- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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Jerry Jones likes to make trades during the NFL draft.
When Dez Bryant started dropping in the first round last year, Jones made a deal with New England to move up to No. 24 and draft the talented wide receiver.
So it shouldn't surprise anyone if the Cowboys trade the ninth pick and move down into the teens Thursday. But if the Cowboys do that, they'd better get a player who can start right now.
Jones said last month that he received calls from two teams looking to move up in the first round, and you can believe that those conversations have intensified in the past few days.
"The process we are going to be going through over the next several weeks and months will help me get to a better place in my mind [of] how practical and how possible that might be," Jones said of a possible trade.
The Cowboys' needs are at safety, offensive line, inside linebacker, defensive line and cornerback. Finding a new offensive tackle to replace Marc Colombo appears to be a priority, with the Cowboys reportedly leaning toward USC's Tyron Smith or Boston College's Anthony Castonzo.
Both have tremendous upside and risks. It seems Castonzo could play right now at right tackle because of his college experience. Smith is only 20 and doesn't have as much experience as Castonzo, yet his potential is higher. However, his knee problem -- he was scoped in December and had fluid drained at the combine -- could be an issue.
The Cowboys can't fail with this pick, especially coming off a 10-loss season. But if Dallas trades out of the No. 9 pick so another team can draft the player they want, how far should Dallas drop?
Moving to 16 or 17 might not be worth it. Smith and Castonzo could be off the board. If that's the case, what do the Cowboys do?
Do you grab Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey, who has tweeted that he expects to be drafted by Dallas? He could be a potential replacement for one of three players: Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode and guards Leonard Davis and Kyle Kosier. All three are in their 30s.
Kosier is a free agent. Gurode is coming off a Pro Bowl season, but his knees aren't what they used to be. Davis had a subpar season, but you might get away with using him for another year.
There are so many risks, and Jones can't afford to mess this draft up like the Cowboys did in 2009. Of the 12 players selected that year, only four were on the final roster in 2010.
Of the six players drafted by Dallas last year, five remain with the team. And there is a belief that second-rounder Sean Lee and Bryant will become full-time starters in 2012 -- if not sooner.
"I think we have an opportunity to turn some things around, and we should," Jones said. "If we're going to [stay at No. 9], that puts a premium on a player that can really help us this coming year."
Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.