6 first-round trade targets for the Cowboys in the 2018 NFL draft

With an average of eight trades in the first round each year, the first night of the NFL draft is sure to include some wheeling and dealing — how aggressive will the Cowboys be?

The last time the Cowboys traded up in the first round? The 2012 draft, moving from No. 14 to No. 6 and drafting cornerback Morris Claiborne. Dallas surrendered a second-round pick (No. 45 overall) to the then-St. Louis Rams to complete the deal. Picks Nos. 45, 46 and 47 that year? Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Bobby Wagner.

The last time the Cowboys traded back in the first round? The 2013 draft, moving from No. 18 to No. 31 and drafting future Pro Bowl center Travis Fredrick. Dallas received a third-round pick in the deal, which was below-average value according to most trade charts. However, the Cowboys turned that pick into wide receiver Terrance Williams (No. 74 overall), who has started 58 games in his five seasons as a pro.

Odds are, the Cowboys will stay at No. 19 and make a pick. However, the phone lines (and minds in the war room) will be open. It is too early in the draft process to have a firm understanding of where players will land on draft day. However, this is an early look at possible trade targets, both up and down.

Trade-up targets:
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

An impressive size/speed athlete, Edmunds has the frame of a defensive end and the athleticism of a safety. He uses his movement skills and instincts in unison to be a "cleaner" linebacker, tidying up the messes of his teammates. Edmunds is still very young in both mind and body, but his physical traits and impact potential are off the charts. He would be an ideal fit as the MIKE linebacker in the Cowboys’ scheme, but Dallas likely needs to trade into the top 12 to get him.

Vita Vea, DT, Washington

A prospect with freaky skills, Vea doesn’t have the production or consistency of a top-15 pick, but his high-upside traits are why Dallas will likely need to trade up for him. He has the unique ability to anchor/split double-teams on one play and then chase ballcarriers to the sideline on the next. Vea relies on brute strength over technical savvy, but his rare combination of athleticism and power at his size makes him an ideal 1-technique defensive tackle for the Cowboys.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

The top wide receiver prospect in the 2018 draft, Ridley would be an ideal fit as the "Z" receiver in the Cowboys’ offense. And his skill set is exactly what Dallas is missing. Ridley has above-average play speed and crafty route-running to create his own space, which would aid Dak Prescott immensely on downfield throws. A player with Ridley’s skills would also draw coverage away from Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley and help open sectors of the field for Ezekiel Elliott to run free.

Trade-down targets:
Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia

A possible Cowboys target at No. 19, Wynn is a first-round prospect, but Dallas may be able to trade back 6-10 spots and still land him. After starting all 15 games last season at left tackle, Wynn made the expected move inside to guard during Senior Bowl practices and was arguably the best player at the event. He is a plug-and-play lineman who would be an ideal fit at left guard for the Cowboys with the skills to kick outside to tackle in a pinch.

Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

While Vita Vea is a trade-up option if the Cowboys are looking for an upgrade at the 1-tech, Phillips is a possibility if they trade back. The nose tackle in Stanford’s 3-4 base scheme, he pulled off the rare feat of leading the team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks in 2017. Phillips is a bully on the interior with hammer hands and his wrestling background, also flashing the instincts to make plays.

Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

The Hall-of-Fame career of Jason Witten is winding down and the Cowboys need to groom his replacement. Arguably the top tight end in this class, Goedert has several similarities to vintage No. 82 with his versatility to stretch the seam, threaten the defense after the catch and stay home and block if needed.

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