Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones vowed the team would be flexible heading into the 2021 NFL draft, eschewing an early commitment to neither an offensive nor defensive player with the No. 10 overall selection.
How flexible? Perhaps enough to resist the pick-of-the-cornerback litter. Perhaps enough to avoid further stockpiling an already lethal group behind Dak Prescott.
Perhaps enough, FanDuel’s Larry Rupp posits, to move out of the top-10 entirely as a trade-down “would be beneficial” to the trigger-happy organization.
“They could still grab an elite defensive prospect later in the first round due to how many offensive skill players are expected to be drafted within the first 15 picks of the draft,” Rupp wrote Saturday. “For example, Dallas needs help in the secondary and could likely still draft either cornerback Caleb Farley or Jaycee Horn if it trades down a few spots. This type of move would also allow the Cowboys to acquire additional draft picks and build some depth on the defense.”
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Assuming Dallas stays put, Stephen and owner/general manager Jerry Jones should have several tantalizing prospects staring them in the face — none more tantalizing than cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II and JayCee Horn. (Caleb Farley will drop from the top-10 after recent back surgery.)
It’s a position of need, a position the Cowboys have tellingly ignored in free agency, and Surtain and Horn are arguably the best CB prospects in this year’s class. That’s on the defensive side, circled and underlined in red Sharpie.
On the offensive side, tackles Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater are possible targets due to the uncertain futures of starters Tyron Smith and La’el Collins. A wildcard here is buzzed-about Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, whether the Cowboys actually take him (unlikely) or trade their choice to a team that will (more likely).
“I’d just like to state for the record that I’m a big fan of Kyle Pitts, and it’d be exciting if the Cowboys drafted him. But it’s hard to imagine that happening,” team reporter David Helman wrote earlier this month. “They have much bigger needs, and given their draft position, there will be talented players available to them – even if Pitts is the top-rated player on the board. If someone knocks their socks off with a trade offer, that could be interesting. But otherwise, I’ll think they’ll hang in and draft a defender or an offensive lineman – even if they have a better grade on Pitts.”
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Of the aforementioned players, it’s Surtain who’s been continually linked to the Cowboys by national insiders and renowned draft prognosticators. The son of the former Miami Dolphins great again was connected to the silver and blue in NFL.com’s new projection, unveiled Friday.
Team need and player value merge at the 10th overall pick, with the Cowboys getting the kind of physical outside corner they could have had in Jalen Ramsey a few years ago. Surtain is a technician who plays the ball as well as any corner I’ve seen over the past 20 years.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL