Breaking Down the Dallas Cowboys' Playoff Chances in Wake of the 2014 NFL Draft

John Owning@@johnowningCorrespondent IMay 12, 2014

Notre Dame offenisve tackle Zack Martin looks on against Air Force in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame's 45-20 victory in an NCAA football game at the Air Force Academy, Colo., on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

With the 2014 NFL Draft coming to an end, fans have either rejoiced or denounced their team's selections. 

Now, the biggest question for the Dallas Cowboys is whether they did enough to improve upon their 8-8 season and make the playoffs this year. 

The Cowboys have drafted nine players (two on offense and seven on defense) and have signed 24 undrafted free agents, according to Blogging the Boys. The hope is that most of the drafted players and a couple of the undrafted free agents can make some immediate impact, not to mention a big one in the future. 

Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks
Zack MartinNotre Dame1Guard
Demarcus LawrenceBoise State2Defensive End
Anthony HitchensIowa4Inside Linebacker
Devin StreetPittsburgh5Wide Receiver
Ben GardnerStanford7Defensive End
Will SmithTexas Tech7Outside Linebacker
Ahmad DixonBaylor7Safety
Ken BishopNorthern Illinois7Defensive Tackle
Terrance MitchellOregon7Cornerback

Did the Cowboys improve their team with their draft selections? Owner Jerry Jones definitely thinks so, per their official site's Nick Eatman:

“Yes, we are better,” Jones said. “There’s no question about that. Relative to where we played last year, we’ve had a very impactful draft. We actually have had an impactful offseason, relative to the way we play.

“We’re better. And consequentially, when I look over at the offense, we haven’t taken a step back on offense at any place and matter of fact, without being trite, we’ve gained on it in my opinion. For me, I feel better tonight than I did when we quit playing last year. To me that isn’t just optimism for me. I do, factually, can look down here and say we’re a better team than we were this time last year as reality would have it.”

While it's usually foolish to expect a team's draft class to have a sizable immediate impact, the Cowboys are in a situation where they need their draft class to do just that. With Jason Garrett entering the final year of his contract and Tony Romo turning 34, the Cowboys need to win now or risk the necessity of a rebuilding period.

In the first round the Cowboys selected Notre Dame's Zack Martin. Initially, Martin will most likely start at guard. He will immediately improve the Cowboys' interior offensive line. Martin is a very smart player who knows how to handle twists and stunts from opposing defenses and has the power to be a force in the running game.

Martin's biggest impact will come in the passing game. While the Cowboys' interior offensive line was abysmal at pass-blocking in 2013, Martin thrives in this aspect. The addition of Martin will hopefully help Romo remain on his feet far more often than in 2013. 

The Cowboys also gave Romo a couple of potential targets. They selected wide receiver Devin Street in the fifth round and signed undrafted, free-agent wide receiver L’Damian Washington 

Both players have the versatility to play as a slot receiver along with the X- and Y-receiver positions. While it is unlikely that either makes a huge impact in their first year, they can both make impacts as a slot receiver and on special teams. Both players have great height (Street is 6'3"; Washington is 6'4") that can be great in the red zone. 

Going into the draft, the area that needed the biggest improvement was their defense. The Cowboys ranked dead last in total defense, 26th in points and 25th in sacks, according to

This was evidenced by the fact that seven out of the nine players drafted by the Cowboys play defense. Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence was the biggest name the Cowboys selected. They seem to expect a big impact from Lawrence because they traded up 13 spots and gave up their third-round pick to select him. 

Lawrence should be immediately plugged in to start at weak-side defensive end while helping the Cowboys' pass rush immediately. 

However, with fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens slotted as Sean Lee's backup and the rest of the selections on defense coming in the seventh round, it is unlikely that they will make any discernible impact other than as rotational players in 2014. 

However, some of them have the potential to develop into key contributors in the future. Stanford's Ben Gardner, Northern Illinois' Ken Bishop, Oregon's Terrance Mitchell, Texas' Chris Whaley and Arizona State's Davon Coleman all have the potential to develop into good players for the Cowboys in future years. 

Overall, the Cowboys have improved their interior offensive line, pass rush, defensive line rotation and wide receiver depth for the immediate future, while hoping that more holes will be filled when the players develop. 

The Cowboys should see improvement from players on their own roster as well. 

They will be getting key contributors like Tyrone Crawford and Anthony Spencer back on the defensive line, and J.J. Wilcox should be better with another year of safety experience under his belt. Plus, Dallas has taken steps to help prevent the rash of injuries throughout 2013. 

Even though its still early and a lot of things can still happen, the Cowboys look to be an improved team in 2014. With the selection of Lawrence, the signing of Henry Melton and the returns of Crawford and Spencer, they should significantly improve on defense. Martin will further improve the play of the offensive line, and Washington or Street will give the Cowboys another option of offense. 

Before the draft, the Cowboys looked to have little chance to be a playoff team in 2014. 

However, coming out of the draft, they have an improved defense and an even more potent offense that should place them in the thick of the playoff race once again. 


    Vikings' Dalvin Cook Ahead of Schedule in ACL Rehab

    NFL logo

    Vikings' Dalvin Cook Ahead of Schedule in ACL Rehab

    Manziel Spends His 1st CFL Practice Watching, Learning

    NFL logo

    Manziel Spends His 1st CFL Practice Watching, Learning

    Mike Florio
    via ProFootballTalk

    Deshaun Will Participate in Texans OTAs This Week

    NFL logo

    Deshaun Will Participate in Texans OTAs This Week

    Jeff Risdon
    via Texans Wire

    Cowboys' Most Important Training Camp Battle

    Dallas Cowboys logo
    Dallas Cowboys

    Cowboys' Most Important Training Camp Battle

    Gary Davenport
    via Bleacher Report