NFC East draft grades: Eagles jump up … and Dave Gettleman trades down! – NFL.com
Fresh off allowing a franchise-worst 473 points (29.6 per game) in 2020, the Cowboys entered the great college marketplace with a shopping list full of defensive needs. The ‘Boys spent their first six picks — and eight of 11 total — on defenders. Every sentient being on Planet Earth assumed Dallas would target a corner in Round 1, but after Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II were taken with the two picks immediately preceding the Cowboys’ No. 10 slot, Jerry Jones and Co. recalibrated with a quick trade-down before settling on Daniel Jeremiah’s No. 12 overall prospect at No. 12 overall. Parsons packs otherworldly athleticism into his 6-3, 246-pound frame, leading many to believe he’s one of the true blue-chip players in this draft — but he’s not the best coverage linebacker in this Cowboys class. That’s Cox, who could end up being an absolute steal as the kind of three-down ‘backer every team covets in today’s pass-happy NFL. After winning three FCS national championships as a star at North Dakota State, Cox didn’t skip a beat during his grad-transfer season with LSU, as evidenced by his three picks and five pass breakups in 10 SEC games last fall. Wait, though … Does this mean the Cowboys are hitting reset on the linebacker position? Leighton Vander Esch made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2018 and Jaylon Smith earned the honor in ’19. But now, Parsons figures to immediately replace one veteran LB, while Cox could steal snaps from the other with his supreme coverage skills. It’s obviously notable that Dallas declined Vander Esch’s fifth-year option this week. And just two years after signing $64 million extension, Smith could also be in a prove-it year, with the dead money significantly dropping next offseason. Meanwhile, after missing out on the top cornerbacks in Round 1, the Cowboys spent a pair of top-100 picks on the position. The pessimist says they panicked and overdrafted both players. The optimist believes Joseph provides invaluable straight-line speed, while the 6-4 Wright is a scheme-perfect welcoming gift to new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
This draft class offers some enticing talent, but it also carries questions in an area that’s admittedly difficult to assess from an outside perspective: off-field issues. As covered this week in the Fort-Worth Star Telegram by longtime Cowboys beat writer Clarence Hill Jr., Dallas drafted three players with character concerns, including its first two picks. Parsons was named — though never charged — in a civil hazing lawsuit brought by a former Penn State player against the university. The linebacker states that he was falsely accused. Joseph, who transferred to Kentucky after being suspended by LSU for violating team rules, says he told the Cowboys “everything” during the pre-draft process. Ball began his career Florida State, but he was suspended by the university following accusations of dating violence and eventually wound up at Marshall. “I believe in second chances,” Jerry Jones said in the wake of the draft. “I believe in people learning from their mistakes. That is what part of the game is about. You get knocked down and get back up. That philosophy held very true here with Ball and anybody else we drafted. If that individual has a real good opportunity with some redeeming things in his life, then I offset.”