Cowboys’ 10 best first-round options

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive tackle Aaron Donald speaks at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Pat Lovell/Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

We’re less than two weeks away from the NFL Draft and it’s still extremely difficult to predict who the Dallas Cowboys will select in the first round. They need defensive line help most, but several of the top d-linemen could be off the board by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. Do they simply draft the next best end or tackle and maybe reach a little, or do they take the best player available at another position? To give you an idea of what Dallas could be looking at, here are 10 first round options.
1. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. Many experts believe he’d be the perfect fit for Rod Marinelli’s defensive front. Donald is projected to be a three-technique tackle, which makes things interesting for the Cowboys because they recently signed 2012 Pro Bowl DT Henry Melton to play that spot. But that doesn’t mean Dallas still wouldn’t like to add last year’s top defender in college football. Marinelli uses his linemen in waves and Donald would be extremely tough to pass up if he slid to 16.
2. Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA. The 6-5, 255-pounder would likely move to defensive end with the Cowboys, something he talked about with Marinelli during a pre-draft visit to Valley Ranch. Barr led the Bruins in sacks each of the last two seasons, recording 13.5 in 2012 and 10 in 2013. He’s only been a defensive player for two seasons, but his potential upside is off the charts.
3. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan. One of the best offensive tackles in college football last season, the 6-8, 315-pounder started 41 consecutive games for the Wolverines. The Cowboys could draft Lewan to play right tackle and move Doug Free to guard. But this is a bit of a reach. Lewan should be gone within the top 15 picks.
4. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame. Martin is much more likely to be there than Lewan. He could also play right tackle, but his best position might be guard. The Cowboys could keep Free on the outside, play Martin for a year at guard and move him to RT is they don’t re-sign Free at the end of the season. Martin, 6-4, 308 pounds, started 52 games for the Irish.
5. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri. An extremely athletic edge rusher that stands 6-4, 273 pounds. He is far from a finished product, but if Ealy gets in the right system, he could be a Pro Bowl caliber player. Ealy recently tweeted a picture of himself standing next to DeMarcus Ware. The seven-time Pro Bowler could be who Ealy replaces at right defensive end if the Cowboys like him enough at 16.
6. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. Jernigan is considered to be a one-technique tackle, a position the Cowboys probably don’t value enough to spend a mid-first-round pick on. That’s what it will take to land the FSU standout. Jernigan started 14 games in 2013 and was the most dominant defensive lineman for the national champion Seminoles.
7. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama. Arguably the best safety in this class, Clinton-Dix recorded seven interceptions over the last two seasons. The Cowboys could certainly use a playmaking safety to roam the deep part of the field and Clinton-Dix would instantly upgrade their pass defense.
8. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. Pryor is the other top safety in this class. He’s stronger against the run than Clinton-Dix but still was able to record seven interceptions over 34 career games at Louisville. He would be another upgrade to a defensive backfield that struggled throughout the 2013 season.
9. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama.  The Cowboys already have Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman on the roster so linebacker isn’t the biggest area of need. But because Carter was inconsistent last season and Lee has had a difficult time staying healthy, Mosley could be considered. The Cowboys could potentially draft the Alabama standout, play him at middle linebacker and move Lee to the outside. The idea would be that Lee would have a better chance of staying healthy by playing outside linebacker.
10. Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State. Only recently has he started being mentioned as a potential first-round pick. The 6-3, 251-pounder would probably be an ideal target if the Cowboys weren’t in love with their options at 16 and traded back like they did a year ago. They have to find a trade partner first, but Lawrence would be a great value at the back end of the first round. He had 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss in 2013.