Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bag of Pucks - April 30 - Jim Nill Edition

It was a bizarre night on Saturday evening when the Stars were playing out the string against Detroit in an arena full of red and equally of defeat for anyone who loves hockey in Dallas.

For what seems like the umpteenth time in a row, the Stars fight and claw and come up short.  Actually, it was only the 5th season in a row, but after they spoiled us by showing success virtually anytime they wanted in the first 15 years in town, the Dallas Stars have hit a dead end.  Again.  And Again.

Trying to figure out where the Stars took a wrong turn after their fantastic run in the 2008 playoffs, there are certainly plenty of events that strung together in succession.  Was it the retirement of Sergei Zubov and 2 other significant defensemen at the same time?  Was it the ill-advised signing of Sean Avery that summer when most of the league wouldn't touch him?  Was it the firing of Dave Tippett when he had only missed the playoffs one time in his six seasons in Dallas (you know, the season you gave him Sean Avery in the middle of his room and took Zubov away)?  Was it the bankruptcy and embarrassing manner in which Tom Hicks left the franchise?  Was it cranking the payroll back significantly year after year (from over $70m to down to the bare minimum the league allows)?  Was it firing Doug Armstrong in the first place?

We could go on.  But, the point is this thing was broken down to where whoever took the job over was going to have to pitch a perfect game to get out of that mess.  And even that might not have been enough.

So, when Joe Nieuwendyk was dismissed on Saturday Night in a way that was a bit unfortunate (it appears he found out the same way we did, via reporters in Canada), it struck me as less than a fair way to summarize his 4 years here in Dallas.

Now, in the interest of being open, I am a big Joe Nieuwendyk supporter because of the way he conducts his business going back to the first time I met him upon coming to Dallas in 1998.  He has always been 100% class and seemed perfect for this type of position when he was done playing.  He inherited a chance at being a general manager in the NHL, but was certainly not lucky enough to inherit one where the odds were stacked in his favor.

He made some major mis-steps along the way, but also some significant positive moves.  The fans began to associate him with the dire times inside the organization which seems incredibly misdirected, but that is the nature of the beast.  The owner makes a major mess of everything and then shoves his representatives out to deal with the angry public.  They do the best they can, because they are lucky enough to have a high ranking spot in the NHL, knowing full well that they are on borrowed time because the entire thing was broken and not set for success with 1st class organizations that they must compete with.

Nieuwendyk's first decision might have been the one that bit him the most, looking back, when he fired Tippett immediately to get his guy in as coach.  Let's be honest, watching the duo of Armstrong and Tippett find success in their very next gigs after leaving Dallas doesn't help any of us feel better about how this thing has gone.  Both coaches that Nieuwendyk hired looked the part as reasonable hires, but the fact that the results never were found doesn't help, either.

The trades have been gone over and for every Goligoski complaint, there should be an equally loud Lehtonen cheer, but it seldom seems that happens.  The infusion of young talent that has been assembled suggests that Joe helped build the next wave of talent that is coming through the system and that will be reaped by his successor.  Time will tell the quality and there are some first round pick decisions that I certainly continue to 2nd guess, but overall, this thing is in way better shape than Nieuwendyk found it.

But, the biggest thing I would say about his run is that we still don't know how he would do as a general manager with a full deck of cards.  His payroll rankings when he was in charge were right there with the worst in the league and therefore to expect top notch results that compare to Bob Gainey and Doug Armstrong when they always had Top 5 payrolls and he had Bottom 5 payrolls is just flat-out ridiculous and unfair.

His biggest signing in free agency?  Would you believe the small signing of Ray Whitney last summer for 2 years/$9 million (Remember: Brett Hull had $15.5 million to give Sean Avery and traded for the giant Brad Richards deal before that)?  As a general manager in the NHL, to never have a free agent signing or acquisition that valued over that is incredible and uncommon.  To judge his work with that millstone around his neck is silly.  Now, yes, he did make the big signings of Goligoski, Benn, Lehtonen, and others inside the organization (many times to just get to the cap floor, mind you), but when this team need additions, it was always in the bargain bin.

So, they had no choice but to find bargains and turn refuse into chicken salad whenever possible.  Sometimes, it worked well as guys like Brenden Dillon get me very excited, but other times you are led to believe that Joe will be hard pressed to have the odds stacked more against him in his next gig.

It was destined to fail, regardless of the GM.  In a sense, Armstrong is lucky he found a new home in St Louis where they were serious about building a contender.

But, thankfully, Tom Hicks was forced out of business.  He had done enough damage to erase the good he helped create a decade earlier.  And after the NHL ran the Stars for a short spell, enter Tom Gaglardi.  At first, his best characteristic was that he was not the old guy.  Slowly, we are seeing what he has on his list of objectives, and it does seem to include a thirst to build a winner.

Talk is cheap, though, and I always said we should give him a fair chance, but actions will always speak louder than words.  Gaglardi has been in power for 18 months and although we have seen small signs of determined actions to make things right on the ice, it has been slow and calculated to get through the work stoppage and moving out assets that were expiring and making room for the kids.

He did not make changes on the hockey side until Saturday when he decided Joe and surely his hire at coach, Glen Gulatzan were done.

Now, to hear it told, there is some confusion about whether or not this move was made because Jim Nill was available or it the Stars were changing GM no matter who the successor was.  In the end, that hardly matters, save for the history telling, but the since the entire league is responding to this hire with plaudits, it looks like they have quite a guy in the big chair here.

Pierre LeBrun from ESPN wrote about assistant general managers who were ready for the GM job back in February and listed Nill as his #1 guy:
1. Jim Nill, Detroit Red Wings: Now in his 15th season as assistant GM in Detroit, he has been GM material for a long time. And it just so happens that his contract will soon begin to present itself with annual six-week "out windows" when he can entertain GM offers from other teams, a source told ESPN.com. The first window comes this summer. With four Stanley Cup rings and a long list of late-draft gems on his resume, Nill is a top-notch candidate in waiting. It would have to be the right fit for him to leave Detroit, where he's happy and loyal to the Ilitch family, but it's a possibility. You can't go wrong if you name Nill as your GM. He'd be a superstar hire. 
That is an amazing endorsement and should make everyone excited.  But, maybe for different reasons than might be readily obvious.

I am fired up because a guy like Nill was only leaving Detroit if the move was perfect.  And I assume to do that he was able to secure assurances from Gaglardi and Jim Lites that if he comes here, he will be given the resources to compete - and not just for the playoffs, but ultimately for a Cup.

Clearly, hiring someone from a top organization makes sense, and sometimes it works like when Oklahoma City hired Sam Presti from the San Antonio Spurs, and sometimes it doesn't like when the Cavaliers hired Danny Ferry from the Spurs.

But, Nill comes with confidence, experience, and hopefully the eye for talent that everyone credits him with from many days with Ken Holland and Jim Devellano who along with Scotty Bowman made Detroit into what it is today.  They are the gold standard in hockey in the last 2 decades, so I have no problem stealing from the enemy who does it right.

