How Do You Like The Cowboys' First Pick?
The Cowboys went with a player that is not one that generates a lot of buzz, but that could turn out to be a very, very smart move.
And one of the reasons for that is that the Cowboys had targeted four players for their No. 16 heading into the draft: defensive end Anthony Barr, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, outside linebacker Ryan Shazier and offensive lineman Zack Martin. "All of those guys were right there with the same grade," Jones said yesterday evening, referring to the four players. The trio of Barr, Donald and Martin had been widely tipped in draft circles as the Cowboys' top targets, while Shazier had been seen as the lead option in a trade-down scenario, so his inclusion in this group is a mild surprise.
While there was hope that either Barr or Donald would drop all the way to No. 16, the Cowboys probably understood that the chances of that happening were slim at best. Barr went off the board early to Minnesota at No. 9. Many Cowboys fans were holding their breath for Donald to fall to No. 16 after Donald fell past Minnesota at No. 8 and the Giants at No. 12, but he was picked at No. 13 by Saint Louis, who had been heavily linked to a safety in the lead-up to the draft.
When Chicago at No. 14 picked Kyle Fuller, the Cowboys were assured of landing at least one of their top-rated targets, and their choice was made when the Steelers picked Ryan Shazier at No. 15, leaving Zack Martin at the top of the Cowboys' draft board.
According to Jerry Jones, the Cowboys did field trade offers while they were preparing to hand in their pick, working the phones until the last minute of their allotted time. And while there seem to have been at least some firm offers on the table for a trade-down, the team that the better option was selecting Martin versus what the potential trade partners were offering.
Contrary to what many wanted to believe, the Cowboys had no intention of picking up Johnny Manziel. "Frankly (drafting Manziel) was never even a thought," Jerry recounted at the post-draft press conference, though the absence of a strong demand for the much-hyped QB did surprise the Cowboys:
"I was even more surprised that the fact that he was there didn’t bring on a bonanza of offers that would have given us, maybe, more options," Jones said Thursday night after the Cowboys took Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin. "What I was also surprised by was we had the option to take Martin."
In Martin, the Cowboys have added their third first-round offensive lineman in four years, and there are now legitimate hopes in Dallas that the Cowboys are recreating the type of dominant offensive line that were so pivotal to their success in years past.
"We believe that the game of football is won up front. You need to build the infrastructure of your team," Garrett said, echoing the battle cries of many Cowboys fans over the years who've identified the offensive line as one the team's key weaknesses over the last few years.
In preparation for the draft, the Cowboys had employed "pod groups" to fine-tune their pre-draft evaluations of players. For each position group, the team's position coach, national scout, area scout and positional scout would meet to work through how they thought the players at that position group should be ordered on the Cowboys draft board. National Scout Walter Juliff was part of the pod group for offensive linemen, and he was the first guy on the war room cam to visibly react to the selection, fist-pumping enthusiastically in the background. This time, the scouts got their pick.
Zack Martin may not be the sexy pick that a lot of pundits were hoping for or expecting from the Cowboys. But it is a good pick nevertheless. The Cowboys stayed true to the process and picked the best player on their board. Martin will be an immediate starter and an immediate upgrade at guard in 2014, and could move to right tackle in 2015, when Doug Free's contract expires. The Cowboys employ a zone blocking scheme, Martin played in such a scheme in his four years at Notre Dame.
After the Cowboys selected Travis Frederick last year, Tony Romo called Jerry Jones and said, "Thank you for my extra half second," Jones recounted at last year's press conference. Martin further beefs up the protection for Romo and also creates more options in the running game. Perhaps this year DeMarco Murray will put in a call to Jerry Jones, thanking him for that extra running lane.
The one call we do know that took place is when the Cowboys called Martin last night, informing him that he would be a Dallas Cowboy. Here's an excerpt.
Martin: Hey, Coach!
Garrett: Congratulations, man.
Martin: Thank you so much.
Garrett: It's great to have you.
Martin: I'm so excited
Garrett: Well, you're the kind of football player, and kind of young man we want on our team. So get ready to go to work.
Martin: I can't wait. Can't wait.