Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Dallas Cowboys' Top 3 Picks
With the veteran departures the Dallas Cowboys have seen this offseason, they need to make the most of this year's NFL draft. The first three rounds will be the most crucial, and none of those picks can afford to be a bust.
In these first three rounds, Dallas needs to address its defensive holes first and foremost. The defensive line and the safety position are the most in need of some young, promising talent. If the franchise wants to make a Super Bowl push anytime soon, giving defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli some help is the first big step.
With a heavy defensive focus in mind, the first three rounds of this year's draft have best- and worst-case scenarios for Big D. Let's take a look at the dream and nightmare picks for the Cowboys in Rounds 1-3 of the draft.
Round 1 Best-Case Scenario: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
By far the biggest signing this offseason for Dallas was defensive tackle Henry Melton. But while this was a huge step in rebuilding the defensive line, Melton needs help in the interior.
Aaron Donald led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss last season. Part of the reason he was able to accomplish both accolades is his ability to fire off the snap and his natural ability to find his way into the backfield.
Bleacher Report's own Brian Mazique noted that Donald makes up for his undersized frame with talent, writing that "he possesses a motor and athleticism that is reminiscent of the Cincinnati Bengals' Geno Atkins."
Dallas lost two of its longtime faces in the middle of the line in Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher over the past couple of seasons. If the team can pair Melton with Donald, all of a sudden those losses turn out to be for the better.
Round 1 Worst-Case Scenario: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
Kony Ealy might not be an instant-impact guy for the Cowboys, but he is everything the team needs in a DeMarcus Ware replacement.
The Missouri product oozes athleticism, he knows how to seek out the ball-carrier and he knows more than a few ways to get to the quarterback. There's a lot to love about what Ealy brings from a pass rush and run defense prospective.
Dallas' only real drawback by selecting Ealy is the fact that many experts believe he's a few years away from being a big-impact guy. Given the age of team leaders like Jason Witten and Tony Romo, time is not on the Cowboys' side.
Ealy has all the tools to be what the team needs to replace Ware at defensive end. Unfortunately, Romo, Witten and, frankly, coach Jason Garrett don't have the time to wait for him to blossom. The developmental tag is what makes him the worst-case scenario for Dallas at pick No. 16.
Round 2 Best-Case Scenario: DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State
Scott Crichton isn't likely to become the next DeMarcus Ware for Dallas. He could become the next Anthony Spencer, however.
During his time at Oregon State, Crichton became known for his ability to beat his blocker with his hands. There are more than a few moves in his arsenal that can leave an offensive lineman guessing. Crichton tallied 22.5 sacks and 51 tackles for loss in college, thanks largely to his skilled hands and notable strength. At 6'3", 273 pounds, there isn't a ton to dislike about his frame either.
While he doesn't have quite the ceiling that Ealy has, his floor is a much safer one. Given his natural ability, at worst, Crichton is a serviceable defensive end. At best, he is a fine equivalent to Spencer.
Round 2 Worst-Case Scenario: CB Marcus Roberson, Florida
Marcus Roberson is CBS Sports' No. 8 cornerback in this draft class. The kid certainly has talent, he just doesn't have talent at a position Dallas needs to address so early on.
After Morris Claiborne's less-than-stellar sophomore season, the Cowboys could be tempted to grab some insurance at the position. Claiborne did lose his starting spot last season to Orlando Scandrick, but it's too early to write off the former No. 6 overall pick.
Head coach Jason Garrett told reporters, via Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk, back in March that he still has confidence in his young cornerback. Despite his lack of instant success, Garrett has no reason to find Claiborne's replacement in this year's draft.
Roberson's noticeable agility and knack for breaking up passes could certainly entice the 'Boys in the second round. Garrett needs to make sure his war room does not get too enthralled with Roberson and address other defensive positions.
Round 3 Best-Case Scenario: FS Ed Reynolds, Stanford
In the 2013 draft, the Cowboys took safety J.J. Wilcox in the third round. Wilcox showed some promise at times last season but ultimately lost his starting job to undrafted rookie Jeff Heath.
Ed Reynolds has the ideal build of safety at 6'2" and 205 pounds. Aside from Barry Church, Reynolds is actually taller than any of Dallas' starters in the secondary last year.
His build allows him to break up passes, and he knows how to chase down runners, with a 4.57 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine. Reynolds has a proven quickness and understands how to get between the receiver and the football in most situations.
There is still room for him to improve, but he has the base talent that any NFL team wants when looking at a safety. It'd be foolish to rule out Wilcox after one year, but Dallas doesn't really have a proven safety on its roster.
Wilcox and Church are the likely starters as of now, but neither is exactly Ed Reed in his prime. Matt Johnson has never played a regular-season game. Jakar Hamilton and Heath are entering their second seasons.
Make no mistake, the Cowboys still need help at safety, and Reynolds could be the help they've been seeking for some time now.
Round 3 Worst-Case Scenario: QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
Tony Romo is turning 34 this month, and the Cowboys need to start thinking about drafting his heir apparent sometime soon. Given this year's impressive quarterback class, Dallas could easily be tempted to grab AJ McCarron in the third round.
Jerry Jones and Co. need to refrain from selecting Romo's heir in this round, however.
McCarron comes from a pro-style system and was coached by college legend Nick Saban. His mechanics are sound, and he is arguably the last of the elite players at his position in this year's class. All of that could have Jones' mouth watering, but he needs to be convinced to play the waiting game here. The defense is in rough shape, and the team really needs to take a safety or even a linebacker in Round 3.
McCarron has some real promising talent, but he could easily slip to Round 4, where Dallas can get him. By the third round, all teams in serious need of QB help will have addressed the position. The Cowboys don't need McCarron as badly as they need a instant contributor on defense.
If the Alabama product is available in the fourth, by all means, the Cowboys should grab him. If he's not, though, waiting until next year to find Romo's eventual replacement isn't going to drastically hurt the franchise.