(CBSDFW.COM) – Coronovirus has put much of the sports world on hold. The NFL, whose regular season doesn’t begin until early September, has been affected as well. The new league year started a couple weeks ago, however. The NFL promptly postponed teams’ offseason programs. Free agency rolled on, though it has become a remote endeavor, with players and officials from potential teams unable to meet in person.
The NFL Draft is still scheduled for April 23-25, now without all the extra activities surrounding it. The event will be conducted only for a TV audience. But teams still have needs on the field, and college prospects are still available to fill those needs. With the Draft fast approaching, CBS 11 sports anchor Bill Jones looks at how the NFL Draft is taking shape and what the Dallas Cowboys are going to do.
“It should be interesting how it comes [together],” says Jones. “Because right now NFL personnel are not allowed in their headquarters. They will obviously relax that rule coming up to April 23. But they’re going to have to practice social distancing in their own draft rooms as well. Be six feet apart and no more than 10 people in the room. So it’s going to be very interesting to see how it plays out.”
These social restrictions are already changing the pre-Draft process in other ways too. “Normally, not only with the Cowboys, but every team around the League, you’ve got draft prospects that are traveling across the country, flying for interviews” notes Jones. “Each team can bring in 30 draft prospects. A big key for the Cowboys in the past they have what they call a Dallas Day. Any draft prospect that is either from the Dallas-Fort Worth area or went to school at SMU, TCU, North Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, they would all come for one day there. They didn’t have that this year.”
Regardless of the present-day limitations, the Cowboys have some obvious positional needs. With Dak Prescott franchised and Amari Cooper signed, many of those needs fall on the defensive side of the ball. The departures of Byron Jones and Robert Quinn hurt the team more than the arrivals of Gerald McCoy, Maurice Canady and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will help.
According to Jones, “what the Cowboys typically try to do leading up to the Draft every year is try to fill their needs, as many as they can, in free agency. Try not to spend too much money — we saw a lot of movement, some going out the door, others coming in the door during free agency — so that when the Draft comes around, they don’t have to go for a specific position.”
They may not have that luxury this year with the 17th pick in the first round, or even with the their second and third-round picks. “With Byron Jones leaving to go to Miami with a huge contract, there’s an obvious need at the cornerback position for the Cowboys. Robert Quinn got a huge contract with Chicago. They haven’t filled that need yet, at the edge rusher/defensive end.”
Dallas has some work to do if they want to improve on their 8-8 mark in 2019. The NFC East is ripe for the picking for any team with enough talent and direction. The Philadelphia Eagles are beatable. The New York Giants are still another season away from contending. And the Washington Redskins have a longer timeline for their rebuild.
Will the Cowboys address needs or go with the best players available in the upcoming NFL Draft? Can those future rookies make up for the marginal talent drain suffered in free agency? These and other questions remain to be answered as the team and the NFL moves forward with its offseason.