The Dallas Cowboys will be looking to bolster their defensive in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft this week in New York City.
Though they were a solid defensive team over the course of the regular season, defensive breakdowns cost them during their 1-4 finish that left them on the outside of the NFL playoffs last season.
That will ultimately force the Cowboys to look to the defensive side of the ball when they select at number 14 overall on April 26.
Todd McShay of ESPN.com projects that the Cowboys will select Alabama safety Mark Barron with their first overall pick. The Cowboys are obviously hurting at safety and will probably attempt to address that with their first pick.
Gerald Sensabaugh, Mike Jenkins and Brandon Carr all have starting spots locked up in the Dallas backfield next season but the Cowboys could look for someone to push Brodney Pool for that final safety spot next season.
However, Barron is a highly sought after prospect in a draft that is very thin at his position. Teams like the Buffalo Bills, who select at number 10, have expressed interest in Barron so the Cowboys may have to trade up to get him.
The Cowboys are more likely to get a player like Harrison Smith from Notre Dame to fill that safety void. He and Barron are nearly identical from a physical standpoint, but Smith did not have quite as impressive a college career as Barron did.
However, Smith would be a pretty extreme reach at 14 and would probably be available when the Cowboys select in the second round at 45.
If the Cowboys don't get Barron, they will look to shore up the middle of their 3-4 defense with their first pick at 14. Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff do a nice, if unspectacular job for Dallas on the front end, but they may look to upgrade.
If they do, look for them to select Fletcher Cox from Mississippi State, Dontari Poe from Memphis or Michael Brockers from LSU to fill the void.
Brocker, a 6'5, 322 pound stud from LSU is an interesting potential choice for Dallas. Despite his size, he can play both the tackle and end spot in a traditional 3-4 defense. With long arms and a stout frame, Brocker lives on leverage. He is the kind of player who can eat up blockers inside to free up Dallas' talented linebackers to make plays.
Poe is a mountain of a man who led the combine with 44 reps bench pressing 225 pounds. He is 6'3 and weighs 346 pounds. He doesn't have flashy athleticism and will be hard pressed to make plays for himself, but for a team looking for a big body to occupy interior linemen Poe is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Cox would be a dream for Dallas if he fell to them at the 14th pick. Possibly the most talented interior lineman in the draft, Cox can create his own space on the line with an impressive arsenal of moves. But he is undersized, and had trouble dealing with double teams in college.
At 6'4 298 pounds, Cox could be a candidate to slide to the outside, even to linebacker, especially in the Cowboys 3-4 look, something he did in college with some regularity.
If the Cowboys get Barron early, look for them to still go up the middle on their second pick. NFL.com's Chad Reuter has the Cowboys selecting Derek Wolfe, a defensive end from Cincinnati.
Wolfe is a rangy 6'5 295 pound defensive lineman who played tackle in college. He will have to slide to defensive end at the next level, lacking the size to play tackle. But he could still be a disruptive force; he led the nation with 21.5 tackles for a loss last year.
The Cowboys could also select a player like Brandon Thompson at 45. The 6'2 314 pound Thompson is not exactly an athlete. His 5.24, 40 is one of the slowest among defensive lineman, but his freakish weight room numbers make him a formidable defensive tackle.
He isn't much of a threat to rush the passer or break up running plays in the backfield, but he demands two blockers in the middle of the defensive line and is an immovable force in the trenches that opposing running games must find a way around.