Friday, April 08, 2016

DMN Mailbag - 4/8 - Trade Down Ideas

Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones talks with Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during the morning walk through at Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California on August 2, 2013. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones talks with Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during the morning walk through at Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California on August 2, 2013. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
Friday! Twenty days until the NFL draft. We have almost made it, America. Let's finish strong. 

Here are some of this week's questions from you the readers -- keep them coming:
Q: What about the draft scenarios for Dallas' NFC East rivals? Who should we be hoping those teams DON'T get their hands on? I'm seeing a lot of Ezekiel Elliott-to-Philly predictions, for starters.
Anytime you watch the draft, it serves two purposes. Setting your team up, and this causes fans to stress out about who the team takes and how they will fit and all of the off-shooting discussions that go with that. And, the other purpose is to monitor what your rivals are doing to make sure you don't have to face a superstar twice a year for the next decade who writes another chapter in the "guys who have destroyed the Cowboys" book from the NFC East enemies.
This year has the added bonus of the Cowboys picking right in front of those rivals (taking last in the division has its privileges!) as the Cowboys pick at #4, the Eagles at #8, the Giants at #10, and because we were all wrong about them, the NFC East champion Redskins will select at #21.  
It seems reasonable to assume that the Eagles could definitely grab Ezekiel Elliott if he is still around for them at that spot.  There are rumors of them trading up.  There are some rumors of them thinking QB.  But, clearly, when you look at the hated Eagles, they could absolutely grab someone that many fans want the Cowboys to take for themselves.  He is at the top of that list.  I still wouldn't go RB at #4 with all the investment in the Cowboys OL, but I see it gets more painful if you pass and now have to deal with him twice a year.  
The Giants surely are thinking that they will go defense at #10.  I assume we should be prepared for the possibility that it could be someone on any of the three levels of the defense - D line is always in play for them (despite spending plenty already), linebacker, or that secondary.  They are an interesting side as a team that has spent $200 million on their defense already and yet still seem to have several real weak spots to fill.
And, finally, the Redskins who seem possibly in that spot in the draft and on their roster where you would comfortably take the best player available.  They have their needs, but it is difficult to project what is available when the clock is on you at #21, so you better be receptive to whoever tops your draft room grading system.  They should be looking defense, as well - you would think - but I am not sure RB is out of the question there, either.  Matt Jones hardly looks like the answer and there is not much at all behind him.  I would expect them to be on a RB pretty early in the draft for sure. 
I have broken down 50 players so far and love many of these incoming prospects.  Every team has a chance to get 2-3 starters from this draft if they play it well and your rivals cannot be stopped if they make a solid pick.  It is just going to happen, so take the player that helps you the most and then get ready for your next pick.  You can't worry about your rivals during the draft.  
Q: Bob, we're at the stage of the draft process when every prospect/possible scenario seems to be getting overanalyzed. That happens every year, I know. But when it comes to the Cowboys and that No. 4 pick, it is possible that there's something/someone we're not talking ENOUGH about? I wonder.
I suppose it depends a bit on who you are reading and where you get your information.  There are a lot of plugged-in analysts out there that know their stuff, but I don't do a mock draft because I think it is hard enough to try to figure out what the Cowboys are going to do, and I live right here and have a fair number of sources and connections.  Even so, it only gets me so far.  But, now, with hundreds of mock drafts online, I am supposed to believe people have all 32 teams figured out?  That is proven ridiculous every year.  It can't be done.  Teams can't even do it, so media types are just guessing.  I would rather rank the prospects based on personal work and then have opinions on who is selected.  But, trying to guess how the Redskins or Jaguars or Falcons will have guys ranked is an exercise in silliness for me.
Now, what is not being talked about enough?  I suppose if you read me, this seems unlikely that you feel I haven't said this enough - but, in other places, I do see nobody is talking QB at pick #4.  They have assumed that everyone has agreed that it simply won't happen.  The Cowboys are just not going to take a QB that high, right?  Right?  
