The Dallas Cowboys hold the No. 10 pick in this year's NFL Draft. Most draft analysts and gurus expect America's Team to take the first or second defender off the board. The Cowboys' offense was bad as a whole last year but that can be almost entirely attributed to the absence of Dak Prescott; in the four full games he did play, he lit up opposing defenses thanks to a talented receiving corps. The team's defense was another story entirely. They gave up the fourth-most rushing yards per game in the entire NFL last season and averaged only 1.9 sacks per game, 21st in the league, while the secondary went through some downright horrendous stretches.
They have taken some steps to fix those issues. Head coach Mike McCarthy hired defensive mastermind Dan Quinn to preside over the unit in 2021 while bringing former Quinn disciples Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee into the mix via free agency. Those secondary additions were slightly offset by the loss of former second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie leaving for the Bengals, and even if he didn't leave the defense isn't just a pair of signings away from getting to league-average. The unit needs an injection of top-tier talent, which is why cornerbacks like Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II are popular mock draft selections for the 'Boys at the 10th overall pick.
It is easy, however, to forget sometimes that Jerry Jones will be the one making the picks. And Jones is not afraid to buck trends and go against the face of traditional logic if he likes a particular prospect enough. Which is why it should be very concerning for Cowboys fans that Chris Mortenson reports Jones is "infatuated" with star Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
Dallas was supposed to go defense last year too and ended up picking CeeDee Lamb instead, despite already boasting a legitimate No. 1 option in Amari Cooper and a good No. 2 in Michael Gallup. That's a pick that can be justified, though; Lamb was absolutely electric at Oklahoma and nobody thought he would slide all the way to the No. 17 pick in the 2020 draft. He is the type of player that can elevate an offense from very good to one of the best in the league, even if the Cowboys already had an embarrassment of riches in terms of playmakers offensively.
Taking Pitts, though, is not the same thing. The starter for Dallas last year, Dalton Schultz, wasn't exactly a game-breaker, but he did manage 43 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns. When you have the kind of receivers the Cowboys have, anything you get from the tight end spot in the air is gravy. Pitts is a great prospect and projects to be one of the better receiving TEs in the game from Day 1. Even if the hype surrounding him ends up being unwarranted, he still clearly boasts a lot of talent and will be a dangerous addition to any team's passing attack.
But there is such thing as opportunity cost. Dallas has a chance to add elite talent to their secondary for what is perhaps the last time for a few years if Prescott takes them to the heights his new mega-contract suggests the team believes he can. The front office has struggled to find consistent contributors in the secondary in the later rounds of the draft of late. Last year's second-round pick Trevon Diggs had his moments as a rookie, but they let 2017 second-rounder Awuzie walk for a cheap deal and the safety position has been a consistent issue for several years now.
Bypassing the opportunity to address a gaping hole in the team to add another pass-catcher would be a gigantic mistake. The only way it's not is if Pitts ends up becoming the best TE in the league by a wide margin, and that will be extremely difficult given he projects to be a receiver who plays tight end rather than a true tight end in the vein of George Kittle or prime Rob Gronkowski. It's also the exact type of move we've come to expect from Jones. He sees a shiny prospect and wants to draft him, regardless of fit or need.
It is worth noting that Pitts is projected to go as high as No. 4 overall, so this might all be for nothing. Jones' infatuation won't matter if he's gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. Were the Cowboys were a bad team, drafting the best player available instead of drafting for fit is a good strategy. But the Cowboys are not a bad team. They should be a good team now that they have a franchise quarterback under contract for the next four years. They need to build around the franchise centerpiece. They don't need to give Prescott another top-tier receiver. There is only one ball, after all.