Now I get it. It took all three picks on the second day of the 2013 NFL draft, but the plan the Dallas Cowboys had for the first three rounds is clear. And it looks much better than I could have dreamed after the trade back and first round selection of Travis Frederick.
That is a very good thing. No NFL team wants to tip their hand too early, and the Dallas war room certainly played the cards close to the vest right up until they made the selection at 80. This is one of those times when some of Jerry Jones' most aggravating characteristics work out to the team's advantage. He actually told everyone repeatedly what the team was going to do, but because so many listeners distrust and openly dislike him, and because he has an incredible ability to confuse and confound even when he is trying to explain himself, it largely sneaked right by just about everyone.
Speaking of which, I got a call from my daughter shortly before the start of the second round, while I was grabbing some fuel at Taco Bell to get me through the night. She had caught part of the press conference after the first round, and she was dumbfounded by his performance.
"He made no sense!" she exclaimed. "The more he talked, the less sense he made, but he just kept going on and on and it got worse!"
I laughed. "You don't listen to him much, do you? That's how it always goes."
What JJ had said so many times prior to the draft that was the guiding principle for the actions of the team was that the Cowboys were going to become more Tony Romo friendly. And that is exactly what they used the trade back with the San Francisco 49ers and the first three picks to do. They added a big, mean, very smart interior lineman to give Romo more protection and a more potent running attack. They then brought in a tight end who looks like a receiving threat similar to what teams like the New England Patriots are fielding with the position. Next they got a wide receiver who many at times gave a first round grade to, and who certainly has a very nice resume from college. And once they had those tasks taken care of, they threw Monte Kiffin a very tasty bone and filled a big need with a safety.
The way they got there also makes a lot more sense when you look at some other parts of the overall picture. The second round selection of Gavin Escobar was a bit unsettling at first, but if the statements from the team after the third round are accurate, it looks like the team was staying more true to their draft board than we initially gave them credit for.
#Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Dallas' top three picks in the draft were all ranked in the early 20s area on their draft board. All close.— Brandon George (@dmn_george) April 27, 2013
More importantly, his acquisition signals a change in the offensive scheme. The team is looking at more 12 and even 13 sets, which makes him a valuable addition to Jason Witten and James Hanna, as well as a planning ahead for the sad day when Witten is no longer playing. There are some indications that the team will still look for a blocking tight end, with Escobar and Hanna both being more receiving threats, so that the team will not have to carry a fullback. The 13, or three tight end set, is likely to become the short yardage and goal line package. This will allow Escobar, who is 6-6, to use his height in the end zone. Put him in the pattern with Dez Bryant and Williams, both 6-2 and able to climb the ladder, and now Romo has three targets to go up for the ball over defenders. It could be tasty.
Need any more proof about how Romo friendly this team is becoming?
Cowboys asked Romo to review tape of WR Terrance Williams, WR Justin Hunter & TE Gavin Escobar. Williams & Escobar were drafted. #DMNDraft— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) April 27, 2013
Jerry even let drop that Romo plans to become an offensive coordinator after he retires. Head coach Jason Garrett said Romo has never given a bad suggestion.
The Cowboys also made a very successful decision about how to use the two third round picks. They had two targets by the time they got to pick 74, the extra slot acquired in the day one trade. They wanted to get both Williams and safety J.J. Wilcox, but were worried about losing one of them if they didn't get the order right. They pulled the trigger on Williams first, and the move paid off, with Wilcox falling into their hands at 80. Monte Kiffin looked like a kid at Christmas getting his favorite toy on the war room feed when Wilcox came on board.
Even before the third round, the team had made a calculated move in taking Escobar in the second, hoping that they would get players they desired in the third. Things worked out very well.
All the apparent confusion from day one now looks to have been much more calculated than we guessed. It was certainly a risk, but the team decided that the depth of the second and third round quality prospects made it one worth taking. Now, the combination of Frederick and Williams is very likely to be as valuable for the team as any of the players the team passed on in trading back.
I stated in an earlier post that the team needed to get things under control to restore my faith in the front office on day two.
Obviously, I knew just about nothing about what the team was up to. Mission accomplished. Cue the A-Team and light up the cigar.