He has a pretty solid youth system, a load of picks, and hopefully a stack of cash to make this thing happen.  He also has a 5-year deal, so we should assume he will play the long game in fixing, which means no reckless plays early just because he has money.  He will take his time and do what he needs to do to make sure this downturn in hockey ends with this hire.

As for Nieuwendyk, I know he will bounce back.  I understand fans being mad at someone, but the venom directed at him is just not overly reasonable given what he had to work with.  He inherited a bad situation and built a brighter future.  Did he deserve another year?  While I thought so, I also am fine with Gaglardi making a move if he things he needed a fresh start with his guys before he invests heavily in the future.

But, make no mistake:  It will take heavy investment from the owner to win a Cup and to fill this arena again.  The fans were misled for many years about whether this team was serious about winning or not, and ownership did not always practice what they preached.  Fine.  Water under the bridge.

As far as I am concerned, Gaglardi and Nill have a fresh start and the benefit of the doubt from me.  As for many of you, I am sure they are going to have to win you back.  And winning on the ice is the only way to do that.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

NFL Draft 2013: Attempting To Analyze The Weekend

Rd 1#31Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin
Rd 2#47Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego St
Rd 3#74Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Rd 3#80JJ Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern
Rd 4#114BW Webb, CB, William Mary
Rd 5#151Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
Rd 6#185DeVonte Holloman, LB, South Carolina
Rd 7-----Traded to Miami for Ryan Cook

Honestly, there is no question that is asked more of those of us who are blessed to cover the NFL than "How did you think the Cowboys did this weekend?"  And, there is no question that EVERYONE is less equipped to answer.


Think about how few people that would be acquainted with the depth charts and situations of all 32 teams so that they can release grades relative to the rest of the league.  Then, think of all of the people on the planet who would be familiar - and I mean really familiar - with the 254 players chosen in this draft.  I think it is hard enough to zero in on the top 100 players and just the depth chart of the Dallas Cowboys.  I spend a few hours a day for about 3 straight months trying to watch and absorb as much information as I can.  That comes out to a ton of time spent watching college games and studying the players as best I can.  And I had almost nothing on 4 of the 7 players the Cowboys selected over the weekend.  And when I say almost nothing, I hadn't watched a single San Diego State game, talked to a single scout about Gavin Escobar, and honestly didn't know much about him except what I had read.  And that was their 2nd round pick!  Think about how little I had in my head or files about B.W. Webb.

I admit all of this to simply show a little honesty as a media member that hopefully has earned your trust over the years, and then tries to take that responsibility seriously.  If there is anyone who claims they have done their homework on all 254 players and their homework to study the depth chart, cap situation, and football issues with all 32 teams - then they are wasting their time in the media.  They should really be personnel experts in the NFL.

And yet, everywhere I look, here is another media guy grading all 32 teams!  With what information?  That makes no sense to me and I refuse to participate in what amounts to gathering military intelligence about the middle east by watching cable news.  It is an insult to those media departments who employ a dozen guys who evaluate talent all day, every day, for 12 months a year to grade their performance based on 5 minutes of youtube highlights and whether or not they drafted a local player from a college I watch on Saturdays and maybe remember 5 of his college plays.  I find that sort of guess work silly and think that you should try to avoid those who attempt to tell you who the "winners and losers" over the weekend are.  They are surely taking wild guesses and are seldom willing to share their grading mis-steps from previous drafts.  If getting a good grade from the media means taking guys they have heard of, then this is all a waste of time.

I attempt to not feed the monster.  And yet, this is my job.  To gather as much information as I can and to in some ways evaluate what the Cowboys did with their resources to try to improve their team in the quickest and most efficient way possible, which is by doing well on draft weekend.

So a bit further below, I throw caution to the wind and attempt to do what I just admitted is nearly impossible to accomplish properly:


First, an overall positioning statement on how this whole thing works.  I don't believe you can properly evaluate a pick without looking at things from a macro point of view.  Like spending too much time on one play in a full game, to discuss one pick from one draft when you are attempting to construct a competitive team in a very competitive league is very difficult.  

The fact is that the best-run organizations in football botch picks routinely.  They all have horror stories of misevaluation because this is a very difficult process to choose young men and try to project the next decade of their lives.  It is a very physical game that requires health and a complex game that requires development and progress through coaching and self-motivation.  To simply assume that a player would turn out the same regardless of where he is drafted is silliness.  If John Elway was traded on draft day of 1983 to the Cowboys, we have no idea what would have happened.  We do know, though, that the Cowboys would not have picked first in 1989, so Troy Aikman goes to Green Bay.  Without Jimmy Johnson but with Lindy Infante, do we really think that Aikman would have still won 3 Super Bowls?  

Good teams botch picks and bad teams have good picks.  It is all part of a batting average type of measurement where the good teams hit a better percentage.  Just because Albert Pujols strikes out 3 times in one night doesn't mean he isn't the gold standard for hitting.  And the same is true when the Patriots botch a pick.  It happens.  But, you can't botch too many.

Second, when you have too many holes you are in a situation where there are no wrong answers (any pick you make will address a need, most likely) and there are no right answers (no matter who you pick, there will still be some major needs that don't get addressed).  This is the curse of the 2013 Cowboys draft.  They had needs and needs and needs.  They had too many holes and not enough plugs.  They shocked the NFL with all of the street free agents that they signed mid-season who stepped right onto the roster and into the huddle because of their absurd lack of depth.  They could not afford injuries in a sport that injuries are part of the deal.  

So, when they entered this weekend, they were at a distinct disadvantage against the league for 2 reasons.  1) they had more needs than your average team and 2) they had fewer picks than your average team.  

When you do look at those NFL Draft grades that I asked you to ignore, you will find that it starts with your pick load.  The Ravens and 49ers are celebrated for their awesome draft.  Well, they entered with the 2 most picks.  Green Bay was congratulated for their draft.  Well, they had 10 picks on Day 3 to use and trade with.  Minnesota graded well - I should hope so with 3 1st Rounders.  You will generally see that the teams with volume are going to hit the target more often.

And this is why the Cowboys operate from a distinct disadvantage.  This is the macro view.  They butchered several drafts in a row by most counts.  2006-2010 have very little left to show for it.  We have discussed this at great length and if you compare them with the power teams in the league, you will see that the issue lies there - not with what they do in the 2012 or 2013 draft.  

Imagine a car in a race that is 4 laps down before it finally gets its set-up right.  It would make no sense to criticize them too hard for whatever happened after that.  They were too far behind to recover.  And that is where the franchise stands.  Too many holes and no matter who they take, it is the wrong answer.


There is an amazing story in Sports Illustrated a few issues back about Al Davis and the rebuilding of the Raiders franchise after his death.  Reports inside include the idea that they did not employ a full-time groundskeeper or even have a draft war-room that was used.  They simply did things Al's way and this led to them falling further and further behind the rest of the league as he got older and older.  

They were unable to compete without a philosophy or a method for competing in a league that is unforgiving for the last decade when they never won more than 5 games after their Super Bowl 37 season.  It was a league power that stopped being a league power once its leader no longer knew how to do it nor how to accept assistance.

Now, with their new General Manager Reggie McKenzie at the helm, they are attempting to dig out of their massive hole.  He may or may not be able to do this job, but he is at least going to install some methodology that worked for him in Green Bay under Ted Thompson.  Build a board through incredible work, trust your board, and follow the process closely without deviation.

With reports that the Cowboys did not follow this process over the weekend when the room disagreed about taking Sharrif Floyd at #18 or trading down to get #31 and #74, we are left with whispers that Jerry Jones stepped in and grabbed the steering wheel when his personnel department and coaching staff wished to do otherwise.  They spent all year setting up their board and doing their work, but when the moment of truth arrived, the veto power from the man on the throne slammed down.  And the personnel department shook its collective head.  It is his team and he can do what he wants, but to go against your brain trust when that has found trouble in the past, well...

As I said on Friday, I think trading down is a solid idea for a team with too many issues to address.  And the very real possibility that they received Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams for Sharrif Floyd or possibly, Tyler Eifert seems like pretty good business in one sense.  But, if you employ a personnel department to evaluate the odds and the quality of the players involved, while you are off at the X Games or at a presidential library opening (or artwork releases or Papa Johns or negotiations with the NCAA or...), it would seem that you should be willing to trust their judgement.  And if there wasn't a history of vetoes and over-rulings in the 1st Round of drafts of the past, it wouldn't be a big issue.  But it has happened again and again.  And it hasn't always been the wrong play (DeMarcus Ware over Shawne Merriman) and maybe that is why it continues to happen.

And although it would be hyperbole to compare Jerry Jones and Al Davis in some ways, it is not a stretch to assume that the only way either would ever relinquish power is when they no longer walk the earth.  

This, of course, caused head shaking and disappointment when the personnel department couldn't believe that they had a chance at a special player that fell in their lap.  The Cowboys loved Floyd and didn't believe he would get to them.  So when he did, most thought this was an easy call.  

Jerry did not.  He traded back and then they decided to pull the trigger on the last remaining offensive lineman on their "top tier", even though most thought that was "too rich" to steal a phrase Stephen Jones used to describe LSU safety Eric Reid going at #18.  



The final 6 picks in the draft were full of curiosities as well.  Taking Gavin Escobar is an interesting play and one that reminds us that Jason Garrett was ready and willing to take advantage of the entry of "12 Personnel" into the league back in 2008 and 2009.  12 personnel is the best way to balance up your offense between run and pass because it is a package that does not tip your intentions either way but keeps your weapons on the field (rather than using a fullback, you replace him with a pass catching tight end who can occupy the safeties down the middle of the field).  

They tried and tried with Martellus Bennett to make the 2-Tight End attack lethal and despite Stephen chiming in that Bennett was "very productive" in his 4 years in Dallas, we know that it never came close to working.  Bennett never had a 300 yard season in a Cowboys uniform.  In fact, in 1 year in New York, he fell only 200 yards short of his 4-year total in Dallas.  12 Personnel was a flop here for 4 seasons, but clearly the conviction is still in the coach to try to do what other teams have done so well, and Escobar gives them a weapon that looks the part.  He clearly ran a troubling 4.85 40 at the combine where 10 years earlier Jason Witten ran a 4.70 (and Bennett a 4.73 with James Hanna clocking a 4.45). But, we should remember that they were talking up the idea of taking Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame at #18 in the first place, so this was clearly an objective.  Whether it should have been a higher objective than linemen is something that we should debate for quite a while (I was hoping for 900+ lbs of human in the first 3 picks and we certainly fell well short of that).

I didn't consider Tight End very far up on their list of needs, but they chose to bolster their offense with a play-maker who certainly would go up and win a ball in the air at San Diego State and was ultra productive.  Obviously, 12 personnel does give defenses a real issue if done properly, and just because Bennett couldn't make it work does not mean the strategy won't work.  It simply means they got it wrong.  I certainly don't mind the player, but I do wonder if they could afford to spend lavishly on this sort of upgrade given that they continue to ignore the defensive line throughout the draft.  With LSU's Bennie Logan and Penn State's Jordan Hill both on the Cowboys list of possibilities, I did find the strategy curious.

On the other hand, I have written at great length about the inefficiencies of the offense and the inability to run the ball under any circumstances.  Not being able to run makes the pass defenses more problematic and the pass rush more fierce.  But, to see them address center and 12 personnel like this has me hopeful that both of these moves are an indirect remedy for better balance and better running attacks.

To read more about the major issues with the Cowboys offense in 2012 that necessitates moves like the first two picks of their draft, please review this story - Garrett's Optimistic Appraisal of the offense forgets plenty of context and this story - 6 years of the Garrett Offense Tells Us Plenty that were published here back in February.  I don't love going center-tight end with all of the other needs, but I understand the logic.

At #74 (the extra pick from the trade back) they snag Baylor WR Terrance Williams.  Williams is electric and addresses the 3rd WR spot which is so vital around here because Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are likely to get banged up a bit, making #3 the #2 for a portion of the season.  He is a home run hitter and a very good value in the 3rd Round.  He also puts you in a spot where after 2014, he might be Austin's replacement or in a worst case scenario, he covers you if Dez Bryant's contract situation gets out of hand (which I doubt happens).  This is a position of need and the Cowboys ran almost nothing but 11 personnel with 3 WRs for all of its production in 2012, so it is tough to argue with the player - but again, it did not address OL, DL, or Safety causing many to slap their foreheads in disgust.

At #80, they finally targeted one of their primary needs (at least as we have assumed) which is safety.  But, in this particular case, it was not the most likely of the available safeties left, Fresno State's Phillip Thomas.  Thomas had led the NCAA in interceptions and was a noted ball hawk.  Nor was it noted strong safety, Shamarko Thomas of Syracuse.  Instead, they went with Georgia Southern's JJ Wilcox.  Wilcox obviously has incredible physical tools including a 4.53 40, but is perhaps most identified because he has played safety for just 1 college season.  

Wilcox is still learning the position after running back and wide receiver earlier in college, but has no issues with confidence or self belief.  He has tools and the Cowboys believe they can help him continue to figure out how to grow into being an NFL safety.  They clearly saw Thomas and Thomas as guys without the same upside, and although project safeties give me great pause (Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, I am looking at you), I am excited to see what Wilcox and Matt Johnson can bring to a safety position that has not had legitimate young prospects in a while.


With just 3 picks on Day 3, the Cowboys had to ring the bell on 3 occasions.  Obviously, I need to go see B.W. Webb's film at William and Mary before I get too carried away, but I am very excited to see his speed, his big plays as a special teams man, and another corner that might replace Orlando Scandrick at the end of this season as the 3rd corner.  This pick #114, like a few others, seems to try to cover themselves for future financial cutbacks.  Of course, they don't appear to have covered themselves very much at the spots when Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher are unrestricted next winter.  

Webb is certainly tiny and with 0 interceptions last year, we need to see how he competes at the next level, but when looking for a corner, I always like to start with a guy who is under 4.5 and generates electricity when he has the ball.  Webb looks the part so that is a nice start at least.  We might wonder, much like in Round 2 when they passed on Eddie Lacy, Le'Veon Bell, and Montee Ball, if the Cowboys should have considered Johnathan Franklin to fill that 2nd Running Back void.  They did not, until Round 5.

That is when at #151, the Cowboys targeted their RB.  It was another Big 12 South product in the form of Joseph Randle from Oklahoma State.  Certainly at 4.63, he is not a burner, but he appears to be a workhorse who also has the ability to catch the ball and go and at 204 might be able to share the load on blitz pickups.  This need was further up my list than another corner, but to get Randle in Round 5 I believe is a pretty good achievement.  They desperately needed to through this up the list of priorities with the durability issues of DeMarco Murray, so there can be no real dispute on this idea other than to wonder if they might have found a better player earlier.

Finally, their final pick was in the 6th round at #185.  DeVonte Holloman from South Carolina is a linebacker who should do what most 6th rounders do and that is to supply exceptional work at special teams and depth in the lineup.  This team clearly needed linebacker depth after last year's issues and finding Holloman seems reasonable.   This deep in the draft you just take the most talented player left almost regardless of position, so until I learn more about him, it is tough to consider this at all as a place to 2nd guess.


Again, to review what I said earlier, when you have old mistakes on top of older mistakes you have too many holes to fill.  When that happens, there are no wrong answers (they needed players at every spot they took and they each have a chance to play a major role) and there are no right answers (they took just 1 offensive lineman in the entire draft and maybe reached on him and they took no defensive linemen whatsoever).

I look forward to breaking down the college work of each of these players in the weeks to come and writing a personal review on each of them when I have digested enough of their games.  In the meantime, I certainly understand the critiques but I am also interested in the additions.  Even in the case of Travis Frederick, if he can finally give them solid center play, I don't think anyone will have a major issue with that decision going forward.

It has been said a number of times, after draft weekend, the position a player is taken is just a footnote.  It makes no difference when the ball is snapped who went where and in what round.  They all simply become NFL players and in this case Dallas Cowboys.  Undrafted players and 1st rounders fight for the same spots and compete now regardless of how they got to this league.  And from that standpoint, the Cowboys appear to be infused with 7 promising prospects who can all help this team win.  There is plenty of room for 2nd guessing, but from where I sit, if I was the type to grade drafts, I am not sure I could have a major issue with the concepts behind most of these picks.  

Now, we see if they can play.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

NFL Draft 2013: Day 2 - Morning Thoughts (Travis Frederick Edition)

One of my favorite movies of all time is "Raiders of the Lost Ark".  I think it is a fantastic adventure film starring the great Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and his quest to find the ark of the covenant.  There is a particular scene when they are trying to pinpoint the exact location of the ark that he is worried that his rival, Belloq, has the same secret coordinates to find the treasure.  However, the head piece that is supposed to be placed on a staff with a specific length to let the sun reveal the location of the ark in the hidden map room (I really hope you saw the movie or this might be confusing) is discovered to be the wrong length, Indiana celebrates.

"They are digging in the wrong place!" Indiana and his trusty assistant Sallah exclaim with delight, knowing that Belloq only had 1 part of the information and not the vital details on the 2nd side of the head piece.  Without full and complete information, the conclusions are dead wrong.

I think of that scene when I follow the NFL Draft.  Loud voices scream from the mountain tops with great conviction despite the fact that we are often digging in the wrong place.  We don't have complete information and without it, we speak with certainty despite having none.

It is great that we have such passion for the NFL Draft.  But, that passion should make us guarded when we want to praise or humiliate a decision maker for what they just did - despite the fact that most in the audience is scrambling to "know" a player in the moments before the microphone is turned on again.

The Cowboys do not have an environment where they enjoy a benefit of the doubt these days.  They haven't in years and there is a very strong likelihood that until there are new faces making decisions for the franchise, this will not reverse.  There are just too many examples of poor evaluations, conclusions, and decisions to ever "expect the best possible outcome" when the Cowboys defy conventional wisdom anymore.

But, that doesn't make for good analysis.  Good analysis should be done only when enough information is available and that does not include making a list of all offensive linemen from Wisconsin, all trade down results from the past, and averaging out the best 5 mock drafts that you have read this week.

They decided to trade out of pick #18 to get #31 and #74 in return.  It seems, without knowing what else was available, that they took a net loss on that transaction.  It seems that they should have received a return of #31 and #61 (1st and 2nd) to trade back, but the 49ers obviously were not willing to do that. Logically, once you try to get #31 and #61 and they refuse, then you are left with 2 options (we assume):  1) take the player at #18 and play the conventional wisdom of trusting your board and your 4 month process or 2) trying to flip that opportunity for 2 quality players over 1.

The idea of trading back is one that I actually preferred before the draft started.  I think we suspected that the bins might be rather picked over of premium players by the time they got on the clock.  If they had 18 or 19 players graded in the 1st round, then they might get the least attractive of that grouping.  However, if they could stack the deck with multiple solid players from the Top 2 or 3 rounds, then that might be the more efficient play.

This leads us to the Sharrif Floyd discussion.  Floyd, the Florida DT, was believed to be their favorite DT of the position grouping.  I didn't care for his work nearly that much (productivity concerns) and actually preferred UNC's Sylvester Williams tape to his, but with the 3 year age difference, I can certainly see the idea that the 20-year old Floyd might have more upside potential.

But, when they picked, they had their choice of Floyd or Williams.  Both would be an absolutely welcomed upgrade to the new 4-3 defense - but, I should tell you that I see the defensive line that needs help fast.  Jerry Jones argued last night that it is actually a strength of the team.  And we both might be right.  From Jerry's perspective, which usually is only worried about the next game (not a great position for a GM to take), he sees a front four of Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff, and DeMarcus Ware.  Honestly, that does look pretty strong.  But, when you consider that Spencer and Hatcher will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and that Ware and Ratliff are both on the wrong side of 30 with Ratliff already looking like he is breaking down physically and might even face league discipline for his drunk driving incident of January, you could easily make the case that they require help quickly to replace and replenish.

Instead of going that route of either player they trade out to add a 2nd relatively high pick (Top 3 rounds).  That gives them 4 picks in the top 100 selections in a draft thought to be deep enough to give strong players for 3 rounds.

So far, they have taken Travis Frederick from Wisconsin at pick #31.  This selection even surprised Frederick from what we can gather as he said as much in interviews that he expected to go in round 2.  Round 2 was only 2 picks away, but there are many that ranked him as a Top 75 player, but not a Top 50 or even a 1st round player.  The rankings of Frederick and Floyd lead us back to Raiders of the Lost Ark.  People want to know what caused Floyd to slide and what caused the Cowboys to disagree with Mike Mayock (who has not been hired by anyone to run their draft room at the moment I write this).

Why do I think of that movie when discussing Sharrif Floyd?  Because, of the comedy of media types explaining what happened with him.  They say that he slid because of "short arms" on draft night.  Hold on.  He is measured at the Combine.  We all knew about his arm length (31 3/4) back in February and then "experts" said he could go #3 for 2 months.  Then, on draft night, he falls because of that?  Did the teams really like the player or didn't they?  Did the media mostly collectively copy each-others notes?  Did anyone look at his measurements in February when they were taken and distributed?

Same thing with the #1 pick.  If you hear draft people talk, the Chiefs changed their mind yesterday from Luke Joeckel to Eric Fisher.  I don't believe that at all.  The truth is the we found out yesterday.  They knew a long time ago that they preferred Fisher.  But, to make us all feel better about our information, we blame the teams for changing their minds at the last minute.  Then, Jacksonville, who was going to take Dion Jordan (right?) changes their mind and grabs Joeckel at the last minute.  Bologna.

My point is that Floyd is the latest on a list of guys who slide because they weren't widely loved as much as other options.  That is the truth.  I didn't like him that much, then didn't understand when everyone had him at #3, and last night saw he was picked about where everyone thought he might be picked 4 months ago.  But, to hear it retold in the media, he was nice, then great, then regressed, and then the Vikings got great value at #23.  LOL.

Without enough information, the media can either admit they were wrong or they can act like the teams changed their mind.  This preserves the media's facade of perfection and puts the blame on the usual suspects.  And locally, we all know who that is.

They are digging in the wrong place!

Meanwhile, Frederick looks like a real position of need being filled.  If this was pick #47 I would be very pleased.  It does appear that they took him before they had to, but that is wild speculation and we really have no idea if he would have still been there at #47.  The fact is that the pocket collapses and the ball cannot be run in Dallas for a few years (since Gurode left) and now, with a sturdy and powerful man being put at center right away, I think they will not lack for strength in the middle of their line anymore.  He plays strong and won't often get pushed around.  That is a big upgrade from Phil Costa and Ryan Cook, I believe.  However, I do want to study more on him when the draft is over before I get carried away.

But, Dallas has already done their homework on him and if you could just judge him in a vacuum, we might all feel better.  It just doesn't work that way.  We have Floyd and Frederick married forever like Greg Ellis and Randy Moss.  Ellis was a very solid player, but every time Moss scored a touchdown, we got mad at Ellis.  Frederick must be good, but if Floyd is the next Tommie Harris or Warren Sapp, the bearded man from Wisconsin will always have to carry that around.

But as we know, this draft still has plenty of spots to be filled for the Cowboys.  Here is what the picture looks like now:

Rd 1#31Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin
Rd 2#17#47
Rd 3#12#74
Rd 3#18#80
Rd 4#17#114
Rd 5#18#151
Rd 6#17#185
Rd 7-----Traded to Miami for Ryan Cook

The spots that still need to be addressed are plentiful.  I really do like the depth at safety that remains as Jonathan Cyprien, Phillip Thomas, DJ Swearinger, and JJ Wilcox are all worthy of Round 2 or 3 in my opinion.  

Offensive line is rather picked over at the top, but Menelik Watson, Terron Armstead, Ricky Wagner (hey, another Wisconsin guy!), Brian Winters, Larry Warford, and others still remain.  They can always use more help there, but they are in better shape now.

Defensive line needs help quickly today.  Tank Carradine, Sam Montgomery, Alex Okafor, William Gholston, and Damontre Moore are defensive ends I like to some extent in the first 3 rounds, and defensive tackles like Kawaan Short, Jesse Williams, Bennie Logan, and Jordan Hill all jump out at me.  

Beyond those positions of need, we should not be surprised if that extra pick turns into a RB: Eddie Lacy, Montee Ball, Giovani Bernard, Stepfan Taylor, and Jonathan Franklin all look the part.  Or, WR:  Justin Hunter, Terrance Willams, Ryan Swope, or Quinton Patton all are on my radar.

If, by tonight, they have 3 players from these pools then I will feel pretty good about things.  Here is another valuable tool that WalterFootball.com provides.  It is a list of all the players the Cowboys have visited with.  They don't always take players from their visits, but they often do:

Terron Armstead, OL, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (PRI)  Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State (VINT) (PRI) Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (PRI) Josh Boyce, WR, TCU (PRI) Jonathan Cyprien, DB, Florida International (PRI) Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas (PRI) Will Davis, DB, Utah State (COM) Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas (PRO) Jakar Hamilton, DB, South Carolina State (PRI) Jordan Hill, DL, Penn State (PRI) Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State (PRI)  Margus Hunt, DL, SMU (PRI) Mike James, RB, Miami (COM) Nick Kasa, TE, Colorado (INT) Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati (COM) Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (COM) Bennie Logan, DT, LSU (PRI) Brandon Magee, LB, Arizona State (PRI) Stansly Maponga, LB, TCU (PRI) Damontre Moore, DL, Texas AM (PRO) Sio Moore, LB, Connecticut (PRI) Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State (INT) Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M (PRI) David Quessenberry, OL, San Jose State (VINT) Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State (PRI) Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State (PRI) Jonathan Stewart, LB, Texas A&M (COM) Ryan Swope, WR, Texas AM (INT) Lane Taylor, OL, Oklahoma State (PRO) Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford (INT) Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State (PRI) Conner Vernon, WR, Duke (COM) B.W. Webb, DB, William Mary (PRI) Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State (PRI) J.J. Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern (PRI)  
SR - Senior Bowl meeting. EW - East-West Shrine meeting. COM - Combine meeting. INT - Interested. VINT - Very Interested. PRO - Pro Day meeting. PRI - Private Workout. 
It is another vital day.  The Cowboys don't have the public's benefit of the doubt, but that won't win games, anyway.  When Jon Daniels makes a move, we assume it is the right one.  When Jerry Jones makes a move, we tend to assume it is wrong.  They both built their reputations, but in the end, past performance does not promise future results.

They have 3 picks today and that will go a long way to making you feel better about last night.

The great debate will be Sharrif Floyd versus Travis Frederick and #74.  For those who have already rendered a verdict before they know who #74 is, I applaud their speed but question their accuracy.  It is only halftime in this deal and we should at least give them the chance to name names.  But, for a team with multiple holes and not enough picks to fill them, this might not be the worst idea ever.

Let's find out.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

NFL Draft 2013: Day 1 - Morning Thoughts

It is finally draft day 2013.  No more study time on players who might be on the Cowboys radar and no more time for long debates as to what they need or what they should do.  Those of us who want to know these players before the bias of ownership kicks in have done all that we can do, and tonight, the landscape of the NFL can be altered yet again.

From a Cowboys perspective, there are a few things we just don't really have a feel for that is required to fully know the team's plans.  For instance, there is that issue of using the cap space that was generated from the restructure of Tony Romo' contract to sign a veteran offensive lineman who might instantly be in their plans.  Eric Winston and Tyson Clabo have both been long time starters at right tackle in the league and both are on the street today, with links to the Cowboys in the media.

I believe that Tyson Clabo is the player they like better but he might have more leverage to get a multi-year deal elsewhere, and that is something Dallas would not be willing to do, most likely.  But, since we have no idea whether there is certainty in their interest in Clabo, we cannot take tackle off their board of needs as tonight approaches.  DJ Fluker would be a very strong right tackle prospect if they went the young route, but again, we don't know how things are going in free agency for the team now that the league has really quieted down in that department.

But, as we look at the needs on draft day:  Guard, Tackle, Defensive Tackle, Safety are the major ones, with depth needed at Wide Receiver, Running Back, Tight End, and Defensive End later on - we can see tackle is about the only one that they might be able to find a veteran on a 1-year deal if they are against bringing Doug Free back at a reduced rate.  And I suppose we shouldn't rule out the idea that Free at $3m in 2013 is something they would consider if he would agree to a pay cut from $7m.  His leverage is minimal given that finding a starting job or a reasonable pay day after June 1 is nearly impossible for a guy with low stock.  I imagine staying here for lowered cash and only having to defeat Jeremy Parnell for RT in camp is his best option.  Whether the Cowboys think so remains to be seen.

But, if we take tackle off the board, then we look at the remaining 3 spots of need:  Guard (M Bernadeau appears to be a backup), DT (Ratliff aging and Josh Brent gone), and Safety (always need that) are the 3 real ideas at pick #18.  If you build your board around that, then you are not saying you only consider players from those same positions, but rather, if there is a similar grade on players, you use that to break any close calls.  Of course, if the best player on your board by a mile is someone like Tavon Austin, then you have to use your brain.  But, you are looking to fill long-time needs, too. And that is why Guard, Defensive Tackle, and Safety are high on my plans for the early picks.

Now, of those 3, you ask where the best prospects are and what can be accomplished in the 2nd or 3rd round.  That is where we consider that there is major depth at safety, with 8 or 9 reasonable options there, albeit the quality does drop after Kenny Vaccaro, Jonathan Cyprien, and Eric Reid.  But, with another 5 or so good looking safeties, I am not interested in one at #18.  One exception would be dropping in the 1st round to pick up an additional 2nd or 3rd round.  If I sit at #25 or so, I might think safety there.

That leaves Guard and DT for #18.  It will come down to what falls to you.  I think the Cowboys love both guards with Cooper being their preference.  His mobility and perfect form for a zone blocking scheme gives him the edge on Warmack, but I really believe they would be delighted either way.   Personally, I prefer Warmack and his brute strength more, but I do wonder if he fits that scheme to perfection.  On the other hand, I don't like the idea of forcing a scheme without considering your personnel.  I think you have to look at your group and design around that.  But that conversation is for a different day.

As for Defensive tackle, I think the Cowboys think 4 are worth #18.  That includes Star Lotulelei, Sharrif Floyd, Sheldon Richardson, and Sylvester Williams.  Rumors exist that they like Floyd the most, which I will admit is a bit peculiar to me.  I actually like him about the 4th most of the 4, with Lotulelei, Richardson, and Williams (in that order) in front of him.  But, clearly, I am just a guy with a blog and a DVD player.  They have visited with the players, investigated their lives, done medicals, and talked to coaches.  Always trust personnel departments over bloggers.

Based on the 9 players we tried to break down on this blog, here is my "board" for #18:

1. Chance Warmack - Report Here
2. Jonathan Cooper - Report Here
3. Star Lotulelei - Report Here
4. Sheldon Richardson - Report Here
5. Sylvester Williams - Report Here
6. Tavon Austin - Report Here
7. Sharrif Floyd - Report Here
8. Kenny Vaccaro - Report Here
9. DJ Fluker - Report Here

I do think that is how I would stack them and if they follow this perfectly, I would be fine with even Fluker at #18.  They will get a solid contributor and an instant starter from all 9 of these players, I believe.  But, as I said before, if Austin, Vaccaro, or Fluker are their best options, I hope they would try to figure out a way to move back and pick up another top #100 pick to add to their haul.  Top #100 picks traditionally should contribute in a big way right off the bus and that is what the Cowboys really need.  If they can leave the draft with 4 of the top #100 instead of 3, they should effort to do so.

I should also point out that there has been plenty of talk this week about the TE from Notre Dame, Tyler Eifert.  I concede that he is the best tight end in this draft, but I don't care for that selection here.  I would rank him behind all 9 of the players above and hope that this is smoke the Cowboys are generating to get someone to snag him above them, allowing their actual targets to fall to them.  He is a prospect that is certainly better than James Hanna, but, his strengths and weaknesses seem similar to Hanna, aside from speed.  Hanna ran 4.45 last year, Eifert is a 4.66 this year.  Jason Witten has taught us that 40-time isn't everything, but I don't see Eifert to be a generational tight end that I would drop everything to address.  But, they don't ask me.

Here are their current draft positions:

Rd 1#18#18
Rd 2#17#47
Rd 3#18#80
Rd 4#17#114
Rd 5#18#151
Rd 6#17#185
Rd 7-----Traded to Miami for Ryan Cook

They have 6 picks and plenty of places to put these guys.  Enough talk.  Time to fill in the gaps.  

Tonight is Round 1.  Let's get to it already.

Draft Profile: Star Lotulelei - DT - Utah

The following is the 9th in a series of draft profiles for the 1st round pick for the Dallas Cowboys. These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.  Surely, circumstances will dictate what actually happens on that day, but we will profile the 8-10 most likely candidates and try to kick the tires on each and every scenario an how it relates to the Cowboys in 2013 and beyond.

I thought I was done, but in the last 24 hours there has been a hint of possibility that Star Lotulelei gets in the Cowboys range.  So, on this, draft day 2013, I scramble to get one more profile out (fully realizing that no matter how many I do, the Cowboys will do something off that board if Morris Claiborne is any indication).

Star Lotulelei
Defensive Tackle
6'2, 311
40 time: 5.31    Bench Press: 38 Reps (Both totals from his pro day)

Born: December 20, 1989 (Age 23)

Preparing for the number of possibilities on draft day always means casting your nets further out than you think you will need to when the moment comes.  2013 is maybe the best example of this ever as we get to the morning of the draft with a feeling that the top 2 teams will take the top 2 tackles on the board.  After that, you can honestly make a case for the next 15 players or so being anywhere in that range up and down the next 15 picks.  Add to that the possibility that someone will get antsy and insert a QB or two into the equation and we are at a spot where we must be ready for anything.

And Star Lotulelei represents that exercise.

