Who should Cowboys draft?

Who should the Cowboys draft in the first round?

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    20%
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    56%
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    4%
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    16%
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    4%

(Total votes: 3,172)

DAVID DECASTRO
MARK BARRON

Crazy about DeCastro

MacMahon By Tim MacMahon
ESPNDallas.com
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If it comes down to taking the best player on the board, Stanford guard David DeCastro will be an easy selection for the Cowboys with the 14th overall pick.

If it comes down to need, a strong case can still be made for DeCastro.

The Cowboys signed guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to eight-figure contracts in free agency. They still have a glaring hole at center, where undrafted second-year player Phil Costa struggled after taking over for Andre Gurode last season.

DeCastro played solely guard during his college career, but he practiced at center. It isn't difficult to envision him beginning his NFL career at center. Considering his Stanford pedigree (academically and playing in a pro-style system), there's no doubt he's intelligent enough to handle the line calls, a significant concern for the Cowboys after they cut Kyle Kosier.

There has been some talk coming from Valley Ranch about the new additions at guard helping Costa. Sorry, but that's a huge stretch after signing one guard who didn't start for the Panthers last season and another guard who was inconsistent for the Bengals.

Add DeCastro, and the weakest link on the offense immediately becomes a strength.

Sure, this defense has holes that need to be filled. But so does the offense. It's silly to say one unit is much more desperate for help after the Cowboys ranked 15th in points scored and 16th in points allowed last season.

The Cowboys can't afford to make their first-round pick based primarily on need anyway. That's how mistakes get made. Just take the best player.

There's no doubt that will be the DeCastro, assuming he's still on the board when the Cowboys get on the clock. He's considered one of the best interior offensive line prospects in years. He's a tough, smart, 6-foot-5, 316-pound technician who is a good run blocker, especially in space, and excels in pass protection. He'd make the Cowboys' run game better and provide a clean pocket for Tony Romo.

Drafting DeCastro would mark the second consecutive year the Cowboys picked an offensive lineman in the first round  and just the second time they've done so during Jerry Jones' ownership tenure. They're thrilled with Tyron Smith, last year's first-rounder. DeCastro would be another guy they could count on for the next decade or so.

DeCastro is the one player the Cowboys could possibly pick at No. 14 who doesn't have any notable question marks. So what if guard/center isn't considered a premium position? You can't go wrong drafting a perennial Pro Bowler.

Boys need Barron

Archer By Todd Archer
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

As the Cowboys look back at what went wrong in 2011, they can see deficiencies on both sides of the ball that contributed to an 8-8 finish, but the biggest culprit was the defense.

In free agency, the Cowboys helped the secondary by signing cornerback Brandon Carr to a mega-deal. They also signed veteran safety Brodney Pool to a one-year deal. Offensively they signed two guards in Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to starters money.

Using free agency as a guide, the smart money on the No. 14 overall pick is Alabama safety Mark Barron.

You can make the argument that the Cowboys would be better served to find pass-rush help at No. 14, but this draft is not filled with as many front-seven difference makers. Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro is a terrific prospect and will be a decade-long starter in the NFL, but when teams say they don't draft for need, don't believe them.

You draft for need to a degree. The degree in which the Cowboys need a safety is greater than the need for a guard.

The Cowboys have run through safeties since Darren Woodson departed. Roy Williams did not deliver despite a strong start to his career. Keith Davis and Pat Watkins were special teamers. Ken Hamlin quickly tailed off after a Pro Bowl season. Alan Ball was miscast as a safety by Wade Phillips. Abram Elam was solid but little more.

This isn't to say Barron will be Woodson, though the Cowboys would love that. But this is to say he gives them the best chance.

Barron is by far the best safety in this draft class. He is solid athletically. He is smart. He makes plays at different levels. He was a two-time All-America at Alabama. He led the nation's best defense a year ago in tackles, and it was a defense that was littered with first-round prospects.

And he comes with the Nick Saban stamp of approval.

Jason Garrett broke into the coaching ranks under Saban in Miami. Garrett counts Saban as one of his mentors. He knows what Saban wants in a player and he trusts what Saban tells him is the truth. A lot of college coaches will lie to NFL teams because their resume becomes enhanced when a player is picked early in the draft.

A year ago Garrett attended one pro day -- Southern Cal's -- and the Cowboys took Trojans offensive tackle Tyron Smith in the first round. Garrett attended one pro day this year -- Alabama's -- and that should tell you something.

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