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The Dallas Cowboys can finally say goodbye to their nightmare of a season. A season that saw franchise quarterback Dak Prescott dislocate his ankle early in the year and the Cowboys’ playoff hopes come to an end in the last minute of the last game of the year.

But the lost season did bring the Cowboys a pretty useful New Years’ gift — the No. 10 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Dallas badly needs to use the pick to improve its defense, so Cowboys fans will love who NFL draft insider Mel Kiper Jr. has them targeting with their first-round pick.

The Cowboys have a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL draft

Before the 2020-21 season, fans and media pundits agreed the Cowboys were one of the prohibitive favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl come February. With Dak Prescott playing for a contract and all the firepower around him on offense, how could Dallas not outscore everyone they played?

The Cowboys looked like the elite offensive team everyone expected them to be early in the season, but Prescott’s devastating ankle injury derailed what could’ve been a historic season for him and the offense. Andy Dalton relieved Prescott under center but couldn’t replicate the same success.

Dallas went on to finish the season in third place in the NFC East with a 6-10 record. The underwhelming season didn’t please any die-hard Cowboys fans, but it did reward the team the No. 10 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Jerry Jones hit a home run in the first round last year by selecting CeeDee Lamb at 17. He’ll need to do the same this time around.

The Cowboys need to address their defense with the No. 10 pick

The Cowboys’ offense wasn’t terrible under Andy Dalton. But to say the defense had a poor showing this season would be an understatement. Dallas’ defensive unit was sliced and diced like a Thanksgiving turkey week after week this season.

The Cowboys gave up 29.6 points per game this year. Only four teams — the Lions, Jaguars, Raiders, and Vikings — had worse marks in 2020-21. The biggest problem for Dallas was its inability to stop the run. The Cowboys gave up 158.8 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses. Only the Texans had a worse run defense this season.

No matter how well the offense played in any specific game, the defense seemingly could never help them out. The Cowboys must address the defense with the 10th pick in the upcoming draft.

Cowboys fans will love Mel Kiper Jr.’s prediction for the No. 10 pick

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is one of the most trusted NFL draft analysts in the business. When he mocks a player to a specific team, especially at the top of the first round, you better pay attention.

On Tuesday, Kiper appeared on SportsCenter and named not one, but two potential targets for the Cowboys at No. 10.

“Daviyon Nixon, a defensive tackle from Iowa had a great year,” Kiper said. “Six of eight games, he had at least one sack, 13.5 tackles for loss. The interception against Penn State he returned 71 yards, showcased his athleticism. Patrick Surtain II, smooth, consistent, veteran cornerback very well-coached under Nick Saban there. Either Surtain or Nixon makes sense for the Cowboys at pick 10.”

Nixon would be a perfect fit for the Cowboys in the heart of their defense. The DT had 5.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss for Iowa this season, and he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. Nixon would sure up Dallas’ run defense from the day he steps on the field.

Surtain II doesn’t exactly fill the Cowboys’ biggest need on defense, but he’s widely regarded as the best cornerback in the 2021 class. The cornerback had 11 passes defended and one interception that he returned for a touchdown this season.

The Cowboys will have a wealth of options at the 10th overall pick when the draft rolls around. Let’s see if Jerry Jones makes the right call again.

All stats courtesy of ESPN