3 months ago, you would seldom have a draft discussion without this man being in the top 3.  He is a huge specimen that combines strength with a surprising amount of quickness in tight spaces to make him a candidate to be the top DT in the draft.  There is some question where his very best fit might be on the defensive line - as Utah used him in various gaps up and down the line - but at the NFL level, he sure has the look of a classic 1-technique in the 4-3, the DT that shades the center's shoulder and gets in the A-Gap opposite the 3-technique DT.

He can occupy both the center and the guard and while his production is solid with 22.5 Tackles for Loss and 7 sacks as a 2-year starter in the Pac-12.  But, what makes that production very easy to enjoy is the opportunities that exist because he can both occupy multiple blockers on multiple plays, but he can also stand his ground against these double teams and not be moved.  He is both a speed bump and a guy who can get in your backfield for sacks, tackles for loss, and even the occasional blocked kick with his notable penetration skills.  He is a very impressive prospect.

What makes him more appealing to me than Sharrif Floyd and Sheldon Richardson, in particular (the other 2 of the consensus "Top 3 DTs") is that he appears to be both fish and fowl.  He can handle the run game in a dominating way, but can also do just fine as a pass rusher.  In one estimation, he combines the run stuff of Jesse Williams from Alabama (maybe slightly less) and while not possessing quite the interior quickness of Richardson and Floyd, he can certainly beat guys one on one and cause all manner of chaos on pass downs.  His best move right now is the bull rush (what more would you expect from a player built like he is), but there is belief that he can develop beyond that quickly.

As for intangibles, he had a medical scare that turned out to be cleared later which certainly did not help his draft season buzz and did not work out at the Combine because of this.  You never want to hear about a possible heart abnormality, but when the medical experts give him a clean bill of health, then it seems silly for draft nerds to spend much time second guessing that.

He is already married and with 2 daughters and appears to be settled in his private life, so when targeting players that don't generally keep you up worried at night, Star seems rather safe.

Why would he be available at #18?  He likely won't be.  But if he is, there will be whispers of a motor that doesn't always hit the red line each and every day.  I have watched enough of Star to say that doesn't bother me that much because you will be hard-pressed to find any DT who is constantly doubled that doesn't wear down over the course of a game.  Lotulelei can play every snap, I believe, and his motor checks out just fine.

Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test.  Find the DT who wears #92 and watch:

Vs USC (check 5:05)

Vs Arizona

The Case For Dallas Taking Star Lotulelei at #18:  Honestly, if some how Lotulelei doesn't go in the Top 10 picks, I would count it a major upset.  But, even if he does, odds are very high that he would still go before #18 (including the major issue of Pittsburgh at #17).  But, if somehow he is available, I believe I would take him before anyone on the board besides Cooper and Warmack.  And, even in those cases, I could definitely make a case that he could be used as badly as those two guards are.  Like the guards, I would strongly advise getting carried away with trading up and sacrificing additional picks to get him.  But, if he does fall to you, run to the podium.  I cannot think of many better scenarios.

The Case Against Dallas Taking Star Lotulelei at #18:  If I am going to argue so strenuously for him, then clearly I don't have a good case against him.  Again, this team is badly in need of young, physical bullies on the offensive and defensive lines.  If, for some reason, they choose to place a bully on the OL instead of one on the DL, that is acceptable.  But, the DL needs reinforcements in a hurry as DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff are getting up there in age, and Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher are free agents-to-be.  Behind them right now it is a thin group of situational rotation players like Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford.  They could really use a stud.  So, this isn't really a case against him, is it?

I know this is late, but placing Star high on this list is easy, I would list the nine players I have profiled in this order of preference:

1. Chance Warmack - Report Here
2. Jonathan Cooper - Report Here
3. Star Lotulelei
4. Sheldon Richardson - Report Here
5. Sylvester Williams - Report Here
6. Tavon Austin - Report Here
7. Sharrif Floyd - Report Here
8. Kenny Vaccaro - Report Here
9. DJ Fluker - Report Here

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jerry Jones Draft Day Trade Log

Tomorrow, we will endeavor to elaborate about our specific plans and beliefs about the Cowboys 2013 draft plans.  But, today, I wanted to partially answer questions and then fill in the blanks on a particular topic that goes hand in hand with player selections on draft day.  This will be the 20th draft that the Cowboys will participate in since Jimmy Johnson left town before the 1994 draft.  In that time, the Cowboys have certainly taken on a different reputation for their drafting ability and one of those cliches that analysts will use is the idea that "Jerry cannot sit still" on draft day.

He is thought of as an owner who falls in love with a target and then trades up to go get him without worrying too much about the cost.  And, of course, he is thought of as a major downgrade to Jimmy (Johnson's 5 years of drafts compare favorably to almost anyone who ever drafted in any organization so that isn't a stretch).

Anyway, through covering this team, I felt it would be helpful to actually deal in facts rather than what we recall.  If you polled draft experts, many would accuse the Cowboys of trading up all of the time.  Others would say that they actually trade down all of the time.  Obviously, this seems to indicate they certainly enjoy trading.  Up and Down.  In this post, I wish to document the trades they have conducted that take place using picks from the top 3 rounds only.  But that alone will take up quite a bit of space.

Starting with 2012 and working backwards, here are the Cowboys trades involving the traditional "Day 1" picks:

Jason Garrett/Jerry Jones Era

2012:  Traded #14-Michael Brockers and #45-Alshon Jeffery to the St. Louis Rams for 6th overall- Morris Claiborne.  TRADE UP


2011:  No Trades

Summary of Garrett/Jones:  Nothing much to report aside from the trade up to get Claiborne last year.  I am on record quite a bit on this trade up, with the long summary here, but the short version is that I think they could not afford to trade 2 starters for 1 in their current state.  For the most part, these last 2 drafts are basically, "stay home and follow our board".


Wade Phillips/Jerry Jones Era

2010:  Traded #27-Devin McCourty and #90-Taylor Price to the New England Patriots to select Dez Bryant and pick #119.  TRADE UP

Edit: Also, Cowboys trade up to get Sean Lee at #55.  To do so, they send #59-Montario Hardesty and #125-Clay Harbor to Philadelphia. TRADE UP


2009:  Cowboys acquire WR Roy Williams and a 7th from Detroit for #20-Brandon Pettigrew, #82-Derrick Williams, #192-Aaron Brown.      TRADE OUT

Traded away pick #51-Andy Levitre to Buffalo Bills for 75th Robert Brewster and 110th Victor Butler picks.   TRADE DOWN


2008: Traded #28-Lawrence Jackson, #163-Owen Schmitt, #235-Brandon Coutu to Seattle for pick #25 Mike Jenkins.  TRADE UP


2007:  Cowboys trade away #22 (Brady Quinn) to Browns for #36-Kevin Kolb and 2008 first round pick (#22-Felix Jones).  TRADE DOWN

Then, Cowboys Traded #36-Kevin Kolb, #87-Stewart Bradley, #159-C.J. Gaddis to Eagles for #26-Anthony Spencer.  TRADE UP

Summary of Phillips/Jones:  This is where trading up to "get your guy" really got traction.  They went up to get Anthony Spencer and then up to get Mike Jenkins and then up to get Dez Bryant and then to get Sean lee.  In the process that that cost a total of 10 picks to get 3 players and 1 additional (and significantly lesser pick).  If you add to that the 2008 Roy Williams trade that gutted the 2009 draft, they basically spent 13 picks to get 5 players.  And we wonder why this team has so many holes.  

