Trading Down Not a Bad Option in '06

The Cowboys went to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis looking to hit another home run in the draft.

They drew raves for their choices a year ago. Of course it's easy when you have two first-round draft picks. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware and defensive end Marcus Spears certainly didn't disappoint at the 11th and 20th picks.

In fact, they will be quality players for years to come.

Last year the Cowboys went into the draft focusing on taking the best player but knowing they would address defense in the first round. With a switch to the 3-4 from the 4-3, they needed players to fit the new system. They also needed anchors for the defense.

Ware and Spears filled the bill nicely.

In 2006, the Cowboys have needs across the board and could address any of them with the 18th selection. Linebacker, safety, receiver and tackle are all potential targets in the first round.

Tackle is probably the biggest need and there are a number of prospects who intrigue the Cowboys. The big question is: Will they finally go in that direction in the first round? The Cowboys have not picked an offensive player in the first round since 1997, when they took tight end David LaFleur.

They have not taken an offensive lineman in the first round since Howard Richards in 1981.

Will they make history in 2006?

Keep an eye on Winston Justice of USC, Marcus McNeil of Auburn and Jonathan Scott of Texas. Dallas needs help at tackle and could be inclined to select one those three, should they be available.

A possible receiver target at 18 could be Santonio Holmes of Ohio State. He could a replacement for the aging Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn. He also would provide immediate help as a kick returner.

Defensively, safety/cornerbacks Michael Huff of Texas and Jimmy Williams of Virginia Tech would make nice fits in the secondary at free safety. The Cowboys are looking for a ballhawk to play beside hard-hitting Roy Williams.

The linebacker the Cowboys will watch closely at the combine will be Bobby Carpenter of Ohio State.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells coached Carpenter's father Rob with the Giants and has followed his career in college.

Also, keep in mind the Cowboys like to be crafty when they hold a "lower" pick in the first round. Jerry Jones admitted as much in a local paper earlier this week.

If the Cowboys can identify their likely first round selection early enough, while also feeling like they can trade down for more picks to get that player, they'll do it in a heartbeat. It happened two years ago with Julius Jones and it could easily happen again this year.

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