Friday, April 29, 2016

The Morning After - Day 1 At The Draft

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #4 overall by the Dallas Cowboys during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Jon Durr/Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28: (L-R) Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #4 overall by the Dallas Cowboys during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
The Cowboys had a choice to make this weekend and they made it without hesitation. There is no indication that it had unanimous consent from the decision-makers, but that doesn't matter. The choice came down to continuing to double-down on the Tony Romo era and to take every resource and dedicate it to the "here and now" -- or not.  

If you enjoyed those three Super Bowls of the 1990s (and I hope you did), then you understand life with Jerry Jones. He is not going to be interested in safe plays or conservative plans to build an empire that will last for a decade when the more attractive choice gives a lottery ticket to the next Super Bowl. He has spoken recently about "his window," which is profoundly more meaningful than hearing about a career span. He is talking about his own life. I imagine if you have all of the money in the world and everything that can buy, you quickly realize that money cannot buy time. And when time runs out, either you feel like you took advantage of every day you had or you didn't.
That last paragraph is certainly an odd inclusion in a draft summary, but it might explain decision-making for this organization. You see, there comes a point in any person's life when they stop worrying about saving for retirement and start enjoying their money because the clock is ticking.  
I would say the Cowboys have been in this phase of life for a while under their famous owner, but the 2016 draft decision makes it crystal clear.
"If this gets you a Super Bowl, isn't it worth it?"
The drafting of Ezekiel Elliott is for the "here and now." The Cowboys wanted the best running back in the draft and they got him -- read my full breakdown of the young man here. People are actually using the term "Triplets" again, even though in this case, the premise of the QB-RB-WR being born at the same time is replaced with the idea that the quarterback is almost old enough to be the running back's dad.
Elliott will give them a superb talent at a position that needed upgrading, and that should be celebrated. He should make an above-average offense a candidate to be one of the best offenses in the sport. There is nothing wrong with adding a potential blue-chipper. Well, except for the following:
-- If you do it, you are ignoring Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey, according to some reports, was the best player on the Cowboys' board and would have been a blue-chip addition as well. But, this guy could have anchored the defense, and if his career actually is similar to Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, or Charles Woodson's, it is safe to say that it would have been that way for a decade or more. And we could argue that was needed in a much more severe way than fixing a running back situation that wasn't broken.  
-- If you do it, you are risking an over-investment at a position that doesn't require it. I have suggested all along that the Cowboys should take a running back with either their second or third round pick, because it has been my claim that there are three to four prospects beyond Elliott who should be able to be dominant behind this Cowboys offensive line and with their offensive personnel. If you take one of those after you have tried to put one or two difference makers on a defense that lacks those studs, then you try to attack your offseason with a more global view of a game that requires "all three phases." Instead, they continue to invest in offense, offense, offense and hope their offense is so great they actually never play defense (I assume). Look at it this way: They paid almost nothing for Darren McFadden last year ... then took away Tony Romo ...  then Dez Bryant ... then McFadden was not given the ball 11-plus times in a game until mid-October. Without being able to run zone plays with any effectiveness and only starting 10 games with no quarterback threat, he still finished fourth in the league in rushing. Odds are, if he started all 16, he might have won a rushing title. And they paid nothing for him. Does it make sense to pay a fortune to fix that? What needed fixing that couldn't have been accomplished for far less? In other words, Elliott is great, but you just bought a Maserati while living with your parents. It is a very nice car. But, perhaps we should move out of dad's house. The argument for a second- or third-round running back was always this: Why not get 80 percent of Ezekiel Elliott for 30 percent of the cost. In the third round, according to the point chart, pick No. 67 is about 14 percent of pick No. 4. Sigh. Keep in mind the total cost of Elliott is going to be about five years/$36 million if they pick up his option (which they better) -- in other words, way more than 24-year-old Lamar Miller got from Houston in free agency. So, yeah, he better be Adrian Peterson for this to make sense.
But, they did it. They are going for it. And they got a fine player. I just thought their quest for efficiency was incredibly inefficient. With a 53-man roster in a tight salary capped league, frivolous purchases seldom pay off. Which leads us back to this:
"If this gets you a Super Bowl, isn't it worth it?"
Well, yes. This is true. Although, we will always wonder if Derrick Henry or Devontae Booker or Kenneth Dixon, combined with Jalen Ramsey, might have put you as close or closer to that ultimate prize. But, those will now become bar-room discussions and labeled "unresolvable," just like the discussions about whether DeMarco Murray's exit really crashed everything or whether it's an easy conclusion to draw that likely is not the truth. How about the idea that if they took Jay Ajayi in last year's third or fourth round (with his knee concerns) -- instead of Chaz Green or Damien Wilson -- then, like Miami, they have their future running back and aren't thinking running back at all in this draft? Unfortunately, ifs and buts are not candy and nuts. Otherwise, it would be Christmas every day.
The pick has been made and the Cowboys have an elite talent. This fish has a really fancy bicycle. Let's hope it is everything it is dreamed to be.
Now, what about this other development from last night?
The Cowboys tried to trade back into Round 1 with their second- and third-round picks to get Paxton Lynch after taking Elliot. Think about that for a second. As if this really was fantasy football, they were thinking of using all three of their premium picks -- that should have presented their defense the facelift it so badly needs -- on a running back and a quarterback.  
Instead, Seattle took Denver's offer for the Memphis quarterback. Denver offered Nos. 31 and 124 to the Seahawks (724 points according to one point-value chart) while the Cowboys offered Nos. 34 and 67 (815 points). The Seahawks took fewer points to stay in Round 1 and enjoy that fifth-year option on their eventual pick -- Texas A&M offensive tackle Germain Ifedi. Interesting decision and even more interesting that the Cowboys were willing to ignore defense completely in the impact portion of this draft. I have been preaching the Quarterback of the Future sermon, but I was only in on that if they went defense at the top.
I heard from many of you who stated the belief that the Cowboys' best bet to help Romo and gang make a run before it's too late was defense, defense and defense in this draft.Well, the Cowboys clearly disagree. I would have been excited to leave with Paxton Lynch, but very similarly to Elliott, at some point we have to consider the cost. The cost to do either would have been a top-shelf commitment. To do both? Off the charts.
But, that one didn't happen. Perhaps Seattle saved the Cowboys from themselves. Or, it just delayed the quarterback play for today. But, I am far less inclined to get aggressive for the remaining quarterbacks in this crop.
Here's who's available for them at No. 34 from a defensive perspective:
Plenty of defensive end help with Kevin Dodd from Clemson at the top of my list and Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State in that range, too. Noah Spence is a better player than both, but the Cowboys don't love his work against the run and his issues off the field (which are considerable). Ronald Blair is really strong, too.
At linebacker, Myles Jack sits there (as does Jaylon Smith). I didn't like either up top, but there will come a point where both must be considered despite major health issues. They both are amazing football players. And I am told the Cowboys are not considering either for No. 34.  
Defensive tackle is so deep the Cowboys may even still find some red meat at No. 67. A'Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Andrew Billings all are first-round caliber. But, the group behind is quite impressive, too. Jonathan Bullard is a consideration as well.
Plenty of defensive backs are there, too -- at both picks. You can't rule out Mackensie Alexander or Vonn Bell in Round 2, or Xavien Howard and plenty of others at No. 67.
The point is: This is a pretty strong draft for the next 36 picks, and the Cowboys will select twice in that span. Full analysis and feelings about Round 1 will be very dependent on what Dallas is able to do in Rounds 2-3 today. And because of those decisions from yesterday, they really need to hit one out of the ballpark at about 6:15 p.m. tonight with No. 34.
Stay tuned.

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