NFL Draft 2014: Will The Cowboys Look To Draft A Quarterback?

Jimmy Garoppolo at the Senior Bowl - Stacy Revere

Dallas has not used a draft pick on a quarterback since 2009. Could that change in 2014, and if it does, who might the Cowboys be considering?

Jerry Jones does not like to draft quarterbacks. Perhaps it is due to the illustrious list of quarterbacks that the Cowboys have spent draft picks on since he took over football operations from Tex Schramm in 1989 (from what I can gather, Troy Aikman was in Schramm's last draft):

  • 1989 4th round: Bill Musgrave, Oregon
  • 2001 2nd round: Quincy Carter, Georgia
  • 2009 4th round: Stephen McGee, Texas A&M

Yikes. Without going through the entire NFL draft history for the past (gulp) twenty-three years, I have to guess that may be the most dismally ineffective use of the draft to acquire quarterback talent, period. In Jones' time as owner, he has a Hall of Fame quarterback he inherited, and one UDFA that turned into a legitimate NFL starter in Tony Romo. The rest comprise a list of futility that I will not go into further detail on, because it leads to excessive drinking on my part.

Even from my uneducated viewpoint, this seems a ridiculous way to go about business in the NFL. The starting quarterback still is the most important job to fill for teams. Yet Jones and his staff have not put any draft resources to speak of into finding that key piece. While Romo is a remarkable success story, he also seems to be a once in a generation long shot bet that paid off. The chances of doing that again are minuscule at best.

It seems blatantly obvious that the Cowboys need to start taking steps to not be caught without a replacement for the 33-year-old Romo. If a team like New England, with Tom Brady as the starter, can invest in a player like Ryan Mallett, then Dallas should be able to at least try to find a player in the draft to develop for the future. Jerry Jones does not seem like the kind who would be content with earning the rights to the first pick in the draft. Yet, when asked about drafting a quarterback, he still sounded like a man who does not see much value in doing that.

Jones said the Cowboys have to project when any new quarterback would have a window to start playing.

"When you draft out of that first round, those are four-year contracts and three-year contracts as you go down," Jones said. "So to some degree, you're just drafting one to develop for somebody else."

I don't know what the exact point is there (which, I admit, is a frequent reaction when I am trying to decipher the utterances of the Cowboys' owner and GM), but that seems like a rather short-sighted view, at a time when there are more and more indications, I believe, that the team is starting to look further down the road when it makes personnel decisions.

Fortunately, I also believe that Jerry is not the only voice on draft matters, and in many cases the decisions may lie more in the hands of his son, Stephen. And Stephen sounded a lot more open-minded on the idea of drafting a quarterback (as has already been quoted in a place or two here at BTB):

"You always have to be open to that," Jones said. "Yeah, and whether it's a guy ultimately one day, your future, even if its at some point it enables you to not have a better (more expensive) backup, that saves you money if you're able to get on a guy like that, so we're always open to it."

With Will McClay getting more power (at least that seems to be what is happening despite some other confusing comments from Jerry) and Jason Garrett likely aligning himself with Stephen on draft matters, I think there is hope that the Cowboys will be looking to add a quarterback in this year's draft.

So who might they be looking at?

We can pretty much discount the top four candidates, as currently viewed by most. Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles are pretty much consensus top 10 picks. Johnny Manziel is a lot more of a wildcard, but it is likely that someone is going to fall in love with him and take him somewhere in the first round to become an immediate starter. And Derek Carr, who is more of a late first-round candidate, is still not going to be a target for the Cowboys with their first pick, I believe. Those are all likely day one guys, and Dallas is not going to go for a quarterback in the first round. Even if one of those players fell to them at 16/17, I think they would be looking to trade back, or go with another player, and I think their board will reflect that thinking.

What I think Stephen Jones is talking about is looking for a day two or three quarterback, someone who is not a starter as soon as he sets foot in camp. Someone who can be groomed and developed, perhaps to replace Kyle Orton as the backup when his contract is up after this season. Waiting until 2015 to draft a quarterback is, I think, a bit dangerous. There is no way to know how strong the class is or where Dallas would be picking.

Of course, the Cowboys may not find the right player at the right time, but they should be looking. Here are some possibilities.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois. Otherwise known as KD Drummond's pet cat, Garoppolo had a strong showing at the Shrine Bowl, which led to an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he was seen as one of the top two quarterbacks (Carr being the other). Being from Romo's alma mater seems almost too much a sign. Unfortunately, just like the situation with DT Aaron Donald, he was seen by all the other teams, too. Quarterbacks are the most frequently inflated picks in the draft, and Garoppolo may have priced himself out of Dallas' range.

Brett Smith, Wyoming. A very intriguing player. He is coming out early, so no one saw him at the senior showcases. He comes from a lesser known program, but still played against FBS competition, and set a bunch of school records while doing so. And he is able to run as well as pass, which is the way the NFL seems to be headed.

A.J. McCarron, Alabama. There was a lot of discussion about whether McCarron hurt himself by not showing up for the Senior Bowl, but most projections put him in the middle rounds now, which would be prime hunting grounds for the Cowboys. He is a dropback passer which may be another factor that would make him available for the Cowboys if they chose to buck the current trend to quarterbacks with read-option abilities. The one thing you can't question is his winning history. Biggest drawback: Within seconds of Dallas drafting him, there would be hundreds of rumors that Jerry Jones was using his selection to try and lure Nick Saban to the Cowboys in 2015.

David Fales, San Jose State; Tahj Boyd, Clemson; Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech; Stephen Morris, Miami (Fla.). Four quarterbacks who did not help themselves by showing up at the Senior Bowl, but what the reporters see and what the coaches and scouts see are not always the same. If the issues they had in Mobile are seen as fixable with the right coaching, they may be worth a later round pick. All have had good reputations in the past, with a lot of game video. This is where the scouting department may find a gem who's sparkle was dulled by a bad week of practice.

Zach Mettenberger, LSU; Aaron Murray, Georgia. Two players whose draft prospects took a serious hit due to injuries their senior years (and added weight to the argument in favor of the trend of players declaring early for the draft to continue). Here is where medical evaluation may be more important than scouting.

Those are just the current names that seem to fall in the draft where they might fit the criteria for Dallas to draft them, at least as far as I can tell from what has been said by Jerry and Stephen Jones. Are there any names you consider worthwhile, and what rounds would you consider picking them? Or maybe you have a sleeper to add to the list. Let us know what you think.

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