Last week, we took a look at the offseason needs of the Top 5 teams in this year's NFL Draft. With the Cowboys picking at four, in a year where there weren't supposed to be any sure-fire quarterback studs, it seemed apparent that if Dallas wanted to grab a quarterback, they'd have the opportunity to do so. Of the three teams picking ahead of Dallas, only the Cleveland Browns are in desperate need for a quarterback amongst the Top 5.
With the Senior Bowl rolling this week, and the early returns on North Dakota State's Carson Wentz being as promising as his supporters anticipated it would be with the increased level of talent around him, the Cowboys might have another consideration to concern themselves with. What if there's a team desperate enough for a quarterback to move ahead of Dallas in the draft?
The Tennessee Titans secured their quarterback of the future last year, selecting Oregon's Marcus Mariota with the second overall selection. Earning the top spot in 2016, there's little chance they have any interest in selecting either Jared Goff (currently the assumed top quarterback in the draft) or Wentz, or even Memphis' Paxton Lynch.
Tennessee has numerous options that could help their team with the top pick, depending on how they navigate free agency. The problem for Dallas, what if Tennessee is offered a package of picks by a team that wants to jump ahead of Cleveland to select the quarterback they prefer? Even if Tennessee holds tight and picks a different position, what would be stopping San Diego from selling their pick to a team that wants to jump ahead of Dallas? Nothing, really.
If Dallas is indeed interested in bringing in Tony Romo's heir apparent, and that's a huge if considering the Jones' public insistence they believe Romo has another 4 years as a quality NFL starter, that puts them in a bind.
We are well-documented here at CowboysHQ about the pitfalls of trading up in this draft, last year's draft, any draft that has happened or will happen.
Does that philosophy shift when a franchise quarterback is in the balance?
If Dallas identifies Jared Goff and Carson Wentz as future franchise QBs, what would you "authorize"?— K.D. Drummond (@KDDrummondNFL) January 27, 2016
Plenty of fans consider this to be a weak quarterback class, and that is their justification for Dallas eschewing the opportunity to select Romo's successor despite just witnessing the team collapse due to the lack of talent behind him on the depth chart. There must, however, be consideration about the rest of the class at the top of the draft. Are there any elite prospects who are shoe-in All-Pro players? The consensus is that Laremy Tunsil, tackle from Ole Miss is that guy, but Dallas is hardly in need of spending such a valued resource on a right tackle.
Myles Jack is an uber-talented off-ball linebacker, but yes... he's an off-ball linebacker, not a rush linebacker. Laquon Treadwell makes dazzling catches, but is he on the same level as Amari Cooper and Sammy Watkins? Most evaluators don't believe so. Is Ezekiel Elliott as good as Todd Gurley? Is Jalen Ramsey the next Earl Thomas? If the player being targeted doesn't answer these questions with a resounding yes, then there is no way their career arc will come close to matching that of a potential franchise quarterback.
No matter how "sure thing" a player is, there is inherent risk in any pick. This is one reason why drafting a quarterback is treated differently. It goes beyond Best Player Available because a quarterback regarded slightly less than another position player will still have a much greater impact on team success.
It is much easier to find elite talent at other positions throughout the first two days of the draft than it is quarterback. That's the risk Dallas would be taking if they identify Wentz or Goff (or Lynch) as a future franchise guy. They hopefully will not be in the position to secure someone of that stature until after Romo retires. Fans over the age of 25 well remember the baren wasteland of the stretch after Aikman retired to when Bill Parcells handed the keys over to Romo. (The same Aikman, by the way, thinks the 2016 backup QB is gonna be named "Johnny'' or "Robert.'')
It might just benefit Dallas to have a quarterback in the system they can evaluate for a few years to know what they will have once Romo finally hangs up his laces. One real question that is developing, will it take more than the fourth pick to make that happen?