Cowboys' Draft Strategy Changing?

With just 5 picks in this weekend's NFL Draft, and growing concerns of the impending loss of guard Larry Allen, the Cowboys' draft day strategy could be changing.

The Cowboys' biggest focus this weekend may very well be to acquire more picks.

Dallas only has five picks in the draft, one each in the first through fifth rounds. They have no sixth and no seventh because of trades last year for Terry Glenn (Green Bay) and Kenyon Coleman (Oakland), respectively.

One way they are hoping to acquire more picks is through a trade for disgruntled guard Larry Allen, who they hope will return a pick in the third round or higher. Trading down from 22 is also a possibility for the Cowboys that is growing stronger by the day.

Running back has been their first-round priority all along, although they would jump at Arkansas tackle Shawn Andrews if he dropped to 22. And it appears that the top two backs in the draft, Steven Jackson and Kevin Jones, could be gone by the time the Cowboys go the clock.

The value decision says they can move down, get an additional pick and still get another runner late in the first round or in the second round. The list there includes Chris Perry, Maurice Clarett, Greg Jones and Julius Jones.

Miami tackle Vernon Carey is also a target late in the first round or early in the second round for the Cowboys.

Cornerback, offensive guard and the defensive line are other areas the Cowboys will target in the draft.

Cornerback is a huge need, probably because of the loss of Mario Edwards (Tampa Bay). Depending on who is available, this is another area they could target in the second round. Keep an eye on Montana State cornerback Joey Thomas, who the team had in for a visit.

Of course, Bill Parcells is also predictable on draft day. He will almost certainly look for size on the defensive line at some point in the draft. And many of the choices, especially the skill positions, will be chosen with special teams in mind. That goes double for the late round picks.

One of the top defensive players available in the eyes of Parcells is Miami DT Vince Wilfork. Sources say that Wilfork would have been the Cowboys' top choice a year ago had he decided to leave Miami a year early.

Team Needs Summary
RB -- The Cowboys will address the running back position in both the draft and free agency. They are eying Chris Perry, Kevin Jones and Steven Jackson in the first round of the draft and possibly Michael Turner, Greg Jones, and Julius Jones in the second round.

The need is there because Troy Hambrick has proven not to be the heir apparent to Emmitt Smith. Hambrick was not helped by a porous offensive line but averaging 3.5 yards per carry won't get it done. They Cowboys have a good track record of drafting running backs in the first round, including Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas, Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith, but keep your eye on Julius Jones of Notre Dame in second. Cowboys' scouts liked what they saw of Jones at the NFL Combine and the former Notre Dame star would be a quality pick up in round #2.

OT -- Improving the running game also means improving the offensive line, especially the right side of the line where tackle Ryan Young and guard Andre Gurode were huge disappointments. Given that Young was released, tackle is the top priority of the offseason. Arkansas tackle Shawn Andrews and Miami tackle Vernon Carey are at the top of their wish lists in the first and second rounds respectively. What is certain is that the Cowboys need someone to come in and play immediately. Add in their unsettled situation with guard Larry Allen, it would not be surprising if the Cowboys took a guard at some point in the draft. Allen appears to have played his last game in a Cowboys uniform and will be traded or cut.

Keep your eye on Carey in the first round. The lastest out of Valley Ranch suggests that if the Cowboys go with offensive lineman with the 22nd overall pick, they'll go with a running back in the second. That scenario fills two important needs and likely puts both Vernon Carey and Julius Jones in a Cowboys' uniform.

CB -- The Cowboys had the No. 1 defense in the league last year but no one feared it because they ranked among the bottom of the league in sacks and turnovers. They felt they filled that need with defensive end Marcellus Wiley. But they now have a hole at cornerback where three-year started Mario Edwards has departed for Tampa Bay. Pete Hunter and Donald Mitchell are the top in house candidates to play opposite left corner Terence Newman. However, Mitchell is a career nickel corner and Hunter has not played with any consistency in his career. Keep an eye on Montana State cornerback Joey Thomas in the second or third round.

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