
Dontari Poe, DT Memphis
The secondary took most of the blame for Rob Ryan's defense being lackluster towards the end of the season in 2011.
However, the lack of a consistent pass rush outside of DeMarcus Ware also contributed to the inadequacy of the Dallas defense.
Dontari Poe is an excellent pass rusher with great burst and ability to find gaps. With the 14th pick, he is projected to be one of the best players available when the Cowboys are picking. His talents would be largely beneficial to the 'Boys defensive line, which could use some size and power to help out the linebackers.
Poe's size (6'4", 346 lbs) could wreak havoc for opposing teams, as he will command double-teams and be much more effective than Jay Ratliff in his penetration, even though Ratliff has been a solid player for the Cowboys in the last few years despite being undersized.
However, Ratliff would be better suited at his natural position at defensive end, having only recorded two sacks as the nose tackle last season. Dallas needs a bigger, quicker line in order to get to the quarterback and stop the run.
Drafting a guy with Poe's physique and quickness would be the first step into improving that aspect.
Melvin Ingram, OLB/DE, South Carolina
Although the Cowboys recently placed the franchise tag on outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, they could still use help at that position since Spencer has not lived up to his first-round potential in his tenure with Dallas. He has yet to record more than six sacks in a season, which needs to be improved on in order for Rob Ryan's blitz-heavy defense to be successful in 2012.
The Cowboys could use another pass-rush specialist to compliment DeMarcus Ware and cause problems for opposing team's quarterbacks.
Melvin Ingram is exactly what Dallas needs, which is a combination of strength and speed off the edge in order to cut and spin off blockers. Ingram would certainly be the pass-rush threat the team has desperately been looking for out of Spencer.
He is rated as one of the top players in the NFL Draft, so if he happens to fall to when the 'Boys are picking, his talents should not be ignored.
Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Just like his Alabama teammate, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron is another physical player who is solid in run support and is a playmaker when getting back in coverage.
Safety is another important position the Dallas Cowboys must take into consideration coming into this draft.
With the NFL becoming a quarterback-driven league, the passing game is only becoming more dangerous and difficult to stop.
The Cowboys did bring in Brodney Pool in free agency, who is familiar with Rob Ryan's system from his days in Cleveland. However, he was only signed to a one-year deal, so there is no guarantee how long he will stay in Dallas.
Also, similar to the cornerback position, the club lacks depth at the safety position. Abram Elam, who was signed last season, did not play up to what was expected of him, making it unlikely he will return.
With a need for another safety, Barron is the right pick in terms of a long-term solution for the defense. He also has a high-character personality and can be a defensive leader, which the Cowboys definitely need, since leadership is something the team has lacked in the locker room in recent years.
Barron doesn't need to be a top priority in the first round, but if the 'Boys are looking for another safety, he is the best option.