With the draft now two weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys are closing in on making some tough decisions. Those same decisions exist for the other 31 teams in the NFL as well. With the Cowboys looking to expand on their free-agency haul with a solid draft, the optimism in Cowboys nation continues to grow.
With many needs to fill and eight draft picks in hand, what will the Cowboys do? What is their best-case scenario for not only the first few rounds but the entire draft? Will they trade up? Trade down?
Many questions exist as Jerry Jones and Co. ponder the answers, formulate a strategy and ultimately come up with the solutions.
We've heard names like Dontari Poe, Michael Brockers, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and David DeCastro being thrown around as first-round targets and must-haves for the Cowboys. The key to this draft for the Cowboys will be to maximize value, take the best players that will make this team better now and in the future and to simply create the best-case scenario for success.
With needs right across the board it's hard to create the perfect draft, with perfect prospects that will get guaranteed results. But let's take a look at five scenarios that would put the Cowboys in the best position for success in the 2012 NFL draft:
Scenario No. 1
Having the 14th pick isn't a bad position to be in but I'm sure the Cowboys would rather be picking 24th and coming off a playoff appearance. In this first scenario, the Cowboys follow suit from 2011, stand pat and select the best available player off their board. They elected this strategy when Tyron Smith was selected and duplicating it would be both safe and smart.
The likelihood of selecting another offensive lineman appears slim and it appears defense will prevail. I believe the Cowboys will have their choice of Poe, Brockers, Kirkpatrick or Barron when they are on the clock. I think it comes down to Brockers or Kirkpatrick with a slight edge to defensive line. Either way the Cowboys land an outstanding player capable of playing right away if they stay at No. 14.
Scenario No. 2
In this scenario the Cowboys identify a player they like but is selected earlier than anticipated. As they turn to other players on their board they are presented with an opportunity to trade down and acquire more picks. Notice how I said trade down. I don't think this is the year the Cowboys trade up and relinquish picks just to acquire someone in the top 10 unless it was for a franchise quarterback they were ready to turn the reins over to in 2012.
With the lack of depth, plenty of needs to fill and the need to make up for spotty drafting over the years, keeping all eight picks would give the Cowboys better maximization. Acquiring more picks by moving down would be even better and would allow some crafty day two and three maneuvering ability.
Scenario No. 3
This next scenario presents the Cowboys with a rather difficult one when you look at trends of the past. The middle of the draft has not been the Cowboys strong suit and it's time for that to be reversed. After landing solid picks in Rounds 1, 2 and 3 the Cowboys are able to turn their two fourth-rounders and their fifth-rounder into solid picks. This would allow them to stockpile young depth that is cap-friendly for four years and also capable of challenging for starting positions in the short and long-term.
The two fourth-round picks and fifth-round pick could be used to shore up positions like linebacker, tight end, running back or wide receiver.
Scenario No. 4
In this scenario I'm looking for the Cowboys, as I stated earlier, to possibly maneuver around by using their two fourth-round picks along with picks they may acquire as a result of moving down in Round 1. It's not a strong possibility but one that is possible when you factor in a few things. First, you have to be aware of falling talent and second, the Cowboys might identify a player or a position they simply don't want to wait on.
It could be a talented receiver, quarterback prospect or an impact defensive player that they studied extensively. Whatever the case, the Cowboys need to be ready to initiate this scenario or be receptive to opportunities.
Scenario No. 5
The last scenario would be the dream scenario. With needs to fill at cornerback, linebacker, defensive line (end and tackle), safety, tight end, wide receiver and running back the Cowboys are able to fill all of their needs with the best possible players with each of those selections. This would be both difficult and unlikely to accomplish but one that would ultimately be the best-case scenario.
No matter what the Cowboys are able to accomplish in the draft, the hope and the goal should always be about best-case scenarios. For the Cowboys to be successful it will have to be done one round at a time.