“D” for Disaster By Scott Wright The 2010 Dallas Cowboys have suffered a collapse of epic proportions, going from a Super Bowl favorite to a contender for the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft in just two short months. Everyone has a theory for why the Cowboys laid an egg this year but in my opinion a major culprit has been their neglect of the trenches on Draft Day. In the four drafts since Bill Parcells left the franchise Dallas has only selected two linemen in the top three rounds and neither James Marten or Robert Brewster ever played a regular season snap for them. I like to use the car analogy. The quarterback is the engine that drives a football team and linemen are the wheels but instead of making sure he had the integral parts needed to make the vehicle run properly Jerry Jones has focused his attention on flashy accessories like a stereo systems and rims. Did Dallas really need to use a first round pick on a backup / situational running back (Felix Jones) in 2008? Or how about trading up to select Dez Bryant this past April? Don’t get me wrong, I thought Bryant was fifth best player available for the 2010 NFL Draft and it looks like he is going to be a stud, but was wide receiver really the Cowboys most pressing concern? Was it even in the top five? Whether you agree or disagree that’s all water under the bridge. The question now becomes how can Dallas turn things around and get back on the right track. With that in mind, let’s take a cursory look at what the Cowboys might do with what will in all probability be a very early first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Dream Scenario * Patrick Peterson, S, L.S.U. Safety has been a problem area in “Big D” since the days of Darren Woodson. Needless to say, the chance to land a dynamic, impact performer like Peterson for their secondary would almost make this nightmare of a season worthwhile. Even though the 6-1, 222 pound Peterson plays corner in college there are many who feel he is not only capable of playing safety at the next level but perhaps even best suited for it. The addition of Peterson would go a long way towards solving the issues Dallas has in pass coverage while also providing them with the playmaking dimension they currently lack. The Logical Fit * Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama A couple of years ago the Cowboys allowed Chris Canty to leave as a free agent and it appears as though they will do the same with Marcus Spears next offseason. Meanwhile, both of the top backups at defensive end, Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen, are relatively unproven and also due to hit the open market. Dareus could project to either defensive tackle or end in the NFL, depending on the style of defense. However, he actually plays the five-technique in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 front, which happens to be the same scheme Dallas runs, so this would be a seamless transition. The Value / Need Compromise * Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska On paper the Cowboys seem to be set at the cornerback position, but appearances can be misleading. In reality Terence Newman is already 32-years-old and there is no telling how much longer he’ll be able to play at a high level. Meanwhile the other starter, former first rounder Mike Jenkins, has taken a big step backwards this season and the top backup, Orlando Scandrick, only has one more year left on his contract. Amukamara is a potential shutdown corner and a legitimate Top 5-10 overall value. If they can’t land Peterson then Amukamara could be a nice consolation prize for their leaky secondary. The Long-Shot * Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford It’s hard to believe that Dallas would give up on Tony Romo, who is in his prime, but desperate times often call for desperate measures. Assuming he comes out Luck will likely be the highest rated player available, so by default the Cowboys would have to at least consider him if he was still available when they were on the clock. Furthermore, keep in mind that Dallas has doubled up on the quarterback position before. In 1989 the Cowboys used the #1 overall pick in the standard NFL Draft on Troy Aikman, then later that year used their first round pick in the Supplemental Draft (which was essentially the #1 overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft ) on Steve Walsh. In the end I highly doubt the Cowboys would opt for Andrew Luck, but stranger things have happened on Draft Day. There is a lot of football left to be played and Dallas certainly has enough talent to win some games down the stretch and essentially take themselves out of the running for all of the aforementioned prospects. Still, just the fact that we are talking about the Cowboys having a shot at guys like Luck, Peterson, Dareus and Amukamara is pretty stunning and would’ve been absolutely unheard of not that long ago. Regardless of whether they wind up picking #1, #5, or #10, the eyes of the football world will be on the Dallas Cowboys next April as they try to right a ship that has gone horribly astray.