On paper, the Dallas Cowboys have all but aced the 2023 NFL offseason. They opted for explosion over experience at running back, retaining Tony Pollard over Ezekiel Elliott. They got better at two premium positions -- wide receiver and cornerback -- by trading for Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore. And yet the 2023 NFL Draft could be vital in determining whether they have enough depth and talent to pass up the rival Eagles and Giants, who each went farther in the 2022 playoffs.
Even with star-studded names on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys have several clear needs going into the draft. Below, you'll find a complete rundown of their picks, as well as a logical plan for capitalizing on those selections:
Current Cowboys picks
Prioritize the trenches (and weapons) at the top
For years, the Cowboys have drawn high praise for their offensive line, but there are plenty of reasons Dallas should keep its focus up front early on. Pro Bowl tackle Tyron Smith hasn't played a full season in almost a decade, and he's now missed at least 13 games in two of his last three seasons. Left guard Connor McGovern left in free agency, with left tackle Tyler Smith a candidate to slide over as a replacement. Center Tyler Biadasz is entering a contract year. And sterling guard Zack Martin is going on 33.
The Cowboys have been smart about the line before, embracing unsexy Day 1 picks to keep their quarterback upright, and they need only look to their rival Eagles, whose line has helped propel two Super Bowl runs in six seasons, to justify prioritizing this area again. Unless there's an uncharacteristic run on interior blockers, the Cowboys could even move back from No. 26 and still secure one of the top guard prospects, including Florida big man O'Cyrus Torrence, North Dakota State mauler Cody Mauch, a potential tackle convert; and Wisconsin center Joe Tippman, whose strength and smarts could easily appeal at multiple positions.
The more urgent need for Dallas is on the flip side, along the D-line. Micah Parsons alone makes for a lethal pass rush as a stand-up blitzer, and DeMarcus Lawrence still brings adequate tools off the edge. But the interior is sorely lacking, with Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore and an aging Johnathan Hankins headlining that unit. Pittsburgh's Calijah Kancey could fit as an explosive piece for Dan Quinn's hybrid front and figures to be available right around when the Cowboys pick at No. 26. Alternatively, Clemson's Bryan Bresee and Michigan's Mazi Smith also make sense, though the latter could be more of a Day 2 target.
If the Cowboys aren't bolstering the trenches with one of their first two picks, then they'd better be adding a weapon for Dak Prescott. It's not that they lack for explosion at the skill spots; Pollard is dynamic, CeeDee Lamb is a bona fide No. 1 wideout and Cooks should add a reliable downfield option. But tight end Dalton Schultz is gone via free agency, and though he had a relatively quiet 2022 campaign, he still commanded at least 89 targets in each of his last three seasons. Behind Lamb, meanwhile, Cooks is going on 30, Michael Gallup has struggled to stay healthy and No. 3 Noah Brown is now playing for the Texans.
If any of the top TE prospects -- Utah's Dalton Kincaid, Notre Dame's Michael Mayer, Georgia's Darnell Washington -- are on the board at No. 26, they'd make sense as plug-and-play pass-catching outlets, even though the first-round track record of the position isn't encouraging. A receiver could be a better long-term investment, however, and while Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba figures to be gone by the time they make their first pick, other top prospects like Zay Flowers (Boston College), Jordan Addison (USC) and Quentin Johnston (TCU) may well be up for grabs and capable of manning No. 3 duties out of the gate.
In an ideal world, the Cowboys will leave Day 2 of the draft having added at least one starting-caliber piece to both the pass-catching group (WR or TE) and the offensive or defensive line. From there, they should ...
Target RB, LB and CB depth
These are the areas in which the Cowboys could use, but don't necessarily need, immediate reinforcements. Would a splashy swing for, say, Texas' Bijan Robinson be justifiable at running back? Perhaps, but it'd be more palatable at the back end of Round 1 as opposed to a potential trade up. Pollard is perfectly capable of handling RB1 duties even coming off injury, and so what that he's entering a contract year under the franchise tag? The veteran market is annually full of serviceable starter-types, especially if you've got a fortified offensive line, and new backup Ronald Jones is a fine No. 2 for this season.
That said, there are plenty of intriguing names Dallas could look to add to the backfield: UCLA's Zach Charbonnet might cost their second-round pick but would offer a physical contrast to Pollard, while Texas A&M's Devon Achane would give them another electric change-of-pace option.
At linebacker, the Cowboys could simply use more developmental and rotational prospects behind Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox, though that spot isn't nearly as important with Parsons flying off the edge and guys like Trevon Diggs and Jayron Kearse patrolling the back end. Gilmore, meanwhile, gives Dallas an enviable one-two punch at corner opposite Diggs. But he's going on 33 and entering the final year of his deal, registering purely as a win-now rental. If there's one spot the Cowboys could actually afford to target more prominently than expected, it's probably cornerback, where late-Day 1 possibilities like Maryland's Deonte Banks, Mississippi State's Emmanuel Forbes and Alabama hybrid Brian Branch could fit for the long term.