The 2013 NFL draft class does not appear to be among the deeper crops of talent the NFL has ever seen. There will certainly be good football players to be had, but it appears thin, as far as the number of prospects coming out of college who are considered ready to start in the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys will have to make the best out of this crop just like the rest of the league. Dallas has its own priorities and draft board that will determine which direction the team takes come April.
But more than a month beyond the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, one can still see what plagues the Cowboys in the worst areas. Aside from the injury bug that really hit the defensive side of the ball hardest, the offensive line was a disappointment, despite a better performance in the second half of the regular season.
The end result of the offensive line should not have surprised anybody. Offseason acquisitions Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, both veteran offensive guards who were not wanted in Cincinnati and Carolina, respectively, didn’t exactly make an immediate impact upfront. Neither showed much ability to move when needed, and there was no push helping the running game.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has to take a different direction concerning the offensive line. For years, he’s been adding the occasional high-priced veteran in order to “top-off” what he thinks is a good line. In other words, overpaying for average hasn’t worked in any case I can think over the last decade or so.
With the exception of Tyron Smith in the first round two years ago, Jones has all but ignored the offensive trenches when it comes to getting young, strong blue-chip talent. Beyond Smith, only tackle Flozell Adams qualifies as a good draft pick by Jones on the offensive line over the last 15 years. It’s no longer appropriate to give credit to past players like Larry Allen, Erik Williams and Mark Stepnoski.
Understanding that quarterback Tony Romo is about to be extended, and rightly so, the top priority for the Cowboys, finally, will be offensive improvement. Romo has to quit having to run for his life, and this means a running game has to emerge for the Cowboys before this team moves a step forward.
As the running game improves, pass protection will also improve just because of the imbalance created by the offense.
The top two seeds in the NFC have outstanding running games that supplement that with big-play passes and strong defense. The Cowboys have a defense that’s much closer to being a contending catalyst than the offense.
So, assuming that Anthony Spencer is retained by Dallas to avoid having that hole to fill in the draft, it is all about offense—and remember that the list of pass-rushers this year offers potential but not necessarily any athletic freaks that come in day one and challenge Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware for the team lead in sacks.
So, here’s a look at the future starting lineup of the Dallas offensive line 2013.