Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram could help bolster the Cowboys' secondary
The Dallas Cowboys have the potential to be a major playoff contender in 2019. The team returns most of the starters from last year’s 10-6 squad, plus they added a few key additions through trades and free agency.
The bad news is that Dallas will be without its first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, which is set to begin on April 25. The good news is that pick was used to acquire Amari Cooper prior to the trade deadline last season, and Cooper rewarded Dallas by bringing in 53 catches for 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine regular-season games.
What that trade also means is that the Cowboys won’t have their first pick until late in the second round (No. 58 overall). So, who should Dallas target on Days 2 and 3? Here are five possibilities:
1. Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
The Cowboys decided to sign George Iloka, the former Cincinnati Bengal and Minnesota Viking, to a one-year deal in March. But that won’t stop them from drafting another safety in the second round, if the right one is available.
There have been a few people touting Abram as a first-round talent. While that outcome is a possibility, seeing the ultra-physical safety drafted early on Day 2 would be a lot less surprising. If Abram does make his way towards the back half of Round 2, Dallas would be wise to throw a star on the side of his helmet.
Adding Abram would do two things for Dallas: 1) it would provide a nice complementary piece for free safety Xavier Woods and 2) it would allow Iloka to move into a reserve role where he could see snaps at both free and strong safety.
2. Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
There’s not going to be an NFL team that drafts Knox based on his college production. During his career at Ole Miss, the former high school quarterback only hauled in 39 receptions and zero touchdowns. Granted, he did turn those catches into 605 yards, which was good for 15.5 yards per reception.
The Cowboys aren’t lacking tight ends on the roster, either — there are currently five of them. The question is whether they have any that can turn into a premier talent.
Long-time Cowboy Jason Witten decided that his time in the booth — at least for now — should come to an end and has re-signed with Dallas. But how much does the 36-year-old have left in the tank? Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and Rico Gathers have all shown flashes — especially Jarwin. But it’s still not enough.
Knox recently posted somewhere in the 4.5s on his 40-yard dash despite checking in a 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds. To make things even more impressive, his pro day also included a 34.5-inch vertical and 6.98 3-cone drill. As much potential as he shows in the passing game, he’s also a willing and able blocker, making him a perfect candidate for the Cowboys on Day 2.
3. Zach Allen, DL, Boston College
Dallas has been busy building its defensive line this offseason. After trading for edge rusher Robert Quinn and signing defensive tackle Christian Covington, the Cowboys took care of the top thing on their to-do list by signing Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million contract ($65 million guaranteed).
Considering the defensive front already had Tyrone Crawford, Antwuan Woods, Maliek Collins, and former first-round pick Taco Charlton, drafting another lineman early may seem like overkill. That belief would be wrong.
Quinn will be 29 years old in May and Covington was only signed to a one-year deal. Even with Lawrence signed for the long haul, more help is needed up front.
Allen is a versatile piece that can make an impact from several spots along the defensive line. He has enough size (6-4, 281) to play as a base end in an even front. But he also can kick inside on passing downs, which would allow him to stay on the field for all three downs.
4. Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Amari Cooper will continue to serve as the WR1 for the Cowboys, and Michael Gallup looks like he could have a long career in Dallas. As a result, there may be some who view drafting a receiver early as a luxury — especially when Randall Cobb was signed to one-year, $5 million deal last month.
All those things are true, but Samuel would be an excellent long-term option in the slot if he was still there at pick No. 58. The South Carolina product is built (5-11, 214) more like a running back than a receiver, which is probably why he plays so fearlessly working in the middle of the field. Samuel possesses strong hands, savvy route-running, and excellent ball skills to go along with that fearless mentality.
Considering Dak Prescott doesn’t like to push the ball vertically very often, adding a guy like Samuel into the mix with Cooper, Cobb, Gallup and Tavon Austin could prove to be beneficial.
5. Trysten Hill, IDL, UCF
Drafting a guy like Hill late on Day 2 or early on Day 3 serves the same concept as taking Zach Allen — Dallas still has work to do with its defensive line.
Yes, there are some questions surrounding Hill and whether he’s coachable or not. But there’s obvious upside as well. He’s a high-effort player with a lot of raw ability, even if the technique is currently lacking.
At the Scouting Combine, he checked in at 6-foot-3, 308 pounds while putting up an eye-popping workout. A 5.04 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical and 115-inch broad jump all impressed, and so did his 28 reps on the bench press.
There are several interior defensive linemen — Western Illinois’ Khalen Saunders, Arkansas’ Armon Watts, and Arizona State’s Renell Wren, for example — who may be worth taking in the middle rounds. But Hill’s upside as a possible one-technique on the Dallas defense makes him a very attractive option.
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.