High 5: Can first-rounder lift the O-line?

The third in ESPNDallas.com's five-part series looking at factors that must go Dallas’ way in a big way for the Cowboys to be contenders this season.

Travis Frederick was too important to the Cowboys’ plans for them to take any chances.

Maybe he would have been available when they got on the clock with the 47th overall pick, but the Cowboys weren’t willing to risk it. Some considered selecting Frederick with the 31st overall pick, but the Cowboys had him as the No. 22 player on their board – and there was a steep drop to the next best interior offensive lineman still available.

The Cowboys were committed to addressing the interior line, which they rightfully determined was their most glaring need. After Frederick, Dallas didn’t have another center on their board until the fourth round. He was the only player at the position in the draft class that they were confident could be a walk-in starter.

How much of an impact can Frederick make as a rookie?

Jerry Jones declared during draft weekend that Frederick would be an “anchor” on the offensive line for a decade. The owner/GM gushed about the value of giving Tony Romo an “extra half-second of time” and the impact that having a center with Frederick’s physical strength could have on the guards.

The Cowboys aren’t just counting on Frederick to upgrade the center position. They expect his presence to make the guards better, whether incumbent starters Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau keep their jobs or Ronald Leary beats out one of them.

The poor performance of the interior offensive line was one of the primary reasons the Cowboys had the worst rushing attack in franchise history last season. The Cowboys believe Frederick can help fix that while also improving the protection of Romo.

That’s a lot to ask of a rookie, but if the Cowboys are right, the results ought to be especially noticeable in the red zone.