The Cowboys are having themselves an offseason. When they finished the 2014 season with a 12-4 record, a playoff win versus Detroit, and an unforgettable playoff moment in Green Bay that might have easily gone in another direction, we all wondered how that sort of success might alter their thinking about the big picture. Heck, when they signed Tony Romo to a contract extension during the spring of 2013, we wondered if they realistically could ever sniff a Super Bowl during those twilight years of his career.
But, in witnessing the last week, and then doing a quick inventory of the NFC to compare the relative strength of teams in the mix for even a Super Bowl as soon as 9 months away, it is fair now to believe that the Cowboys have the rest of the conference on watch.
The Byron Jones pick was by the books and solid as a rock. It remains to be seen what sort of player he becomes, but when you talk about grabbing a player who checks all of the boxes at a position that is as important as ever, there could be no serious complaints.
Then, they bought the Randy Gregory lottery ticket. I would have had no problem with Gregory at #27 as previously stated, but to get him at #60 is too amazing to conceive. Now, this player comes with a relative high level of risk, but my stand is pretty clear - I think he is a 10-sack guy soon - and the Cowboys got a player I think was Top 15 without the drug test, Top 25 with it late in Round 2.
But, the "Piece De Resistance" was easily what has gone down in the last 36 hours. Perhaps best documented in my tweet from yesterday when the news was finally confirmed:
David Moore has already given a fine breakdown on how it went down, but now let's digest this crazy and unprecedented story about how the Cowboys were able to get a player that very likely would have been taken in the Top 10-15 if things had gone differently.
First, go back to April 23, the day the Dallas Morning News asked me to break down the offensive line market for the draft and rank the players that I saw at the top of the class. I did it here and after the study time was put in to learn and observe each player closely, I concluded that LSU's La'el Collins was the best in class:
The BestLa’el Collins, LSUHe is a competitive, physical bull-dozer with a mean streak. He is “a finisher” – a guy who is not interested in blocking you for 3 seconds when he can mess with you for 6. He has very strong zone blocking skills in the running game and comfortable in pass protection and gets centered with the edge rushers very well with a kick-step that beats his man to the angle. He will face an adjustment if he is drafted into a passing offense from what he dealt with at LSU. He gets better as a game goes along. Good disposition and good competitiveness.
So, that should tell you what I think of him. If you want more, back in March, I gave him the 200-play treatment and was duly impressed with how he does business. You can read that here. He is a real beast and one of those guys who you know will be doing his thing in the league for a long time.
What is funny about this job of profiling all the players up high is there are generally groups of players who you are doing that have almost no chance to be in the Cowboys plans. I believe Collins was easily in that group. He isn't at a position of need and he is way too good to fall to them. So, profile Collins, but just know he isn't coming here. Doesn't fit and hopefully he won't go in the division.
By the way, let's not undersell that aspect. Washington needed a 1st round offensive linemen so badly that they were willing to ignore Leonard Williams falling into their laps at #5 and took Iowa's Brandon Scherff. New York needed a linemen as well, and hoped to take Scherff, but then grabbed Ereck Flowers at #9. The Eagles also needed OL help and have baffled their media by not taking one last weekend.
The point is that of the four teams in the division, Dallas least needed to address the offensive line and yet they arguably left the offseason with the best prospect of them all.
The details of how they got Collins are too absurd to believe. In fact, if the enemy fan bases haven't come up with a Jerry Jones conspiracy on how he pulled this Jones-Gregory-Collins trifecta, expect them soon enough. Because in the NFL, you do not get a Top 1st round talent for free within one week of the draft. It simply does not happen. Yet, here are the Cowboys pulling it off after their most successful season in two decades.
Again, it is hard to put into words. If someone would have suggested even 10 days ago that the Cowboys would come out of this draft with Byron Jones, Randy Gregory, and La'el Collins and not have to make a trade to do it, they would have been advised to seek medical attention. It is simply impossible to even conceive that plan, let alone to actually pull it off.
This is where it is important for someone like me to admit that what has been most troubling about the last decade of Jerry Jones' football actually played in their favor. This was one of my answers from yesterday's DMN chat:
I have been critical of the Cowboys glitz and glamour over the years and the idea that there is more style than substance under Jerry Jones. The stadium seems over the top and not built for the atmosphere, but rather to entertain the wealthy it seems. BUT, I do want to say, if it wasn’t for the glitz and glamour and the Jerry Jones way, there is no way they get Collins. He could pick anywhere and he chose Dallas for the reason that Jerry convinced him that this is the main stage of the NFL and that if he comes here it is the best decision he could make. They are the Lakers or the Yankees of their sport in terms of kids his age being intoxicated by putting the jersey on. That has value in a case like this and I must admit that for this particular situation, the Cowboys glitz paid a huge dividend.
Now, many have said it is because Jerry can relate to a player and pitch them so well, but I bet Rex Ryan can turn on that charm as well. I suggest to you that players want to feel like they are going somewhere relevant and special. Jerry has made them the team that gets the TV ratings, gets the hot takes, and gets the eyeballs (rooting for or against them) and any conclusions from this other than the idea that Jerry Jones is primarily responsible for this amazing coup is missing the boat.
This one is all Jerry. And that conclusion is coming from someone who has not spent too many blog entries complimenting Jerry Jones. My general view is that the more he allows those around him (Will McClay, Stephen, Jason Garrett) to decide, the better (meaning, the less actual football evaluations and decisions he does himself, also, the better). But, nobody has ever questioned his ability to charm. He had one chance to close this deal and he wasn't going to let it get away. He has always had this skill, but the Cowboys haven't been able to use it much in 20 years because of the habitual cap jail and the fact that general poor decision-making has put them in a spot where they are seldom in a spot to need a closer.
But 2015 is off to an oddly "back to the future" start. So, is this it for the fireworks? Is there another big move ahead? You know the move we are speaking of. Is it coming?
I did not endorse the trading of a 2016 1st rounder to Minnesota for you-know-who all spring. But, now, after finding La'el Collins for the league-minimum money and no draft pick allocation at all, I have come around on the idea that you can feel better about that idea. They injected enough blue-chip talent on the roster that trading for a 30-year old RB does not seem to be that bad of an idea.
On the other hand, is the offensive line so good moving forward that we are ready to run the experiment of what would a replacement-level RB do behind this massive and high quality offensive line?
I have a feeling we won't fully know the answer until Mid-August where either Peterson is settled back in with the Vikings or when his divorce has been finalized with that franchise.
But, either way, the Cowboys appear to presently have a group of decision makers that you can have confidence in again. The decisions make sense, the opportunities are pounced upon, and they are definitely in the zone.
I can't believe they pulled this off. It is a remarkable and impressive way to continue the 2014 momentum. Now, we wonder where it ultimately leads.