The Dallas Cowboys have had some recent success in the drafting department as of late. The additions of Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray have given many reasons for optimism that this trend will continue.
But what about the mid to late rounds? For everyone of these studs lies a Shaun Chapas, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Sam Young and Jamar Wall. I know drafting isn't an exact science, but tell that to Ozzie Newsome, Ted Thompson and other general managers who make it look routine.
With the draft just a mere few weeks away, the Cowboys are facing a very critical phase of their development under Jason Garrett and the current core group of players. Given the salary-cap woes the Cowboys faced earlier in the offseason and the need for depth in several areas, this draft is crucial.
Hopefully, the Cowboys learned this offseason that filling out and developing your roster through the draft is vital for success on many levels. It allows you the luxury of not having to overspend. It's used as a cap management tool and sets you apart in having the ability to go out and find replacements.
When you think of the superstars in the NFL, the assumption is that they were can't-miss prospects and high draft picks. But some of the most valuable players in this league have taken different routes and different travels.
Sometimes they are simply the late-round gems that most teams overlook or often miss on. The Cowboys can't be one of those teams anymore if they are to turn the corner, and it's time for them to get some late-round value.
Let's look at late-rounders who would be a perfect match for this team.
It's not often that you can land an offensive lineman who's started 45 games in the Pac-12, but Jeff Baca is that player. Baca is a 6'4" 305-pound outstanding blocker who competes hard on every snap. The Cowboys have some major decisions to make in this draft, and the biggest one concerns the offensive line.
It's unknown right now which way the Cowboys are leaning with their first few picks, and that's why Baca is a perfect fit at the back end of this draft. You just never know what Jerry Jones is capable of doing, and that includes neglecting the offensive line.
Baca would provide the Cowboys with an interior lineman capable of competing right away.
The 6'0", 215-pound Cierre Wood enjoyed a nice career for the Fighting Irish and would be a nice addition to the Cowboys' roster. He's an elusive runner and has the right skill set to be a complete back in the NFL.
Wood runs with good vision between the tackles but can also excel in space and bounce runs outside.
The Cowboys need to bolster the running back position and it's not likely to come through free agency as of yet. The bigger question lies in exactly where the Cowboys decide to draft one. There doesn't appear to be an overwhelming consensus No. 1 running back, but there is depth at the position.
That's why looking to the later rounds could ultimately produce a solid contributor. Wood is definitely the type of back that can contribute immediately and that's what the Cowboys need as durability continues to be an issue with DeMarco Murray.
The Cowboys aren't looking for this year's version of Danny Coale, but Conner Vernon is a much better player. Vernon enjoyed a stellar career at Duke where he caught 283 passes for 3,749 yards and 21 touchdowns. His entire career is epitomized by production, and what he can provide for the Cowboys is another option at wide receiver and a sure-handed weapon.
Wide receiver isn't a glaring need on this team, but a lot is riding on the continued growth of Dwayne Harris. Factor in the health concerns of Miles Austin and suddenly the position doesn't look so deep. Enter Connor Vernon, a potential security blanket for Tony Romo.
This is the kind of late-round value the Cowboys need, and although he doesn't possess track speed or a blazing 40 time, Vernon has a well-rounded, battle-tested body of work that is translatable to the NFL level.
Wilxcox is an intriguing prospect because he can be someone capable of going in the third to fourth rounds, or he can be the late-round steal of the draft. For the Cowboys, the latter would not only be a delight but it could potentially fill one of the biggest needs on the team.
What I like about Wilcox is that after spending the bulk of his career on offense, he excelled as a safety and has a high ceiling. The biggest question here is, again, what will the Cowboys do in the early rounds, and is safety in play with the 18th pick? Kenny Vaccaro anyone?
The Cowboys could go in a number of directions early in the draft, but they also need to cover an area of great need, and the safety position is a glaring weakness on this team. Wilcox has nice size at 6'0" and 213 pounds and he's a fluid enough athlete to fit into Monte Kiffin's 4-3 scheme.
He could be a perfect fit for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys need depth and size along the interior of their defensive line if they are going to get after the quarterback in 2013. With the circumstances surrounding Josh Brent and Jay Ratliff not getting any younger, the 6'2", 320-pound White would be a perfect late-round fit for the Cowboys.
He's a one-technique tackle that's capable of two-gapping, but his value to the Cowboys would be adding a wide body to the mix and stuffing the run. White brings a nice combination of power and explosiveness to his game and uses his long arms to get under the pads of offensive linemen to hold up well at the point of attack.
A quick player for his size, White still has room to grow and could be a high-ceiling player. But for now, he would certainly be a late-round value.