They also had 2 trade downs, including the 2007 trade down to get an extra #1 in 2008 (Felix Jones) and a trade down in 2009 where they picked up quantity but dropped significant quality to do so.  Just stay there and grab Andy Levitre has been said quite a few times since that bad idea of a trade down and settle for Robert Brewster (who never played) in the 3rd Round.


Bill Parcells/Jerry Jones Era

2006:  Cowboys Traded #49-Kellen Clemons to Jets for #53-Anthony Fasano, #189-Drew Coleman, #211-Pat McQuistan.  TRADE DOWN

Cowboys Traded #80-Clint Ingram to Jaguars for #92-Jason Hatcher and #125-Skyler Green).  TRADE DOWN


2005:  No Trades (but the extra pick from 2004 accounted below).


2004:  Cowboys traded away #22-J.P. Losman to Buffalo for #43-Julius Jones, #144-Sean Ryan, 2005 first round pick (#20-Marcus Spears)  TRADE DOWN


2003:  No Trades

Summary of Parcells/Jones:  As you can see, this is a unique period in which draft picks were used poorly, but they were always valued.  The Cowboys only participated in 3 trades in 4 drafts of top 100 picks, but each time they were accumulating bodies and stepping back.  They sent away 3 picks and brought back 8.  This is how a roster is built quickly, if it can be done properly.  Mistakes were made when Parcells ran the war-room, with the Steven Jackson/Julius Jones decision chief amongst them, Bobby Carpenter, and many offensive linemen too (Jacob Rogers, Stephen Peterman), and of course the legendary battle where Parcells wanted Marcus Spears or Shawne Merriman over DeMarcus Ware.  But, overall, the efficiency and conservative nature of his draft day philosophy is in sharp contrast to say, Phillips/Jones.


Dave Campo/Jerry Jones Era

2002:  Cowboys traded #6-Ryan Sims to Kansas City for #8-Roy Williams, #75-Derek Ross, #186-Zuriel Smith.  TRADE DOWN

Cowboys traded up to #63 to take Antonio Bryant and #129 Jamar Martin, sending Chicago #72-Roosevelt Williams,  #104-Alex Brown,  #140-Bobby Gray.  TRADE UP


2001:  Cowboys traded #37-Idrees Bashir to Colts for #52-Chris Chambers and #81-Kenny Smith.  TRADE DOWN

Cowboys trade #52-Chris Chambers to Dolphins for #56-Tony Dixon and #122-Markus Steele.  TRADE DOWN

Cowboys trade for pick #53 Quincy Carter by sending the Saints #70-Sedrick Hodge and #81-Kenny Smith.  TRADE UP


2000:  Dallas traded 2000 first round pick (#19-Shaun Alexander), 2001 first round pick (#7-Andre Carter) to the Seattle for Joey Galloway.  TRADE OUT

They also traded pick #80-Darrell Jackson to Seattle for James McKnight.  TRADE OUT

Summary of Campo/Jones:  Wow.  To see it all on paper again is tough to read.  This is where things really started spiraling out of control as Jerry went "all in" on the Galloway trade.  In fact, he went so crazy that we really forgot about the overpayment for James McKnight with the SAME TEAM!  Then, the targeting and drafting of Quincy Carter and Antonio Bryant in which neither guy was what you hoped he was and then finally a very impressive job trading back in 2002 for 3 picks to just fall back 2 slots to take the guy you truly wanted.  Pretty crazy reviewing these drafts and the gutting of the Galloway trade which set the 2001 trade back initiative into motion.  What is truly nuts is that the Galloway trade did not scare him off the Roy Williams idea in 2008.  


Chan Gailey/Jerry Jones Era:

1999:  No trades


1998:  No Trades

Summary of Gailey/Jones:  about as non-descript an era of the Cowboys history as we can find.  The only notable footnotes of these 2 drafts would be the Randy Moss/Greg Ellis decision which has been discussed pretty thoroughly by now.


Barry Switzer/Jerry Jones Era:

1997:  Cowboys trade with the Eagles to get #22-David LaFleur and send away #25-Jon Harris, #155-Luther Broughton, 1998 third round pick #70-Brian Alford.  TRADE UP

They then trade #54-Kevin Abrams to Lions for #65-Dexter Coakley and #101-Antonio Anderson.  TRADE DOWN


1996: Cowboys trade Washington Pick #30 - Andre Johnson for #37-Kavika Pittman and #67-Clay Shiver.  TRADE DOWN
Cowboys get pick #49-Randall Godfrey from Miami in exchange for #60-Michael Cheever and #99-Phillip Daniels.  TRADE UP


1995:  Cowboys trade Tampa Bay pick #28 - Derrick Brooks for #41-Ronald Davis and #63-Shane Hannah.  TRADE DOWN

Cowboys trade Atlanta pick #41 - Ronald Davis for #46-Sherman Williams and #110-Eric Bjornson.  TRADE DOWN 


1994:  Cowboys trade for pick #23 - Shante Carver from San Francisco (also receive pick #217) for #28-William Floyd and #62-Tyrone Drakeford.  TRADE UP   

Summary of Switzer/Jones Era:  This was certainly a very active era where the Cowboys were constantly doing something in these 4 drafts.  In the end, the trades up and trades back seem to cancel each-other out in number - but don't be fooled. The quantity is out-weighed by the details.  The 1995 passing on Derrick Brooks for what amounts to Sherman Williams, Shane Hannah, and Eric Bjornson seems crazy.  Also, the amount of heaven and earth that was moved to get Troy Aikman his new tight end in David LaFleur should not be under-rated, either.  And in 1994, sending a 1st and 2nd to get Shante Carver is a bit cringe worthy, too.  

Below is a very basic summary of the trades by era.  The Player +/- is simply a quantity count of players in versus players out in these trades.  They, by no means, account for quality of players so it is a flawed discussion for sure.  But, just so you can see the activity by era, here it is:

Head Coach Trades Up Trades Down Trades Out Player +/-
Garrett 1 0 0 -1
Phillips 4 2 1 -5
Parcells 0 3 0 +5
Campo 2 3 2 -1
Gailey 0 0 0 0
Switzer 3 4 0 0
Totals 9 12 3 -1

So, by my count, 25 trades that involve "Top 100" picks over the 19 drafts by Jerry Jones.  If nothing else, you should never leave your television set during draft coverage, because as the cliche tell us, he can't sit still in that war room.  If the Cowboys lack success, it isn't because they are napping.  In fact, quite the opposite might be true.  A nap might be what they need.

I kid.  Sort of.