Dallas Cowboys 2014 Draft Preview

( - Death, taxes and the Cowboys at 8-8 may seem like the three certainties of life these days but playing .500 football is no birthright for Dallas in 2014.

The poor stewardship of Jerry Jones has been whittling away at the talent on the Cowboys' roster for years and the often brilliant play of quarterback Tony Romo has masked quite a few deficiencies.

Romo, who just turned 34, suffered a back injury at the end of the 2013 season, however, and was forced to undergo surgery, his second procedure on the back inside of a calendar year.

Former Dallas QB Troy Aikman, who had back surgery himself during his Hall of Fame career, recently told the Cowboys' website that a signal caller never really knows if his back is strong enough to withstand the punishment of an NFL season until the real bullets start firing.

"Two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned," Aikman said. "I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to."

The Cowboys currently have quite a few holes to patch these days and adding a potential problem at the game's most important position, unless you are buying the fact that Brandon Weeden could resuscitate his flailing career in north Texas, isn't going to help.

The concerns start on the defensive side of the ball where the team was historically bad last season and must replace DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher on the line while addressing a safety position devoid of competent options.

Jones probably doesn't even know what the Cowboys are going to run defensively this season, but if they stick with a Monte Kiffin-Rod Marinelli Tampa-2 amalgamation, getting a potential impact player at the three-technique and a solid run-stuffer at the zero-spot is important.

The 'Boys think they filled the hole at under tackle by signing former Chicago star Henry Melton, who is coming off a serious injury. Notre Dame nose Louis Nix could be the load in the middle the Cowboys need and the prototypical zero technique.

If safety is the choice, Calvin Pryor of Louisville is more likely to be available at No. 16 than Alabama's Ha Ha Clinto-Dix. Meanwhile, if in-state star Johnny Manziel, drops on draft day, it will be impossible for the ill- prepared Jones to ignore his potential starpower.

2013 Record: 8-8

Top Needs: S, DT, QB

First Three Picks: No. 16, No. 47, No. 78

Number of Selections: 11 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 7, 7. 7, 7, 7)

CALLING THE SHOTS: The Cowboys have missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons and have exactly one postseason win in the last 17 years. To put it bluntly, Jones is a great businessman but a failure as a personnel chief.

RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2013 - Travis Frederick (OC, Wisconsin); 2012 - Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU); 2011 - Tyron Smith (OT, USC); 2010 - Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State); 2009 - none; 2008 - Felix Jones (RB, Arkansas), Mike Jenkins (CB, South Florida); 2007 - Anthony Spencer (OLB, Purdue); 2006 - Bobby Carpenter (LB, Ohio State); 2005 - DeMarcus Ware (OLB, Troy), Marcus Spears (DE, LSU); 2004 - none; 2003 - Terence Newman (CB, Kansas State).