Cowboys Players Who Will Be Most Impacted by 2021 NFL Draft Picks

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2021

Cowboys Players Who Will Be Most Impacted by 2021 NFL Draft Picks

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    After a relatively quiet free-agency period, the Dallas Cowboys' best opportunity to improve their roster will come in just over a week with the 2021 NFL draft. 

    Injuries showed just how precarious an NFL roster can be. The attrition that afflicted the Cowboys took them from NFC East favorite to a 6-10 record and the 10th pick. 

    The lost season will at least provide the club the opportunity to add some young talent. Injuries to key veterans exposed the need for depth and new blood in several position groups. 

    It also means some veterans are going to be impacted by the selections made over draft weekend. While the team and fans can get excited about some picks, the reality for others is that they are likely watching their replacement being selected. 

    These players are going to be watching the draft with a little more attention as their situation could change depending on who the team ends up adding. 

OT Tyron Smith

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Tyron Smith has been an elite left tackle for the Dallas Cowboys since they drafted him with the ninth pick in the 2011 draft. Ten years later, it's possible the team could be looking for his replacement early in the 2021 draft. 

    Smith had missed three games in four consecutive seasons before suffering his first major injury. He played in just three games last season before undergoing surgery to fix a cervical neck fracture. 

    Entering his age-31 season, all those little injuries that have forced him out of games combined with a major neck issue could have the Cowboys developing an exit strategy for their franchise tackle. After his contract was restructured, the club can still cut him and save money next season. 

    If the Cowboys are looking to find their heir apparent, this is a good draft to do it. The latest edition of the Bleacher Report big board features six offensive tackles in the top 32 players.

    Should Penei Sewell make it to the 10th pick, the Cowboys would be hard-pressed to pass on the value. If someone like Liam Eichenberg is on the board with their second-round pick, Smith's expiration date in Dallas could be nearing. 

LB Jaylon Smith

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Jaylon Smith is in a similar situation to Tyron Smith from a contractual standpoint.

    The linebacker wasn't a cap casualty this year, but if the Cowboys have to trim some fat next season, he will be on the chopping block. The club would save $5 million in 2022 by cutting him. 

    The 25-year-old's play in 2020 was a contributing factor to a defense that was 23rd in yards allowed per play. He surrendered a passer rating of over 100 when targeted for the third consecutive year, although the Cowboys were awful against the run across the board. 

    Dallas has already addressed the linebacking corps through free agency. It signed Keanu Neal who is reportedly making the move from safety to linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch could easily be on this list as well. Smith was the 44th-ranked linebacker by PFF last season, while Vander Esch's grade was ranked 53rd. 

    There are plenty of linebackers the Cowboys could be looking to add to the roster. Micah Parsons could be a target as early as No. 10, while Jamin Davis from Kentucky could be a target with the 44th pick. 

CB Anthony Brown

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    According to NFL Mock Draft Database, over 40 percent of mock drafts project the Cowboys to take Patrick Surtain II from Alabama. Another 20.9 percent predict Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley winds up in Dallas. That's more than 60 percent of mock drafts that project a cornerback. 

    It makes sense. Second-round pick Trevon Diggs was one of few bright spots on the defense last season, and Chidobe Awuzie left in free agency. It leaves Anthony Brown as the primary candidate to man the other outside spot while the re-signed Jourdan Lewis should be in the slot again.

    As it stands, Anthony Brown would be in line to take those snaps. He made eight starts last season and played 48 percent of the total snaps playing in 10 games.

    If the Cowboys pull the trigger on a corner inside the top 10, it should confirm that the 27-year-old is relegated to a sub role. He was seldom used in the slot role last season, and unless the rookie cornerback is an early bust, they'll want to get him on the field like they did with Diggs. 

    Brown was a solid starter in 2017 and 2018, but the draft could be the final signal that his time as an important member of the secondary is coming to an end.