The Dallas Cowboys have made it through yet another draft, making at least one laudable selection in Morris Claiborne. Claiborne and Matt Johnson will help plug holes in the secondary. Other picks will address needs at other positions.
In several months, the Cowboys will have gone through another season and will be thinking about a new NFL draft. By that time, new draft needs will emerge while others may remain that may or may not have been addressed in this year’s draft.
To divine which positions on the Cowboys roster will need to be addressed in next year’s draft is difficult. Some players who may be expected to be on the decline may push through a solid season, and some players whom many don’t think will blossom could do just that.
Still, one can ascertain to some degree what positions could be of need in 2013. A pass-rusher could be picked, depending on DeMarcus Ware’s health and Anthony Spencer’s contract status. Also, a center could be of need. The quarterback position may need to be addressed since Tony Romo will be 33 during the 2013 season.
Here are three possible choices.
Barrett Jones is a tough, grinding center at Alabama. He’s earned a reputation as a hard worker, having won the Jerry Duncan “I Like to Practice” Award at the end of spring practice in 2009. He has nice size at 6’2” and 314 pounds. He earned freshman All-American honors as a starting right guard in 2009.
As a sophomore, Jones started again at right guard and earned third-team All-American honors. Then, as a junior, he started at left tackle and earned All-American honors. He won the Outland Trophy for the best interior offensive lineman. This year, he'll start at center, according to ESPN.
The Cowboys might continue to face uncertainty at center after the 2012 season. One can hardly tell if Phil Costa or Kevin Kowalski will turn into a reliable center. If neither Costa nor Kowalski progresses, Jones could become an attractive prospect to them.
Landry Jones might be a surprise pick. Romo has been entrenched as the starting quarterback whenever healthy since he took over the role in 2006. He had his best season in 2011 with career bests in quarterback rating, interception rate and completion rate.
Anyhow, the time may come in two or three years for Romo to hand over the reins to the next starter. His body might finally give in to the numerous hits and injuries he’s sustained or his skills might decline with age.
Jones might be the guy for the Cowboys, depending on whether the Cowboys want to draft a quarterback in 2013—or in the first round, at that. He’s the all-time passing leader for Oklahoma with career yards and looks to improve on that mark in his senior season.
If Jones leads the Sooners to a national championship this season, as he told ESPN he hopes to do, he’ll boost his draft stock even more.
He’ll likely be one of the top quarterback prospects in next year’s draft. If the Cowboys want to secure a good replacement for when Romo is no longer the starter, they might want to jump for Jones.
Brandon Jenkins has been a solid pass-rusher for Florida State. He had 63 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2010, his first season as a starter. In 2011, his numbers were lower, but still impressive, as he had 41 tackles and eight sacks.
While he plays defensive end for the Seminoles, he’s projected as a possible 3-4 outside linebacker by CBSSports.com because of his long arms and speed. This is great news for the Cowboys, who might be up in the air regarding Anthony Spencer after his 2012 franchise tag year.
Also, DeMarcus Ware had lower productivity after suffering a stinger in the latter part of the 2011 season, and the Cowboys would be wise to monitor his health.
Jenkins has great physique. He stands 6’3” and 265 pounds and has built his body up during his time at Florida State.
The senior-to-be has terrific skills as a pure pass-rusher. He has a great first step off the snap and has great speed coming around the edge. He can capably bounce around or dip past offensive tackles. He seems to be working on other moves to expand his blitzing versatility.
Jenkins can otherwise tackle well, closing quickly to the ball-carrier and delivering strong hits.
The Cowboys will have to keep their eyes on Jenkins. If Spencer doesn’t perform well this season or becomes difficult to re-sign afterward, Jerry Jones should have his sights set on the Tallahassee, Fla., native.
Conclusion: Center should be the main focus in 2013
Out of these three positions, the Cowboys will be most likely to be concerned about the center position. Romo could have another solid year this season, compelling the Cowboys to drop the idea of drafting a quarterback. Spencer has a chance to show himself this year, and younger players like Bruce Carter or Kyle Wilber could step up.
The center position seems least likely to settle itself this season, even when one considers all other positions. Costa was sketchy snapping the ball. His six-botched-snap performance against the Washington Redskins lives on in the memories of Cowboys fans.
Generally, he didn’t always get off clean snaps and didn’t establish good chemistry with Romo.
Whether Kowalski would be able to wrest the starting job from Costa is anyone’s guess. Not enough was seen of him in game action last season to say whether he could be an effective starter.
With that, the Cowboys could very well find themselves in a position to pick a new center in the 2013 draft.