8 NFL Draft Prospects Who Will Fill Dallas Cowboys' Biggest Needs

Chris ImperialeCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2013

8 NFL Draft Prospects Who Will Fill Dallas Cowboys' Biggest Needs

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    The season has come to an unfortunate end for the Dallas Cowboys once again. With no time to dwell on what could have been, it’s time to move forward to the 2014 NFL draft.

    Dallas seems to have a quality roster on paper, but with three consecutive 8-8 seasons, that’s obviously not the case. The Cowboys can potentially make moves in free agency; however, they won’t be able to do much because of restrictions with cap space.

    The draft is the best way to upgrade your team, and Dallas needs to have a successful one this year to get better on the field. Even though it’s several months away, let’s take a look at some prospects who will fill Dallas’ biggest holes.

     

DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame

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    Heading into the offseason, the Cowboys’ biggest need has to be the interior of the defensive line. After the way things went south with Jay Ratliff and with Jason Hatcher now a free agent, Dallas has to address the line.

    Louis Nix is projected to go in the first round in several mock drafts but should be available for the Cowboys at either 16 or 17 (coin flip will decide order).

    Nix is a good competitor who moves well for his size (6’3”, 357 lbs). His hustle and athleticism show up on tape on a weekly basis and represent the reason for why he’s projected so high. He would be an instant fit on the Cowboys’ front.

DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

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    Another potential prospect on the Cowboys’ draft board should be defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. The Florida State Seminole is slightly smaller than Nix and is projected to go somewhere in the first two rounds.

    Although he doesn’t have the same build as Nix, Jernigan's fundamentals keep him from losing much in the trenches. He has great movement and uses his hands well to get rid of blockers.

    Once again, Jernigan is a solid replacement for a unit that struggled this year.

DT Will Sutton, Arizona State

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    Will Sutton is another defensive tackle Dallas should keep an eye on. He’s projected to be drafted around the same time as Jernigan.

    Like Jernigan, he’s on the smaller side for NFL defensive tackles (6’0", 305 lbs), but he uses his agility and quickness to his advantage. He’s a very instinctive player who uses a good burst to get off the line quickly.

    Another advantage Sutton has is his experience at multiple positions along the line. The Cowboys would be foolish to not consider him for their 2014 roster.

DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

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    Besides the interior of the defensive line, Dallas will be looking at defensive ends as well in this year’s draft. It’s uncertain whether the team will re-sign Anthony Spencer, and with DeMarcus Ware’s production significantly down, end will be a point of emphasis.

    One prospect Jerry Jones will be looking at is Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt.

    Tuitt is extremely consistent in defending both the run and pass. He led all Irish defensive linemen with 45 tackles and six sacks this past season. Tuitt would make an immediate impact in his rookie year.

S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

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    The next position that needs to be addressed is the safety spot opposite of Barry Church. The Cowboys have several players on the roster competing for the job (Jeff Heath, J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson), but none have proven themselves worthy of being a regular starter.

    Although it may not have to occur in the first round, Dallas needs to take a safety somewhere high in the draft.

    Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be ideal. He has very good instincts and reacts well to the ball, both in the run and pass. Clinton-Dix isn’t an excellent tackler but has quality height (6’1”) to compete against the bigger receivers in the NFL.

    He would be an immediate upgrade and a starter from Day 1.

S Calvin Pryor, Louisville

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    Another safety who will be selected somewhat early in April is Louisville’s Calvin Pryor. Like Clinton-Dix, Pryor has quality size for a safety (6’2”, 208 lbs) and will probably be an every-down player next season.

    Pryor is a good overall defender, but what makes him enticing is his playmaking ability. In 2013, he had three interceptions, four pass deflections and two forced fumbles.

    Dallas is missing a playmaker in its secondary, and Pryor fits the mold.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

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    The last position of need in this year’s draft should be quarterback. Although the organization should be content with Tony Romo for the time being, it’s evident his body is breaking down somewhat and he won’t be around forever.

    I don’t believe Dallas needs a new starting quarterback next season. However, if another injury occurs to Romo, it could have one in 2015.

    I don’t particularly think he will be available for the Cowboys, but Johnny Manziel would be a very interesting draft pick. The former Heisman winner is an explosive athlete who can hurt defenses with both his arm and feet. He’s got a knack for the big stage, performing well in a lot of important moments.

    It’s unclear where Manziel will go in the draft because of his maturity level and his lack of height (6'1”). It obviously wouldn’t address their biggest need, but drafting Manziel is the type of move Jones is known for.

QB A.J. McCarron, Alabama

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    Alabama’s A.J. McCarron is a more realistic draft option for the Cowboys. He’s projected to go somewhere in the second round, even though I could see him falling further than that.

    The best trait McCarron has is his ability to avoid mistakes and do what’s necessary to win games. He’s won two national championships and has an incredible 36-3 record during his time in Tuscaloosa.

    Another positive is his size. McCarron has a much more NFL-ready frame compared to Manziel. At 6’4”, 210 pounds, he could prove to be a durable quarterback for a number of years.

    McCarron could be just what the Cowboys are looking for. He’s someone who will probably have good value for where he’s selected and would benefit from a couple years on the bench to fine-tune his skill set.