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Dallas Cowboys way-too-early 2021 draft preview: First round defensive tackles

Dallas Cowboys way-too-early 2021 draft preview: First round defensive tackles

Dak Prescott got his offensive help in last year’s draft and now, it is time to reestablish the defense.

Two games into the 2020 season and it is clearly evident that the defensive line is going to be a top priority come the offseason. Especially on the interior part of the line at defensive tackle. In the 2020 NFL Draft, Neville Gallimore was taken but has yet to make a significant contribution.

Gerald McCoy was supposed to provide help but after an injury, the Cowboys cut him. Dontari Poe and Antwaun Woods both have the ability to become free agents at the end of the 2020 season. The position could be thin going into the 2021 NFL Draft.

Luckily, there are at least three defensive tackle candidates worthy of being selected in the first round. It would be the first time since 1991 when Dallas took a defensive tackle in the first round. Russell Maryland out of Miami was taken No. 1 overall and Kelvin Pritchett from Ole Miss was taken at No. 20.

Here are three first-round defensive tackles the Cowboys could look at taking in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Marvin Wilson, Florida State – Top 15 pick

If the Cowboys are picking this low, there may be bigger issues than just defensive tackle. However, we saw with Lamb in the 2020 draft that a golden prospect could fall into their laps.

Listed at 6’5 and 305 pounds, Wilson is from Houston, Texas. Out of high school not only was he the No. 1 defensive tackle in the 2017 recruiting class but the No. 1 player in the state of Texas. Wilson has been a highly touted player for just over half a decade now.

A big question about Wilson is how he will respond to a hand injury that ended his 2019 season after eight games. Before the injury, he was already seen as a top draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Instead, he decided to return to Tallahassee for his senior season.

Luckily the ACC will be playing college football this season and Wilson will have another season to prove himself. In 33 games, the senior has recorded 93 tackles, 13.5 which were for a loss, 8.5 sacks, and seven quarterback hurries. When comparing his pass rush to his run game, getting towards the quarterback is his strong suit.

His swim move on guards is nasty, getting into the backfield often with that move. Once he is free, for someone listed at 305 pounds, he moves quickly. Because of that, he can even take tackles on the outside one-on-one if needed.

Barring a miracle or Jerry Jones deciding to trade up, it seems unlikely Wilson falls low enough to the Cowboys. With a good season, he could even sneak into the top 10. For now, we’ll call it a pipe dream.

Christian Barmore, Alabama – Pick 16-25

A more realistic draft position for the Cowboys, another defensive lineman from Alabama could be sitting there in the middle of the first round. While Barmore is dealing with a minor knee injury at the moment, he is expected to fully participate in the 2020 season for the Crimson Tide.

Barmore was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hopefully, the defensive tackle was not an Eagles fan growing up. Jokes aside, he ranked as the No. 16 defensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class.

Going into his third season at Alabama, Barmore took a redshirt year in 2018. During his redshirt freshman season, he played in 12 games with one start an earned a spot on the freshman All-SEC team. He finished with 26 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks, and five quarterback hurries. His best performance came in the Iron Bowl, winning defensive player of the week within the program.

This season will be crucial for his development as he will become an every-down player. Used only in certain situations last season, mainly on third down, he has not shown he can make plays on a consistent basis. If he has the type of season Alabama is expecting him to have, he may skyrocket up draft boards even more.

For the Cowboys, Barmore can bring a similar skill set that Wilson would. A solid interior tackle that has the ability to rush the passer. Another Alabama product to join Amari Cooper and Trevon Diggs is never a bad thing either.

Jay Tufele, USC – Pick 26-32

Looking towards the west coast now and looking at a late first-round guy in Jay Tufele. Unfortunately, USC and the Pac-12 will not be playing football in the fall and Tufele has opted-out of the spring season and declared for the NFL Draft.

The defensive tackle was going into his redshirt junior season after playing for two years in Los Angeles. The Trojans had confidence in Tufele and if you read his official bio under the 2020 season it states, “Tufele will be one of the nation’s top defensive linemen as a junior in 2020.”

He proved exactly that during his first two years on campus, earning All-Pac-12 first-team honors in 2019 while also defending his USC Defensive Lineman of the Year title. Tufele has made 18 career starts including all 13 games during his sophomore season. He has combined for 64 tackles, 11.0 TFLs, and 7.5 sacks.

Those are similar numbers to Wilson with one less season under his belt. One more full season in 2020 and Tufele could have been another candidate to shoot up draft boards.

Nothing is new on Tufele being highly rated as he was the No. 39 overall player in the 2017 recruiting class. Only Wilson and now Tennessee player Aubrey Soloman ranked higher than him from a defensive tackle position.

Not playing this season may hurt his draft stock just enough to where the Cowboys can select him in the first round, depending on their draft placement. He would become an instant starter and lock down the defensive tackle spot for years to come. If he falls into the late 20s, it would be an incredible value pick for Dallas.

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