Even Thanksgiving Day’s full-course feast couldn’t supplement the empty gut feeling that permeated Cowboys Nation’s stomachs soon after falling at the hands of the Washington Football Team last Thursday. That statement is especially true for Team Win – who would’ve loved nothing more than to see their beloved road dogs secure total control over the faulty NFC East, and ride off into the sunset unscathed as they galloped their way to an unbridled playoff spot.
But victory just wasn’t in the calling cards for the Boys in blue and silver, and instead of making off with crowning dominion over their conference foes, they recaptured position near the top of another highly coveted list – next year’s NFL draft slotting. The Cowboys sit in the fourth slot in the 2021 selection order according to Tankathon. According to NFL.com, they currently have the fifth pick. Either way, they are in the top five for now,
The teams who will hypothetically pick above them are rightful owners of their propriety: the winless Jets, the Jaguars, the Bengals, and the Chargers are the only squads who are out-hustling the Boys in the race to first place. Of course, this is a contest won by performing poorly, so playing “well” indubitably equates to excessive faltering (especially in the world of Team Tank), and for some, a harder fall signifies a higher chance for future resurgence with a top-five pick.
Right now Dallas is squarely in that chase.
Should they emerge from battle with success (or should I say defeat), a top-five pick is peaking over the horizons very soon. So let’s look at the five men with the current highest likelihood (scheme fit aside) of donning the famed star should the team’s losing woes continue.
5. Micah Parsons – LB, Penn State
Both CBS Sports and Pro Football Focus have the 6’3, 245-lb linebacker as their No. 5 overall college player heading into next year’s selection roundtable.
The consensus All-American registered 109 total tackles last season while leading the Nittany Lions’ defensive brigade. Parsons was one of several college players to opt out of this year’s campaign due to COVID concerns, but that hasn’t sprouted any resignations from NFL scouts about his readiness.
They rave about his end-to-end quickness, keen heightened field awareness, and an on-contact explosiveness that dislodged six forced fumbles from opposing hands in just two seasons at State College.
He’s the type of player that can be plugged and played immediately in any defensive system, and will undoubtedly lure a litany of scouts and GMs in his direction over the tremendous potential on his tape. If he’s on the the board when Dallas selects – celebrations are in order. They’re in desperate need of help at the linebacking position.
4. Ja’Marr Chase
Not that the Cowboys need another receiver after the type of whirlwind season that rookie CeeDee Lamb is enjoying up to this point, but hey, that’s the same thing we all said last year before management decided to select Lamb.
A stud two-pronged duo in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup didn’t shy Jerry Jones away from another alpha pass-catcher in 2020, and Ja’Marr Chase is undoubtedly a wunderkind talent that will be incredibly hard to pass up.
Chase was another big name that headlined the list of players who chose to withhold their services from college ranks as they shifted their focus to later ventures. His college timeline, though, speaks for itself, as did LSU’s overall offensive preeminence anytime Chase lined up alongside Justin Jefferson during their commanding national title run.
Jefferson’s rookie exploits are all you need for a sample size of the level with which recent LSU receivers have been ready-made for the NFL. And Chase may be even better than his one-time counterpart.
3. Penei Sewell
It’s no secret that the Cowboys have major offensive line issues. If you can’t find strong enough protection to preserve the guys you need to make plays with the football, there’s no point in even snapping it on any given play.
Penei Sewell can help with that. This guy may be big enough to hold down two O-line spots (I’m only exaggerating, I swear). But by all accounts, Sewell is a massive mass of a man.
Tyron Smith is the name that comes to mind when trying to draw up an NFL comparison, and before you write that off as a wishful imaginative likening, get this. Tyron Smith stands 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 305 pounds according to NFL.com. Penei Sewell: 6’6, 330.
That size, coupled with a unique fleet-footedness for his girth, and hand strength plus IQ to boot, makes for an offensive line recruit most coaches could only think of conjuring up in a genie’s bottle. He has yet to see viable time as a means of translating his game to the NFL (another opt-out), but as of right now, Sewell is a player more suited for the pros than anywhere else.
2. Justin Fields
Ah, so here’s where we start talking quarterbacks.
Yes, Dak Prescott likely projects to be in the Cowboys’ long-term plans (although franchise tag after franchise tag has no-doubt tested his compositional fortitude as he awaits a heftier long-term deal). Still though, the jury’s out on whether or not the two parties (Dak and management) will be able to come to terms on an agreement, and that means drafting a quarterback is not out of the consequential picture. At least not yet.
If this does somehow happen, Fields and the next man on this list are the quintessential pair to look at. Fields’ Ohio State tenure reeks of a confident, poised gunslinger. He’s an unfamiliar stranger to losing, and sparked an energetic communal attitude centered on one goal after taking the Buckeye reigns in 2019.
Fields was a third-place Heisman finalist after a rigidly excellent first go-round knotted him 3,273 yards through the air and 41 passing touchdowns, while throwing just three interceptions. Cool, calm and collected is the mantra that oozes from his presence. From five-star recruit, to Netflix documentary star, and now to widely-heralded future NFL draftee, Fields and the spotlight have always followed each other hand in hand.
There’s no bigger spotlight than the one that unceasingly shines on Dallas.
1. Trevor Lawrence
When you’ve got a guy that’s cumulated Peyton Manning comparisons since high school, it’s no surprise that he tops the list of quarterbacks heading into his respective draft year. Trevor Lawrence stands head and shoulders above any player in terms of projections levied onto him by NFL scouts – and it’s not even close. If there’s any player that could’ve gone straight to professional football upon HS graduation, it’s Lawrence.
There isn’t much to be said about him other than he’s a born winner. In 33 games started for the Clemson Tigers, Lawrence has lost just one, which is completely unheard of from any college quarterback in recent memory. His accolades are too many to name. As are the Hall of Fame QB’s he’s drawn comparisons to.
But the only way to solidify the hype is to strap ‘em up and hit the turf, and Lawrence’s name won’t mean a thing to NFL defenders until he brings that level of transcendence to their backyards. There aren’t many offenses in the league though, that wouldn’t love to afford him the chance to do so.
It’s a long shot for Dallas, don’t get me wrong. But after a season like this, anything and everything is possible for this incumbent shakeup. And they very well may have the draft pick needed for one of these names.