4 Prospects in 2021 NFL Draft the Cowboys Should Already Be Scouting
However, with quarterback Dak Prescott out for the year, the Dallas defense surrendering yards and points in chunks, and Ezekiel Elliott playing like a shadow of the former league rushing leader he was, it would be foolish to think the Cowboys are going anywhere in the postseason.
For Dallas, next year's draft is more relevant than this year's Super Bowl, and the franchise should already have its eye on a handful of premier prospects. The chances of dramatically improving the roster through the draft are high, as the Cowboys are currently in position to hold the fourth overall selection in Round 1.
What sort of potential playmaker might the Cowboys be able to land at No. 4? We'll examine four top-tier prospects Dallas should already have its eyes on.
For this piece, we'll be operating under the assumption that Dallas does want to bring Prescott back in 2021 and can get a deal with him done. Therefore, while the Cowboys should be scouting top quarterback prospects such as Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields, we won't examine them here.
OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell opted out of the 2020 college football season, but he remains the consensus top lineman at this point in the draft process.
"In a class with outstanding quarterback and wide receiver talent, Sewell won't be the sexiest pick, but he'll be an instant starter and upgrade for the team that picks him," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. wrote.
It's important for the Cowboys to evaluate the 20-year-old because there's a good chance he could be there at No. 4. Ideally, left tackle Tyron Smith will be back at 100 percent in 2021, but he's out for the year with a neck injury now, will be 30 at the start of 2021 and will have just three years remaining on his contract.
Planning for the future is never a bad thing, nor is bracing for the possibility Smith won't be the same player following neck surgery. Seeing as how line depth has been a massive issue for the Cowboys this year, having another talented lineman on the roster certainly isn't going to hurt.
CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
If the Cowboys are eager to fill a more immediate need, Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II should top the list. The Crimson Tide standout should be an immediate starter in the NFL, and that's something Dallas may need in 2021.
Rookie corner Trevon Diggs is currently sidelined with a foot fracture, but he's going to need a reliable pass-defender opposite him when he is ready to return. The Cowboys have a couple of good-not-great corners in Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie, but both are scheduled to become free agents in the spring.
If Dallas hopes to improve its pass defense, which ranks 22nd in yards per attempt allowed, adding a high-end cornerback prospect such as Surtain could be the right move in Round 1.
CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Naturally, Surtain isn't the only cornerback prospect the Cowboys should be considering this far out from the 2021 draft. If they are looking at the position, though, they should take the best one available, and that might by Virginia Tech star Caleb Farley.
The Athletic's Dane Brugler recently mocked the 22-year-old to the Cowboys at No. 4, touting his physical tools as a deciding factor.
"This draft class lacks a no-brainer top defender like Chase Young a year ago, but Farley is an ascending cornerback with size, speed and ball skills," he wrote.
If 2020 production is a deciding factor for Dallas, the Cowboys may lean more toward Surtain. He has appeared in eight games and logged six passes defended, an interception, 27 total tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss. Farley opted out of Virginia Tech's 2020 season.
Edge Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Like Farley, Miami pass-rusher Gregory Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season. However, his physical tool box and upside could be enough to make him a high draft pick.
"Rousseau dominated during the 2019 season at Miami, where he accumulated 15.5 sacks and was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year as a redshirt freshman," Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller wrote. "At 6'7" and 265 pounds, he has a rare frame for a young player and a ton of upside that should make him a top-10 pick lock."
The Cowboys could consider the Hurricanes player because they need to bolster a pass rush that has produced just 22 sacks this season. Five of those have come from reclamation project Aldon Smith, who is playing on a one-year deal.
There's no guarantee the Cowboys can retain Smith—or if they can afford to after negotiations with Prescott unfold—so it would behoove them to scout alternatives in the draft
Rousseau is one of the best they're likely to find near the top of Round 1.