- Steve Muench, Scouts Inc.
Fans of the Dallas Cowboys have not seen "America's Team" win a Super Bowl since defeating Pittsburgh 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX, the Cowboys' third title in four years.
Making matters worse, the archrival New York Giants have picked up two rings in the past five seasons and hold a 7-4 record against Dallas over that span, including a 21-17 playoff victory following the 2007 season that ended with QB Tony Romo throwing a pick deep in Giants territory.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles haven't finished lower than second in the NFC East over the past four years, and with the Washington Redskins expected to select QB Robert Griffin III (Scouts Inc. grade: 96) with the second overall pick in this year's draft, they may no longer be the little brother the other three teams pick on.
In other words, Dallas faces an uphill battle to end its championship drought, and building on its free-agent signings with a strong 2012 draft is crucial. Let's take a look at what the Cowboys can do in the first four rounds to strengthen their roster.
Dallas needs to address an aging defensive line and should find good value available at No. 14 overall. Memphis DT Dontari Poe (94) is one of the most intriguing players in the entire draft with his size, speed and power. In fact, Poe has such great potential that he may not be available. However, he's a developmental prospect with some risk attached, so he could slip to the Cowboys. They could play Poe at nose tackle and move Jay Ratliff to left end, where Kenyon Coleman is on the downside of his career.
Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox (93) is another possibility. Cox (6-foot-4, 298 pounds) isn't as big as Poe (6-3, 346) and wouldn't hold up at nose tackle, but he's more than capable of beating out Coleman for the starting end job if given the chance. Cox would also give an already-potent pass rush anther player capable of getting to the quarterback.
The Cowboys' decision to release CB Terence Newman was not a surprise, and Dallas would do well to continue addressing that position after signing Brandon Carr in free agency. Mike Jenkins is scheduled to hit free agency in 2013, and in today's NFL teams simply can't have enough talent or depth at corner.
North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins (93) comes with baggage that will likely scare some teams away, but Jenkins is a first-round talent who would be worth the risk near the middle of the second round if he should slip that far. Central Florida's Josh Robinson (79) is a more likely possibility, though. Robinson needs to get stronger, but he has the fluid hips, quickness and top-end speed to develop into an effective starter while pushing for the nickelback role early on.
With Martellus Bennett defecting to the Giants via free agency, Jason Witten and John Phillips are the only two tight ends on the roster. The Cowboys can strengthen depth and give Romo another weapon by taking Missouri's Michael Egnew (71) in the third round. Egnew is a work in progress when it comes to blocking, but the Cowboys won't need him to do any heavy lifting in that area and he's big enough to get better there.
And while adding strength and working on technique as a blocker, Egnew can make an immediate impact in the passing game, because his frame (6-51, 252) and top-end speed make him a tough matchup for most defenses.
Given the depth of the wide receiver and guard classes, the Cowboys are in position to fill two needs with their two fourth-round picks.
Dallas has brought back WR Kevin Ogletree, but his one-year deal isn't exactly a vote of confidence when it comes to replacing the departed Laurent Robinson (Jacksonville) as the No. 3 wideout. Fresno State's Devon Wylie (61) projects as a fourth-round pick, thanks in large part to his 5-9 frame and the depth of this class, but Wylie has the burst to develop into an effective slot receiver who can get open underneath and produce after the catch.
At guard, the Cowboys signed Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, though Bernadeau started just 20 games over the past three years and may not be the answer. Further complicating matters, 2011 fourth-round pick David Arkin failed to appear in a game last year and is an unknown. Washington's Senio Kelemete (60) is a college tackle who projects as a guard at the next level, and Kelemete has all the tools to develop into a starter. The depth of this class has pushed him into the late-fourth-round conversation and he would be an excellent value there.
Steve Muench looks at how the Dallas Cowboys might attack the first four rounds of the 2012 NFL draft.