Monday, April 30, 2012

Knowing When To Believe What You Hear

The NFL Draft wrapped up over the weekend and we will be properly breaking down the Cowboys picks as we go through the next few weeks and have enough time to track down and view tape of Eastern Washington and Montana. Until then, there are enough people who can speculate about these picks on the web elsewhere.

There was one particular scenario I wanted to visit about with regards to the big trade at the very top of the draft. On Friday, I spent considerable time discussing the good and the bad of such an aggressive move, and if you desire to know more about my feelings on that front, please check out that piece by clicking here.

However, when that review was written, there was a significant piece of information missing about the discussion that has since been filled in to some extent.

That was the information of what the Cowboys would have had available if they would have stayed put at spots #14 and #45 for their picks, instead of packaging both to move up to Morris Claiborne. Now, I realize before continuing that many people will respond with "Get over it! They took Claiborne! Move on!". To those people, I would welcome them to stop reading now and move on to other stories that are available here at

But, I think it is vital that if you pick one scenario in a decision-making process that you are willing to at least consider what might have happened if you turned in the other direction. So, here are some of the other possibilities that were there for them:

1) - Pick #14

This one is the most interesting scenario, because by most accounts that I believe that the Cowboys had 3 of their top 4 preferred players within range at #14. Guard David DeCastro and defensive tackle Michael Brockers were available at #14. The Cowboys have publicly said that they would have taken Brockers if they had been there, and while that is interesting and anecdotal, I do not count it a binding declaration - nor should you. There are any number of reasons to say that in an interview; but when the proverbial gun is held to your head with a room full of decision makers pleading their case and a phone bank worth of trade offers, we are all left to wonder what they might have actually done if they were on the clock. If others want to believe that Brockers was their choice, that is their prerogative, but I do not join them.

One option was to move from #14 to #12 with Seattle once Fletcher Cox slid to striking range. We knew all along that Philadelphia was going to compete with the Cowboys on Cox and be a threat to move over the Cowboys to get him. Once the Cowboys moved up, then the Eagles job got easier, and they ended up sending picks #15, #114, and #172 to get to #12. We could say the price would have been less for Dallas, since the Cowboys were not traveling as far, but that could be countered with the fact that it might have been more expensive if the Eagles and Cowboys were in a last-second bidding war on the phones to Pete Carroll's war room.

Would I have dealt #14, #113, and #186 to get to Cox at #12? If you have read my thoughts on that player, I think you know I absolutely would have. Now, the Cowboys have to deal with him for a long time in Philadelphia. But, they are fine with that since they got Claiborne. The Cox move would have preserved #45, too, but let's consider that in a moment.

Another plan would have been to stay put and take Brockers or DeCastro. The wildcard in all of this would have been to wonder what sort of trade back options the Cowboys might have had to drop 4 or 5 spots, pick up an extra Top-100 pick, and still get DeCastro. But, admittedly, you can get too cute and lose your guy and end up with remorse, so we should all understand the risks involved. Brockers is now with the Rams and DeCastro will be doing his thing with the Steelers. Time will tell whether the NFL under-valued DeCastro and let him get to pick #24. I happen to think they did.

2) - Pick #45

This, of course, is pure speculation. Because, we know that the Cowboys had many targets in range as #45 approached. We know, for instance that Cordy Glenn and Amini Silatolu were on the board at pick #40 allowing a cheap trade up (hypothetically). We also know that one 1st round possibility down the list of options at #14 was Courtney Upshaw (the guy who would replace Anthony Spencer). To go get him would have cost #45 and #81, and there is no guarantee that someone at the top of Round 2 would have been interested.

If you stayed at #45, some of the top DL prospects in the draft were available. Another 3-4 team, Green Bay, snagged Michigan State's Jerel Worthy at #51 and Cincinnati took Penn State's Devon Still at #53. Still another 3-4 team, San Diego, took DE Kendall Reyes from UConn at #49. So, the idea that the Cowboys could have addressed a real position of need at #45 is very much in play.

The best center of the draft, Wisconsin's Peter Konz went at #55 to Atlanta and Ryan Broyles, high up Dallas' list for slot receiver options went at #54 to Detroit.

But, if you believe the Cowboys, they were not going to take any of them. According to their press conference, their target was yet another middle linebacker:

Asked about that scenario following the end of the third round Friday night, Jones struggled to think of the name of the player the Cowboys liked when the 45th pick was on the board. All he seemed to remember was that it was a linebacker.

About five minutes later Jones finally came up with the name: "Wagner."

That would be Utah State inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, who went 47th overall to the Seattle Seahawks. The 6-0, 240-pounder was ranked by many experts as one of the top five inside linebackers available in the draft.

And this is the point of the weekend where I almost fell out of my chair. If the Cowboys want to address a premium position by putting all of their eggs in the Morris Claiborne basket, very few people in the NFL are going to argue that they are not getting a superstar talent. However, with this public declaration of Bobby Wagner, we are left to consider two scenarios. A) The Cowboys are not being entirely truthful. Again, there is nothing wrong with this approach and in some ways, it would be good public relations to suggest to their fan base that the only thing they surrendered to jump up to the #6 pick was yet another middle linebacker who wasn't likely to play for a while. If they say Peter Konz or Jerel Worthy, then we are watching Phil Costa and Kenyon Coleman all season with a much different perspective.

