Dallas Cowboys unlikely to trade up in 2021 NFL Draft: Best Round 1 scenarios

The Dallas Cowboys aren't expected to chase a trade up in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. What are the best Round 1 scenarios for America's Team?

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t expected to trade up from 10th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

That means instead of being aggressive and selling assets for someone like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will exercise some patience. Obviously, Dallas has multiple holes on its roster, and adding another pass-catcher on offense shouldn’t be a massive priority.

So, who should the Cowboys target in the first round? Here are three appealing scenarios for America’s Team.

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Best Dallas Cowboys Round 1 scenarios in 2021 NFL Draft

Patrick Surtain II or Rashawn Slater fall to No. 10

Best Dallas Cowboys Round 1 scenarios: Patrick Surtain
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Patrick Surtain II (2) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Left tackle is a big question mark because of Tyron Smith’s extensive injury history. Smith is among the NFL’s elite at the all-important position when he’s healthy, yet he missed 14 games last season and missed three contests apiece in each of the prior four years.

Rashawn Slater is strong insurance for the future of the left tackle position, but in the meantime, he can thrive at guard or even move to center and be much better than Tyler Biadasz as the snapper to Dak Prescott.

The Carolina Panthers probably hold the Cowboys’ draft fate in their hands. They could definitely use someone like Slater to protect newly acquired QB Sam Darnold, but cornerback is a big need for them, too.

Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II enters the 2021 NFL Draft as the most polished corner. His technique, football IQ and size are what you look for, and his speed is better than his reputation suggests. Surtain is the type of mature leader Dallas needs, and someone who can instantly start opposite former college teammate Trevon Diggs.

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A QB slides, Cowboys trade back for huge haul

NFL Draft: Justin Fields
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) reacts after being defeated by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s conceivable that Mac Jones‘ lack of elite physical traits, Justin Fields‘ recent medical red flag and Trey Lance‘s severe lack of experience could cause any one of them to slide. At least two of those quarterbacks will face serious uncertainty once the San Francisco 49ers select one of them third overall.

That’d be great news for Dallas. While Jerry Jones isn’t exactly the “trade back” type, there’s a real chance the Cowboys could net an additional Day 2 pick in this year’s draft in a deal, plus a first- or second-rounder in 2022. Dallas has extra third- and fourth-round picks this year to can tack onto these potential trades, too — or maybe even a trade chip like wide receiver Michael Gallup.

Say the New England Patriots (15th pick) or the perpetually chaotic Las Vegas Raiders (17th) come calling to move up for a QB of the future. The Cowboys could fleece either of them, because the Patriots were supremely aggressive in free agency, and both New England and Las Vegas would pay a premium to outbid other needy teams like Washington and Chicago.

If Dallas drops back to 15th or 17th, most of the draft’s best defenders will still be there. Should the Cowboys miss out on Slater earlier on, someone like USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker would make a lot of sense. That’d be the classic “best player available situation” and the team could just go all-defense the rest of the draft.

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Multiple trades still yield an instant defensive starter

Best Dallas Cowboys Round 1 scenarios in 2021 NFL Draft: Trevon Moehrig
Nov 2, 2019; Stillwater, OK, USA; TCU Horned Frogs safety Trevon Moehrig (7) turns to run after an interception during the fourth quarter of the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. Oklahoma State defeated TCU 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

If we want to get really radical, other contenders later in the first round could be in the market to move up as well. The Tennessee Titans (22nd) could skip the line for a cornerback or pass-rusher. The Cleveland Browns (26th) may offer a generous price to move up for a defender who gets pushed down the board. Those are merely two who instantly pop to mind.

There’s a real chance that Dallas could trade somewhere into the 20s, and still have its choice of either the best defensive tackle in Alabama’s Christian Barmore, or the consensus No. 1 safety prospect in TCU’s Trevon Moehrig.

Placing Barmore on the interior alongside Demarcus Lawrence would create a fierce pass-rushing tandem and open up playmaking linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith to do absolute work.

In Moehrig’s case, he’s well-seasoned at deep safety, in the box and can easily hold his own at slot cornerback. That type of versatility is something the Cowboys badly need on the back end.

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