You weren't listening, were you?
Don't feel bad, I didn't pay it enough attention either, even after getting stoked the first time it was discussed.
The Dallas Cowboys traded up from the 14th slot in the first round of the NFL Draft, all the way to pick six to select a player they hope is destined for numerous career pick sixes. LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne was considered one of the five or six blue-chip prospects in the 2012 draft, and Jerry Jones reached out, spent a little change and brought him into the fold. They departed from their recent trend, as Claiborne wasn't brought into Valley Ranch for a visit. This probably was to try and keep teams off their scent. Dallas brought in nine cornerbacks for visits, including Claiborne's teammate Ron Brooks.
Watch my right hand while I pick your pocket with my left.
The cost of the move? A very expensive second-round pick. If you're a fan that didn't have cornerback high on your list of needs, that is a very steep price to pay for the move up. However, if you've been listening to the Cowboys brass and looking in between the smoke signals; you'd know how important Dallas thought this match was for them.
What did Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan tell us at the beginning of the offseason? His front seven was fine, all he was concerned with was defensive backs. Rob Ryan is a man of his word. All of that discussion of Fletcher Cox and concern over Michael Brockers was wasted energy because the top of the draft worked out as if Jerry Jones was pulling the puppet strings on his competing GMs.
What did Jerry Jones tell us? He wasn't all that concerned with the guard position; if anything he wanted to focus on the center position on the offensive line's interior. You don't make that improvement with pick 14 in the first round. Sorry DeCastro fans, but he told you. Even in his pre-draft interview with the NFL Network, Jerry hinted that he would be looking at the secondary.
We could be... looking at how to get the ball back. That means defensive players. How to get them outta there on third down, so we can get Romo back on the field...
First of all, we all want to put pressure on the offense, put pressure on the quarterback. But that pressure, really most of the time manifests itself getting to make some plays in the secondary. Not necessarily a sack. We use the term pressures are just as important but you got to be able to make the plays in the secondary. We haven't been able to do that the last 2 or 3 years, we've gotta address that and tonight might give us the chance to do it.
-Jerry Jones to NFLN Crew
Heck, a month ago there were leaks that Dallas had floated trade offers to both Cleveland and St. Louis in order to move up for Claiborne and that they weren't immediately dismissed. Still, we allowed the smoke to cloud our trains of thoughts recently.
So now that we know we missed the tea leaves, where does this leave the Cowboys? Follow the jump to find out.
Dallas now has an abundance of riches in what could have been considered it's weakest position last season. Gone are the days of relying on corners-turned-safeties-returned-to-corners to cover receivers. Gone are the Frank Walkers of the world. The Cowboys now have a cornerback depth chart of Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick; at least for one season. The pick gives them the ultimate flexibility in dealing with Jenkins who is in the last year of his contract and will be looking for his piece of the pie.
Claiborne clocked a 4.39 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, and you've all seen his highlight reel of great interceptions and breaks on the ball. He's a great return man, much like his former teammate Patrick Peterson, who won the Jim Thorpe award last year as Claiborne did this year as the best defensive back in college football. In fact, Peterson is the one that suggested he move from wideout to corner as a freshman. He also is a great return man like Peterson who happened to tie the NFL record with four kick returns for touchdowns last season.
Claiborne's style will allow Rob Ryan to play press coverage at a much higher rate than he could when Terence Newman was manning the corner. He is physical despite being under six feet. To temper the enthusiasm, although he has incredible leaping ability and timing, do not expect him to match up with the bigger receivers in the league. That will be on Brandon Carr who currently has 20 pounds on Claiborne.
With Dallas going high-end at the cornerback position; they quite possibly could be done there although you can never be sure with this front office. The loss of the second rounder definitely damages future plans, but Dallas still has a third and two fourth-round picks to work their magic. In all honesty, the bulk of the "equivalent" talent was said to be between picks 20 and 50 and Dallas is no longer in that range; at least for the moment. A trade up is always a possibility should a target catch their eye.
Of the players that Dallas brought into The Ranch for visits, here are those projected for the third round.
- Guard's Jeff Allen and Josh LeRibeus
- OLB's Ronnell Lewis and Keenan Robinson
- WR Ryan Broyles
- RB Cyrus Gray
Of course, Dallas obviously isn't married to the visit tracker, are they? Fans have the right to be a bit apprehensive based on the performance of Phil Costa at center last year and the fact that hasn't been addressed yet. On offense, Dallas might rely on what they have in-house for the interior of the offensive line. David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski, Bill Nagy might all have the chance to replace Costa.
They might look to augment their skill positions (RB, WR, TE) as there are snaps available for each position. On defense, a long-term answer at free safety remains elusive (Brodney Pool) and outside backer opposite DeMarcus Ware shares the same one-year band-aid (Anthony Spencer). In reality though, now that Dallas has four starting caliber cornerbacks, everything remaining is truly about depth and upgrading. There isn't a position on the team that doesn't at least have NFL-caliber talent.
While it doesn't promise a single thing for the 2012 season, it certainly is a great place to start.
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