I’ve watched the Jerry Jones interviews today and there does seem to be a pattern emerging, however sketchy, of how the Dallas Cowboys will approach the draft. We know that the term "smokescreen" is probably used more times this week than at any other time during the year, but Jerry has a hard time flat-out lying. What he usually does is tell you what he’s thinking, but he tries to obfuscate that information by using a lot of double-talk to cover his tracks. Sometimes he just wanders out on a tangent. But generally, you can get an idea of what Jerry’s thinking. So after today’s interviews, here’s what I think I heard.
Scenario 1: Trading Down - Jerry said he already has two opportunities to trade this year’s number one for another team’s number one next year. He also mentioned that they could move out of round one before the draft and then use both #2-picks to jump back in if someone slides. That’s a tricky scenario to execute and one I doubt they could pull off. He then followed that up by saying if they don’t have a first round pick they would miss the opportunity to get a potential starter. He just didn’t sound too happy about trading out of the first round completely.
Scenario 2: Staying Put – If the Cowboys stay at #22, Jerry did give some indications as to the kind of player they want to draft there. He mentioned a few positions that are of interest. He discussed cornerbacks, pressure players, wide receivers and possibly offensive line. He made a point in the second interview of the day about wanting a punt returner. He also made the indication that he wants to draft a possible starter in the first round, an impact player. When he says starter, it sounds like he’s including things like nickel corner and punt returns, even though they aren’t conventionally considered a starter. He also sounds like he’s lumping in guys who could possibly challenge for a starting position in a spot that might be weak or questionable on the Cowboys roster – like free safety or SOLB.
In respect to specific positions, Jerry mentioned that nickel corner is a spot that possibly could be competitive on the roster. His mentioning of the corner position so prominently should be a pretty good clue that they are considering that position carefully. He brought up pressure players on a couple of occasions, talking about guys who are known for getting after the passer. With Greg Ellis’ injury and Bobby Carpenter still trying to prove he can handle the job, a pressure player to compete at SOLB might be on their minds. He made the point that wide receiver would be a hard position for a draft pick to make an immediate impact on the Cowboys roster. He also mentioned the depth at WR in the draft and that you could get value in the 2nd or 3rd round.
Scenario 3: Trading Up - The biggest thing that Jerry brought up in both interviews today is that he’s thinking more than he has in the past about trying to move up in the first round. While we were mostly speculating the Cowboys might move down, Jerry was thinking move up. He placed a few conditions around that which make me think it will be difficult for them to do that, but come draft day they could easily throw out the conditions and make their move. One condition – he wasn’t thrilled about trading away next year’s picks for a move in this year’s draft. Without offering a #1 from next year, putting together a package of picks to move up would cost a lot of picks in this year’s draft. Second, Jerry doesn’t think he will be trading players on draft day, only picks, so that further limits his firepower to move up. Third, Jerry made the point that they probably wouldn’t jump into the top 10, but if someone slides out of there and drops to 12th or that area, they might try to make a move.
I took a look at some high ranked prospects in this year’s draft and how likely it is they might slide. I’m discounting the two QB’s because even if they slid I doubt we would trade up to grab them. There seems to be a consensus that Calvin Johnson, Gaines Adams, Adrian Peterson, and Joe Thomas won’t slide very far. After that, it gets a little dicey; guys like LaRon Landry, Amobi Okoye, Leon Hall, Alan Branch, Jamaal Anderson, Levi Brown, and Adam Carriker all are hanging out just inside or outside the top 10. Perhaps someone from that group may end up in a position where the Cowboys take a shot at trading up and grabbing them. There is also that whole group that comes after that like Reggie Nelson and Patrick Willis. But then he said he would like to "juice up" the offense if he could by trading up, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of talent that would fit the profile on offense that early.
Update [2007-4-23 20:24:24 by Grizz]: Some of you guys made the obvious point in the comments that I should have. Adrian Peterson is the only real choice of a player sliding out of the top offensive players, including the two QB's and CJ, and making Jerry give up a lot to move up. Levi Brown is the only other real choice but I'm not sure he's the "wow-impact" player to juice up the offense. Now, if a guy like Laron Landry slid a few spots, or if Okoye or Branch fall to a point where it wouldn't cost that much to move up, then maybe Jerry would juice up the defense. I also thought of another wild card in the whole "impact offensive player" equation - Ted Ginn, Jr. That guy is all over the board on mock drafts. He certainly could impact the return game and would be a "wow" pick. If he's available in the mid-teens, would Jerry pull the trigger? It doesn't look like he'll slide to #22 anymore, although it's a possibility. [END UPDATE]
Again, I’m guessing that we will try to move up, because on draft day there is almost always a player or two who slide down the board, and Jerry sounds serious about trying to grab an impact, wow-type player this year. But it’s hard to do without giving away too much, so I’m not betting on this scenario, although it sure would be exciting. I think more likely we’ll pick at #22 and try to package up some later round picks to move up into better position in the middle rounds. Just a guess.