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2013 NFL Draft primer: Dallas Cowboys

Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson runs a drill

Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson runs a drill during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. (Feb. 25, 2013) Credit: AP

The first round of the 2013 Draft kicks off on April 25, and every team will look to build for both present and future. This is the 18th in a two-a-day, 30-part series that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.


2012 record: 8-8

Key offseason acquisitions:

Justin Durant, outside linebacker

Will Allen, safety

Monte Kiffin, defensive coordinator

Key offseason departures:

Marcus Spears, defensive end

Gerald Sensabaugh, safety

Felix Jones, running back

Kenyon Coleman, defensive end

Dan Connor, middle linebacker

Mike Jenkins, safety

Kevin Ogletree, wide receiver

Rob Ryan, defensive coordinator

Biggest holes in roster: Offensive line, defensive line, safety

Dallas couldn't do much in free agency this offseason, a byproduct of the $5 million cap penalty the NFL handed down last year for overspending in the uncapped 2010 season. Most of their moves involved restructuring a current Cowboys contract to clear some cap room so the team could sign its eventual draft picks. Thus, the Cowboys must rely heavily on this draft class immediately.

If Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson is still available at No. 18, the Cowboys would have to consider him. The 6-2, 294-pound Richardson is an athletic prospect who is equally good at home clogging up running lanes as he is in a standup rush position or dropping back into a shallow zone. Several scouts have said that Richardson could be a Warren Sapp type of player in the right system -- what better system for Richardson to play in than Monte Kiffin's Cover 2 (the same one Sapp thrived in when he and Kiffin were in Tampa Bay)?

Richardson could be off the board as many as four picks before the Cowboys, so they may instead turn their attention to the secondary. Despite signing Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne last season, the Cowboys had the fewest interceptions (seven) of any team in the NFL. They also had the fourth-highest defensive QB rating (94.7), were tied for the sixth-most yards allowed per attempt (7.6) and had the eighth-highest yards per completion (12.2).

The best way to fix those numbers is by giving Claiborne and Carr some help over the top. The draft's top safety, Kenny Vaccaro, will probably be gone by this point, so instead, the Cowboys will have to look at LSU's Eric Reid, FIU's Jonathan Cyprien or Florida's Matt Elam. Reid is the best center fielder of the group, while Cyprien and Elam are better suited in the box for run support/blitzing. The only problem is that the 18th overall pick might be a little too early to take any of these three -- most scouts predict that they will go in the lower third of the draft.

The Cowboys could also decide to give Tony Romo some extra protection up front. D.J. Fluker, provided he doesn't go to the Dolphins at No. 12, would be the man in that case. Fluker's size (6-5, 339 pounds) is his best asset, and he uses it to gain good leverage on speed rushers -- an important tool considering the amount of quality pass rushers in the NFC East.

New York Sports