As the 2014 NFL Draft approaches, the Dallas Cowboys have a number of holes they need to fill.
Without much salary cap room with which to work, it's unlikely they'll obtain many, if any, impact free agents. That means this rookie class is perhaps more important to Dallas than usual, which is a scary thought.
In my opinion, the Cowboys should take their needs into account when drafting, using them to heavily influence their decisions.
That's in opposition to the traditional "best player available" draft strategy, which I believe fails to account for the potential fallibility of one's board. I explained this idea in my article on the five toughest decisions for Dallas this year:
In my view, teams should usually (but not always) draft the highest player on their board at a position of need. The primary reason I believe that blindly drafting the best player available is disadvantageous is because teams overestimate their ability to identify the true best player available. In reality, NFL teams are pretty inefficient at drafting players, but they approach the draft as if their rankings are flawless.
One problem with drafting the best player available is that he's probably an outlier on your board, i.e. you have him ranked higher than any other team. And while draft grades shouldn't just be groupthink, there's certainly value in knowing that the rest of the league doesn't view a particular prospect like you do.
When you start to factor your own fallibility into the mix, the difference between your best player available and the next-best prospect shrinks. That inflates the value of drafting a player at a position of need.
Teams and fans know deep down that they shouldn't always draft the best player available. What if the Cowboys' top player available in the first round this year is a quarterback, but there's a defensive end ranked one spot behind him? Clearly drafting the quarterback would set the franchise back; I'm just taking that argument and extending it a bit further.
Sometimes the true best player available will be at a position of extreme importance and need. Those situations make for easy draft picks. But other times things won't align so nicely, in which case Dallas will need to make a choice between its board and need.
The Cowboys should never pass up an extreme value who is ranked very far ahead of other players, but otherwise, drafting the best player available is an overrated draft strategy that assumes infallibility in draft rankings that clearly doesn't exist.
I'm going to have plenty more on draft philosophies and why I believe "best player available" is a poor long-term (yes, long-term) strategy.
If I'm right, it means the players listed in this slideshow, all playing positions of need, should be much in play for Dallas.