One of the biggest areas of need for the Dallas Cowboys is the cornerback position. Dallas has the opportunity to address the position with a top-10 pick in April, but it is hard to predict how the board will fall.
Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are both set to hit free agency. That leaves the Cowboys with Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown at the position.
Diggs had some highs and some lows as a rookie, while Brown has been a steady presence in the secondary since 2016. Adding more talent to the secondary has to be a huge priority this offseason.
The Cowboys would be set at the position had the 2016 NFL Draft fallen in a different way. Dallas passed on Jalen Ramsey in favor of Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick. It is easy to criticize the position with hindsight. Still, it could have been considered a questionable pick at the time due to positional value.
Pro Football Focus considers taking Elliott over Ramsey as the Cowboys’ biggest recent draft mistake.
There have been a number of head-scratching decisions made around the league in recent years. Therefore, Pro Football Focus named the biggest draft mistake for each team since 2016.
PFF’s pick for the Cowboys? Drafting Ezekiel Elliott over Jalen Ramey. Mike Renner explained why:
DALLAS COWBOYS: ZEKE > JALEN RAMSEY
It was an indefensible decision made even worse by the unwavering commitment to justifying it. Ramsey has been, at worst, a top-five cornerback in the NFL after his rookie season. It was a need at the time, and it’s even more of a need now. Meanwhile, Zeke is on the books for a $13.7 million cap hit and will cost more if he’s cut than if he plays.
Pro Football Focus already dislikes the running back position, so this shouldn’t come to much of a surprise. Running back is one of the most replaceable positions in the sport. Cornerback, meanwhile, is considered one of the most valuable.
Ezekiel Elliott was among the best running backs in football over the first few seasons of his career. His ability to change a two-yard loss into a five-yard gain was special. He consistently showcased explosive ability and was a factor in the passing game.
As with any running back though, Elliott has started to wear down. He lacks the same explosive ability, he matched a career-high in fumbles in 2020, and his contract hurts the team more than it helps.
On the flip side, Jalen Ramsey has emerged as the NFL’s top corner. His ability to man-up and shutdown just about any receiver across the league is widely impressive. He possesses above average length and elite athleticism. He would help solve a lot of issues on the Cowboys defense.
It is hard to argue that it wasn’t a mistake, strictly from a positional value and team-building perspective.
That said, the 2017 NFL Draft saw the Cowboys’ make its biggest draft mistake over the last five years. Dallas had an opportunity to build on its magical 2016 campaign that saw them finish 13-3 and a Jared Cook catch from potentially making the NFC Championship.
In that first-round, the Dallas Cowboys chose Michigan’s Taco Charlton over Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt due to scheme fit. Charlton is on his third team in the league, while Watt has blossomed into an elite pass rusher.
Secondary is probably the team’s biggest hole, but pass rusher is near the top of needs as well. Had either of these moves gone differently, the Cowboys would be in a much different situation.