I don't believe that is true.  I do think the Cowboys are prepared to take a QB at #4 if they believe that is the best option.  I believe QB is an option, not an objective.  There is a difference.  They have an open mind and are going through the paces of the process.  They have not ruled anything out, and that is exactly as it should be.  So, is there a possibility not being discussed enough?  Yes. The very real possibility that Carson Wentz or Jared Goff is their plan at #4 is going to really leave some mouths agape and some attitudes sour in D-FW on draft night if that is what the decision ends up being.  
Q:  If the goal is to win now and prolong Tony Romo's career, then why shouldn't the Cowboys call Ezekiel Elliott's name on draft day?
Well, I want to be clear here - there is absolutely nothing wrong with Elliott.  When I wrote up his report a few weeks back, I found his game to be as complete and impressive as I was told by my colleagues.  He is a special player.  
But, my reasoning for avoiding him at #4 is simply the allocation of resources.  I have dedicated the 1st round pick in 2011, 2013, and 2014 to my offensive line for the purposes of having a devastating OL that could protect any QB and help any RB have success.  Now, no team can win with interchangeable QBs, but many teams have won with interchangeable RBs.  If I am going to spend a high 1st round pick on a RB, then it would be with a substandard OL.  But to pay top dollar for my OL (extensions are coming) and then to pay top dollar for a top level RB seems like over-allocating resources to the same portion of my team.  That leaves other spots shorthanded, and I am not prepared to do that.
I like Elliott.  I just don't like him here.  Not only just with so much spent on the OL.  Also, I am aware of most RBs being one-contract guys.  If I pick at #4, I want the guy to be one of my best players in the 2023 season.  Will that happen with a RB?  Odds are very, very low that this would be possible.  I am playing the odds and addressing QB or defense at #4, unless I can trade back, pick up some picks, and take Elliott later.  Which, I doubt happens.  
If you want Romo to win now, get him a better defense.  Or someone who can win a few games if Romo needs to take a month off to mend up again.   
Q: Seems like the Cowboys have made quite the connection with QB Paxton Lynch (or maybe I'm just looking too much into a personal visit from Jason Garrett in Orlando, private workouts, his liking for the staff, etc.), but he's being projected by more and more mock drafts as a mid-first-rounder ... Now, I'm not saying I think/want Dallas to trade down for him specifically, but I'm curious: What kind of package would it take to pique your interest in trading out of the No. 4 spot? And in a fantasy world, would doing so for Lynch be a decent move?
If you look at the point charts, the Cowboys' #4 pick is about the value of the teams who pick around #9-#11 if they were to give you their 1st and 2nd rounders.  For instance, Tampa Bay has #9 and #39.  New York has #10 and #40.  Chicago has #11 and #41.  In all three cases, the relative values of those two picks is about the same as the Cowboys' pick at #4.  So those would be easy swaps that I assume the Cowboys would be very interested in listening to.
Further, Los Angeles at #15 has an extra 2nd rounder and if somehow they would offer #15, #43, and #45, the Cowboys would actually make a small profit (maybe they would send back #101 to even it out) and you would then have 4 picks in the Top 45, which would be amazing.  
If you end up with that, then Paxton Lynch at #15 would be pretty impressive.  You should then be able to go get the best DB, DL, and maybe WR with those 3 picks in the early 2nd and be sitting pretty.  I would have no issues with that.  The trade back with Tampa, New York, or Chicago would be enticing, but not as much of a slam-dunk.  Also, Lynch at #10 might be a bit too pricey, still.  I think Lynch is a very nice prospect.  I just think you can find 15 better players than him.  I don't think you can sell me on there being 5 better players than Jared Goff for the long term.  
Q: What is Will McClay's real job here? I've read a lot about him in the past couple of years, however we all know Jerry's got the last word on draft picks (mainly on the first rounds). Praises are high for McClay and his draft knowledge and although Cowboys have high percentage of good players drafted on the 1st round, those middle rounds continue to lack production. I think that is where good/great drafts are formed, and thats what this team is missing.
Will McClay's real job is running the entire personnel department.  He oversees the player personnel endeavor completely as it pertains to pro personnel and college scouting.  He then assembles as much information as possible with his scouts and brings his information to the Joneses, who continue to act as his boss and owners of the most valuable franchise in the sport.  He gets overruled, but I respect what he has done with this part of the operation and believe that the Cowboys are quite talented and now are rather young and more homegrown than most franchises.  This was not the case when he took over.  The Cowboys were an older roster and had many players with previous stops.  Now, they have young, Dallas-only players who provide a deeper and more talented roster at a lot of spots.  
I know nobody wants to hear that until they see consistent results, but I think Will McClay has been part of getting this thing on the track that most resembles the successful teams out there.
That's all for now. Have a great weekend!

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