Or B) The Cowboys were threatening to take a 6th middle linebacker in the last 8 drafts with a Top draft pick??? I find this simply unbelievable and almost too maddening to document. But, I shall.

First, some background. In the offseason between 2004 and 2005, the Cowboys under Bill Parcells decided to finally switch base defensive schemes to Parcells' long time preference of the 3-4. This required an added emphasis in collecting linebackers, and so the Cowboys started to do so. However, in the 3-4, the premium spot is always the edge rusher. The Cowboys targeted and grabbed DeMarcus Ware and converted Greg Ellis to the other spot in 2006. In 2007, the Cowboys drafted Anthony Spencer to fill the spot opposite Ware as Ellis was getting older and not an ideal fit. And that is pretty much the entire history of the outside linebacker position as the Cowboys enter their 8th year in the scheme. 2 1st round picks. Problem addressed.

However, the inside spots - thought to be of much lesser importance - have not gone so smoothly.

Here is the total investment since 2005 on Inside Linebackers:

YearPickInside LB
2005Rd 2/#42Kevin Burnett
2006Rd 1/#18Bobby Carpenter
2009Rd 3/#69Jason Williams
2010Rd 2/#55Sean Lee
2011Rd 2/#40Bruce Carter

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What is the most depressing aspect of this chart? I have 2 possibilities. Of all of this investment - 5 Top 70 picks - the Cowboys have received exactly one season where ANY of them has been declared a starter. That would be 2011 with Sean Lee. The whole list has been reserves, while Akin Ayodele, Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking, and Bradie James took the majority of the snaps. The other aspect that could bring on deep depression is that after this much investment, the Cowboys are still telling you that they were going with Bobby Wagner at #45 if they didn't do the Claiborne trade. I just about drove off the road.

What does this tell us about Bruce Carter? We already know what to think of Burnett, Carpenter, and Williams. But, now Carter? In the last month, the Cowboys signed a middle linebacker in Dan Conner (not a bad plan - need at least 3) and claimed they were taking a 4th middle linebacker in the 2nd round? If you are confused about this development, you are not alone.

In summary, the Cowboys have a great corner duo, but don't seem to have plugged many holes over the weekend. I plan a full film review of their picks in the days to come as we can work them around Mavericks' playoff recaps.

But, the question I am getting most is this: "Would I rather have Claiborne or #14 and #45?"

Well, here is my answer: If it was Brockers and Wagner, then of course, I take Claiborne. The last thing I wanted was a raw project at #14 and yet another middle linebacker. I likely would have been disappointed if that was their haul.

But, if the play was David DeCastro and Jerel Worthy to fill two very pressing issues? Give me the two big boys up front. How about Fletcher Cox and Peter Konz? Again, I would have taken the two big boys up front. I believe that teams win and lose in this league based on their ability to protect their QB and to attack the opposition's QB. When in doubt, go with a player that weighs 300 pounds and can use their strength to bully their opponent.

But, with all of the premium picks (Top 70) since 2008 around here spent on RB, CB, TE, MLB, WR, MLB, T, MLB, and now CB, we can see that the Cowboys don't seem to agree with this idea on draft day. They invest their biggest chips on players close to 200 pounds and will try to beat you that way. Let's see how it works.

Fans in Cowboys-land are sure hoping they are right.


Jay Beerley said...

That's what drives me nuts about this term "premium positions" that people like Spagnola are throwing around. QB, pass rusher, cornerback.

I think all of the positions are premium. I'm not saying I hate the draft day deal, but people need to stop with this premium position garbage. If both of your lines are getting blown up, none of those "premium positions" matter. They are just the stat positions. It's like the Cowboys are playing Madden or something.

Dave said...

they're premium positions based solely off cost to acquire. As you say, all positions are important, but the cost of picking up a new premium position will hit the bottom line harder.

As for the debate - I remember plenty of times when the pass rush got there a split second too late and they came clean. The plays were completed but not because of poor pass rush, because of poor coverage. Everybody wanted playmakers and I believe we got one.

As for the o-line rookies - I'm okay with seeing how the group we have develops. I don't want to just throw all those players out to add new rookies.

As you mentioned - I think it's highly possible that if both the cowboys and eagles are looking for that #12 spot, they pay more or don't get it, then they don't get Cox or Mo and then we're trading down.

If you're trading down, then, to some degree, you're blowing the advantage the NFL is giving you by giving you a higher draft pick during a poor season.

If the FS and DE we took can play at all, I think we have a great chance of improving the defense significantly.

gary turner said...

Even if the Cowboys got the second coming of Sanders, it helps less than having a D-line that can penetrate and at least harass the opposing qb. Likewise, an O-line that can push the opposing line from the St. Bruce girls' school back a yard or so would provide a greater improvement than a shut-down corner.

The core strength of the team lies in its lines' control of the scrimmage. Right now, Dallas doesn't have that.