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April 22nd was the date that the Dallas Cowboys selected Dez Bryant with the 24th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. But you have to look back at April 2nd as the date that the Cowboys draft drama started to unfold. On that day, Dallas said goodbye to a very old friend in left tackle Flozell Adams, while simultaneously releasing another starter in safety Ken Hamlin. It wasn't like the offensive line (including tackle) wasn't already one priority for the draft - ditto safety - but they were among a few speculative positions of need for the 2010 edition of the Dallas Cowboys. After Adams and Hamlin departed, OT and FS crashed the top of the charts and firmly entrenched themselves as the odds-on favorite for the Cowboys first round pick. Public perception, and the Cowboys fanbase to a large extent, became fixated. You dump two starters this close to the draft, surely you pick up a replacement early in the draft.
If our own reader-inspired detective work revealing the Cowboys draft board is accurate, then Dallas had four players ranked ahead of Dez Bryant on their board that were tackles or safeties. Russell Okung, Trent Williams, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas. Yeah, Dallas would have loved to see on of those four slide down to where they were in the draft, but that wasn't going to happen, even with the draft's unpredictable nature in play. Also ranked highly for Dallas was guard Mike Iupati. He was a possibility for the offensive line renovation project, but he was also gone when the time arrived. None of those players had been saddled with the ‘Character Issue' red flag. But once the picks reached the 20s, the Cowboys war room had to be exploding with nervous energy. There, within range, was a guy they had rated in the top half of the first round. They knew what they had to do, leap-frog the WR-hungry Ravens and get their man.
Here's where things get interesting for the Cowboys draft, if you play the ‘what if' game. Imagine now that Dez Bryant had gone off the board in the early 20s, that Jerry Jones and Co. was not able to secure a draft partner in order to grab Dez? Imagine the draft unfolded as it did, except the Ravens took Bryant. Well, if we go back to the excellent detective work done by Requiem and JBell523, we're left with one undeniable conclusion. The next highest rated player on the Cowboys board was linebacker Sean Lee. A guy we ended up getting with pick #55. Dallas could have traded down, but for the purpose of this exercise, we'll suppose they couldn't find a trade partner willing to move up at the right price.
Imagine our reaction on April 22nd when the commissioner read out: "With the 27th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select linebacker Sean Lee from Penn State." If you're being honest, your reaction would have involved a broken TV and possibly some of the best profanity-laced tirades you ever unleashed. Quentin Tarantino would be taking notes for his next movie.
As much as I'm warming to Sean Lee, everything I've read and heard makes his selection at #55 seem well worth it, there is no way I would be happy with him going at #27. I don't think many other people would be either, and the Cowboys would be getting hammered in the press for reaching and possibly blowing another draft. The vitriol released would have been equivalent to the ash spewed by that volcano in Iceland. The Dallas brain-trust could protest that they had Lee rated that high so they had to take him. The likely response would have been you had him rated too high.
One player falls, the Cowboys make a trade, and you end up with a steal in the first round and a draft that is praised by many. If one player doesn't fall, or you can't make the trade-up to get him...AND you stick by your board as it's perceived to be?
I wonder what our conversations would be like today if that had happened.