After last season’s virtual draft, Cleveland is playing host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player Dallas has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 12 overall: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
My take: Ideally, the Cowboys wanted to land a cornerback in the first round, but Carolina and Denver beat them to the punch at Nos. 8 and 9 by taking Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II. That led owner and general manager Jerry Jones to make an in-division trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Cowboys were able to land an extra third-round pick to give them five selections inside the top 100. Athletically, there is no denying Parsons’ talent. He ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and had 192 tackles in 26 games. He also had 6.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and five pass deflections. He made a quick impact at Penn State with 83 tackles, a a school record for a freshman. Can he have the same impact for the Cowboys?
Any rust?: Parsons opted out of last season at Penn State to focus on his NFL training. On Tuesday, Jones said players that opted out, “are compromised. I’d much rather have seen the reps and the plays that they got.” The lack of information, however, did not bother Jones too much after trading down, but there has to be some pause since Parsons’ last game was Dec. 28, 2019. Of course, that game was at AT&T Stadium at the Cotton Bowl against Memphis when he tied a career high with 14 tackles, including two sacks and three tackles for loss.
Passing on line help: Even with big defensive needs, the Cowboys had an opportunity to take offensive lineman Rashawn Slater at No. 12 overall, but passed. They have had nothing but success in selecting run and pass blockers lately. Since 2011, they have drafted All-Pros Tyron Smith (2011), Travis Frederick (2013) and Zack Martin (2014) after not taking an offensive lineman in the first round since 1981. Slater could have moved in at the left guard spot this season, while understanding Smith has battled injuries the past five seasons. Smith has not played a full season since 2015 and missed 14 games in 2020 after undergoing neck surgery. Right tackle La’el Collins missed every game because of hip surgery.
What’s next: The Cowboys have three picks in the second (No. 44) and third rounds (No. 75, 84) but could Jones be tempted to move up at either spot to go with a quality-over-quantity approach with 10 draft selections? Last year’s second-round pick, Trevon Diggs, was a walk-in starter at cornerback. It took third-round pick Neville Gallimore some time to get accustomed to the pro game, but he should play a prominent role in 2021.