Even though they are coming off a 6-10 season that included a mid-season firing of Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator, Wade Phillips, the Dallas Cowboys will enter the 2011 draft considered by many as one of the most talented teams in the NFL.
Jason Garret has firmly established himself as both the Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator while Owner, Jerry Jones, has brought in Rob Ryan to recraft a defense that fell to 23rd in the league in 2010.
With Tony Romo returning from injury, priority number one must be protecting their franchise QB and that means focusing on the offensive line. With the exception of Pro-Bowl center Andre Gurode and starting left tackle Doug Free, the Cowboys current depth chart is made up of free agents and trades. Dallas has not drafted an offensive lineman with a first round pick this entire decade, and with the exception of Gurode (second round, 2002), none of the three lineman taken in day two of the draft are still with the team.
Dallas is picking ninth overall and should have a couple of really good options should they decide to fill this need with their first pick. In my estimation, none of the teams ahead of Dallas are in the market for offensive lineman, therefore the Cowboys will have their pick of the litter. As usual, it is also a possibility that Jerry Jones will be looking to move back and add later picks if he determines there are lineman of value in later picks/rounds.
Defensively, Rob Ryan should have plenty to work with anchoring around Demarus Ware and Jay Ratlif along the front seven. Inside backer, Keith Brooking is likely on the back end of his career so they make look to find his future replacement on day two of the draft.
Like the rest of the NFL East, the Cowboys catch a break with the NFC West on their schedule, but will also face the tough AFC East and up-and-coming Detroit and Tampa Bay.