2014 NFL Draft: Is It Aaron Donald or Bust for Dallas Cowboys in First Round?

John OwningCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2014

Pittsburgh defensive lineman Aaron Donald (97) plays in an NCAA football game between Pittsburgh and Virginia on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

The Dallas Cowboys have the 16th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. This may seem like a good spot to be in for many. According to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread, Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said this draft is "as deep across the board as any draft I've seen in 30 years." However, the Cowboys could see themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

The overwhelming favorite for the Cowboys to pick is Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller has the Cowboys slated to grab Donald with their pick. This would be a great fit because the Cowboys get the "quick twitch" defensive lineman they dearly covet and Donald plays in a scheme that best fits his play. Donald would slide in to the absent 3-technique position, left by pending free agent Jason Hatcher, and give the Cowboys a solid foundation to build the rest of their defensive line around for the foreseeable future. 

However, according to Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller, Aaron Donald is "pulling away from the competition" at defensive tackle. This may cause Donald's stock to rise to the point where he is out of the Cowboys' reach. 

If Donald is gone before Roger Goodell announces that the Dallas Cowboys are "on the clock," where do they turn?

Louisville safety Calvin Pryor and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are often mentioned as being possibilities for the Cowboys. The Cowboys are in need of a free safety with ball-hawking skills. However, the Cowboys just invested in a free safety last year by selecting J.J. Wilcox in the third round.

With Barry Church firmly entrenched at the strong safety position, the Cowboys would essentially be giving up on Wilcox one year after they selected him. If Pryor or Clinton-Dix were brought in they would automatically jump ahead of Wilcox on the depth chart by being the first-round draft pick, eliminating any competition.

A more likely scenario would be the Cowboys investing in a safety later in the draft to give Wilcox competition. Someone like Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward. 

Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is another possibility. However as DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus has mentioned on their Draft Show, Mosley may have some medical questions. Broaddus said there may be hip, shoulder and elbow injuries, continuing the scary trend of Alabama players coming out with injury concerns.

Also, this move would most likely require the Cowboys to move either Sean Lee or Mosley to the "Will" linebacker, a position neither of them has played for an extended period of time. Because of this and possible injury concerns, I don't see the value in the Cowboys selecting Mosley.

Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin has been linked as a possible pick by the Cowboys. Martin is a versatile offensive lineman that has the ability to play guard or tackle. According to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin, draft analyst Mike Mayock said, "worst-case scenario, you move him inside and he's an All-Pro guard." DallasCowboys.com's Rowan Kavner reported Jerry Jones is not against the idea of bringing in another offensive lineman. 

Some fans might not like it if the Cowboys draft their third offensive lineman in four years, but it would help solidify the offensive line for years to come. Martin could slide into right guard for a couple years and then replace Doug Free at right tackle when his contract runs out. That would give the Cowboys three young, highly touted offensive lineman for years to come. This could be a very viable option come draft day.

If a top prospect falls, the Cowboys may re-think their draft strategy as a whole. A prospect like Mike Evans or Johnny Manziel falling may entice Jerry Jones to go in a direction that he may not have normally went. Could Jerry resist the allure of Johnny Manziel? Or could he bring in a big playmaking receiver like Mike Evans to go with Dez Bryant and form a 1-2 duo similar to what the Bears have in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery?

Don't put it past Jerry to try and make a splash. The more likely scenario if any top prospect dropped would be a trade-out similar to the 2007 draft when Brady Quinn fell to Cowboys pick.

The last likely option could be for the Cowboys to trade down. If Donald is not there for the Cowboys to pick at 16, then the Cowboys may look to move down and gather more picks. This could help the Cowboys gain more picks and the ability to fill more holes throughout their team.

The best value of the draft for the Cowboys may be in rounds two and three. With the plethora of defensive talent slated there, it could give the Cowboys some great options. On the defensive line, there are prospects like Will Sutton, Caraun ReidDominique EasleyScott Crichton and Trent Murphy, who would all fit in well with a star on their helmet.

If Aaron Donald is gone by the 16th pick, then the best-case scenario is gone. However, the Cowboys do have some good options that can still help improve the team to get over the 8-8 hump. There is no denying that Aaron Donald and the Dallas Cowboys are a match made in heaven.