It's impossible to properly preview a draft before free agency has taken place. But the cap-strapped Dallas Cowboys have limited funds to spend on free agents, thus making the draft all the more crucial as Dallas looks to fill roster holes this offseason.
Here's an early look at what the 'Boys are looking at with the draft three months away.
Round 1, Pick 18
Round 2, Pick 49
Round 3, Pick 82
Round 4, Pick 113
Round 5, Pick 146
Round 6, Pick 177
Positions that require upgrades
1. Right tackle
Doug Free isn't fit to be on an NFL roster, let alone start NFL games. One solid year made Free big bucks, but it's time for the Cowboys to move on. They should be in the sweepstakes for free agents like Andre Smith, Gosder Cherilus, Phil Loadholt, Sebastian Vollmer and Austin Howard, but they spent their first four picks on defensive players last year and didn't use any on offensive linemen so I think it's time to jump back into that pool.
Options in the early rounds: Lane Johnson (Oklahoma), D.J. Fluker (Alabama), Eric Fisher (Central Michigan), Brennan Williams (North Carolina)
Nate Livings was okay last year but the Mackenzy Bernadeau experiment didn't work and the interior lines is in need of an upgrade. You need to be pretty damn sure about a guard to take one in the first round and the Cowboys have lots of other needs, but I'd like to see them draft a guard or two a few rounds in.
Options in the middle rounds: Larry Warford (Kentucky), Omoregie Uzzi (Georgia Tech), Alvin Bailey (Arkansas)
3. Defensive end
This obviously depends to a degree on what happens with impending free agent Anthony Spencer, as well as where the Cowboys decide to play guys like Jason Hatcher as they move to a 4-3 front. Regardless, Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman and DeMarcus Ware aren't young dudes anymore and they have to bolster the pass rush.
Options in the early rounds: Sam Montgomery (LSU), Alex Okafor (Texas), Ezekiel Ansah (BYU)
4. Outside linebacker
With Ware moving up and Spencer possibly moving out, the Cowboys could be in need of a strong side linebacker to join Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. It's likely Dan Connor fills that role for now, especially with Victor Butler and Ernie Sims slated for free agency, but they could use depth and/or a possible long-term starter.
Options in the middle rounds: Gerald Hodges (Penn State), DeVonte Holloman (South Carolina), Zaviar Gooden (Missouri)
5. Wide receiver
I think they could use some depth here, and maybe even a potential replacement for Miles Austin. They don't need a No. 1 guy, obviously, but if the right man is on the board in Round 3 or 4, I'd love to see them take a chance.
Options in the middle rounds: Da'Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech), Stedman Bailey (West Virginia), Ryan Swope (Texas A&M), Tavarres King (Georgia)