After last year’s virtual edition, the 2021 NFL Draft marked the return of the event to a land-based venue and was the 86th edition of the annual meeting. This year’s draft was held in Cleveland, Ohio, at the FirstEnergy Stadium, from April 29 to May 1.
A total of 259 college players were drafted, with five quarterbacks selected in the draft’s first round for the fourth time in history.

Following a dreadful season defensively, when the team allowed 473 points and 6,183 yards, the worst record in franchise history, the Dallas Cowboys were focused on improving defense in the 2021 Draft.

With eight of 11 selections in the recruitment on the defensive side of the ball, it’s pretty safe to say the Cowboys addressed these issues.

And it’s clear that the new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had some influence in these picks, as the first six selections were defensive players. For the first time since the NFL adopted the current format for the Draft, the Cowboys drafted eight defensive players, and this was the most defenders ever selected in the Jerry Jones era.

Now it seems that these offseason movements were enough to make the Dallas Cowboys rise in the ranks with the bookies.

According to FanDuel sportsbook, they are at +110 odds to win the NFC East for the first time since 2018. But a Super Bowl appearance is still a long shot, as their odds to win the NFC are at +1300. 

A New Linebacker in Town

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With the 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected linebacker Micah Parsons from Penn State University. After making a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, sending the No.10 pick, and receiving the No.12 pick and additional draft capital, the Cowboys selected the top remaining defensive player on the board. 

An athletic defender who played defensive end in high school, Parsons, had 192 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, and five pass deflections in 26 games with Penn State. As a freshman, he recorded 83 tackles and became the first Nittany Lion freshman to lead the team in tackles. In his sophomore year, Parsons led the team in tackles and sacks and was named the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year and a consensus All-American. He was also the 2019 Cotton Bowl Classic defensive MVP after recording 14 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. 

He signed a four-year rookie contract with Dallas, worth more than US$17 million.

Defense, Defense, Defense

In the second round of this year’s draft, the Cowboys selected another defender. With the 44th overall pick, they drafted cornerback Kelvin Joseph from the University of Kentucky. Standing at 6’1” and 192 pounds, Joseph can add a lot of speed and ball skills to the Cowboys’ secondary, and he has the frame to play well in Quinn’s cover-3 scheme.

However, his off-the-field issues raised a flag for NFL scouts and analysts. According to a profile by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler:

“There are red flags due to youthful immaturity and accountability issues on and off the field. […] Scouts say his rapping passion might supersede his football passion (has released six albums under the name “YKDV Bossman Fat”) […] Suspended for the 2018 bowl game for a violation of team rules.”

Later Rounds

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With the 75th overall pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa from UCLA in the third round. Standing at 6’1” and 282 pounds, he is an explosive, disruptive tackle who recorded 27.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in 43 games with the Bruins. Odighizuwa plays with a lot of intensity off the snap and is always looking to make plays in every area of the field.

Also, in the third round, the Cowboys selected defensive end Chauncey Golston from the University of Iowa, and cornerback Nahshon Wright from Oregon State University, with the 84th and 99th overall picks respectively. Golston had 27 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in 43 games with the Hawkeyes and can add length and endurance to the defensive line. Wright has the potential to be one of the draft’s biggest surprises, as a tall, athletic cornerback capable of big plays in the deep.

In the fourth round, Dallas drafted linebacker Jabril Cox from Louisiana State University and was considered the closest the Cowboys came to a steal in the draft. He began his college career with North Dakota State before transferring to LSU. With the Tigers, he became a team captain and had 26 pass deflections and nine interceptions. He is able to cover tight ends and runners, and Dan Quinn believes he can be an all-around linebacker with the potential to develop into a starter.

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