Here's a look at several players who would make sense as Cowboys draft picks at key positions.
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
2. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
3. AJ McCarron, Alabama
4. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Manziel would be a potential first-round pick if he were to drop to the team at 16. He's got the star power to shine in Dallas and the ability to one day relieve Tony Romo. Savage and McCarron have the raw passing ability to one day become franchise quarterbacks, and both sort of remind you of Troy Aikman. They're mid-round picks. Murray could be a late-round steal who could be groomed under Tony Romo.
1. Jeremy Hill, LSU
2. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
3. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State
I think it would be hard for the Cowboys to rationalize using a second-round pick on Carlos Hyde or Tre Mason. Hill can grind out yardage and has the size to take beatings, but character concerns could knock him into the third round. Perkins is small but explosive and could be a superb late-round complement for DeMarco Murray. Same for Thomas, who ranks ahead because he's a more versatile weapon.
1. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
2. Josh Huff, Oregon
3. Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley
4. John Brown, Pittsburgh State
5. Chandler Jones, San Jose State
Despite the end of the Miles Austin era, I think the Cowboys are in solid shape at wide receiver. I'd just keep my eye out for versatile guys who can play the slot out of the middle or late rounds. All five of the receivers above how the skills to make the roster and could challenge Cole Beasley and/or Dwayne Harris for slot snaps.
1. Zack Martin, Notre Dame
2. Morgan Moses, Virginia
3. Cameron Fleming, Stanford
4. Seantrel Henderson, Miami
Martin could be a long-term replacement for Doug Free at right tackle, but is that what you do with a first-round pick? Dallas should only go down that road in the worst-case scenario—and preferably with a trade back. Instead, it can focus on quality tackle candidates in the middle or late rounds.
Moses would be a stellar addition in Round 3, especially because he could also help at guard, but he might be taken in Round 2. Fleming could be a third- or fourth-rounder who would push Free immediately. As would Henderson, who might be available in Round 5. All of those guys are solid pass protectors, which is vital at this stage of Romo's career.
1. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
2. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
3. Trai Turner, LSU
4. Spencer Long, Nebraska
I really don't believe you reach for interior offensive linemen, especially with so many needs elsewhere. But the Cowboys are in dire need of help on both sides of Travis Frederick. Jackson, Richardson and Turner would be intriguing picks in Rounds 2, 3 or 4, as all are NFL ready and good pass protectors (relatively speaking). Long could be a potential steal late, because he has the ability but missed most of his senior year with a torn ACL.
1. Anthony Barr, UCLA
2. Dee Ford, Auburn
3. Kony Ealy, Missouri
4. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
5. Scott Crichton, Oregon State
6. Marcus Smith, Louisville
7. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
As you can see, we're thinking the Cowboys have to draft a shiny new pass-rusher early. Maybe it's Barr in Round 1 and they have a Week 1 starter and a great fit for that Tampa 2 scheme. If not, Ford, Ealy, Lawrence and Crichton are options in Round 2, while Smith and Jeffcoat could be possibilities in the third round. All suit the system well and have a chance to make an impact as rookies in a deep draft class.
1. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
2. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
3. Dominique Easley, Florida
4. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
5. Will Sutton, Arizona State
The Cowboys obviously complicated things by signing Henry Melton, and defensive tackles aren't as key as pass-rushers, but Donald has Pro Bowl ability and should top Dallas' draft board altogether. If the team can't land him and take a pass-rusher or safety instead, the idea should be to land Jernigan, Easley, Tuitt, Sutton or even Louis Nix, RaShede Hageman or DaQuan Jones in Round 2 or Round 3.
1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
2. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
3. Telvin Smith, Florida State
Mosley is talented enough that if the Cowboys can get him via a trade into the bottom of the first or the top of the second round, they consider it. Then, they could move Sean Lee outside and be set at linebacker, maybe for years to come. Shazier and Smith could also make a run at starting spots from the get-go, but Smith would probably be a better value pick.
1. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
2. E.J. Gaines, Missouri
3. Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
Jean-Baptiste is big, strong and can cover. In the third round, he'd be a pleasant surprise. The problem is that Dallas already has so much committed to corners so it really can't rationalize picking someone earlier than that. Gaines and Hal would be better mid- to late-round picks.
1. Calvin Pryor, Louisville
2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
3. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
4. Ed Reynolds, Stanford
5. Marqueston Huff, Wyoming
6. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
If the circumstances are right, I've got no issue with the Cowboys drafting Pryor or Clinton-Dix in Round 1. Both are good enough to start Week 1 on this team. Beyond that, though, I'd be thinking about using either a third, a fourth or a fifth on Bucannon, Reynolds, Huff or Dixon, all of whom might need some time at the next level. It's also possible the Cowboys package some of their seventh-rounders to grab one of those safeties if the team slides into Round 6.