After trading away their third-round pick to trade up for Demarcus Lawrence, the Dallas Cowboys left the fans hoping they would knock it out of the park on day three of the NFL Draft.
Instead, they left most fans wondering what was going on with the selection of Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round. Most of us had no idea who he is, although it turns out he was the leading tackler for the Hawkeyes. This was clearly one pick where we have to hope the scouting staff saw something most of the rest of the NFL didn't. Most had Hitchens as a sixth- or seventh-round talent. There was a lot of doubt and outright gloom as we watched player after player we would rather have seen wearing the Star land somewhere else.
Then there was a flurry of activity early in the fifth round. Dallas traded one of its seventh-round picks to move up to the sixth pick of the round and grabbed Pittsburgh wide receiver Devin Street, another one of the tall bodies Jason Garrett seems to prefer in his receiving corps. This was a player many saw as a third- or fourth-round talent, and a wise use of one of the basket full of seventh-round picks. He was likely held back by the shoulder injury he is recovering from.
Then there was the long, long wait through the sixth round, where the Cowboys had no pick, into the seventh, where they still had five to work with. So far, the draft was evenly split between two offensive and two defensive selections, and a lot of people were wondering when the help for the struggling defense would finally arrive.
It came hard and heavy, as Dallas carpet bombed the defense in the seventh, taking in order a defensive end, a linebacker, a safety, a defensive tackle and a cornerback. All, it seemed, were met with some cheers as the Cowboys seemed to have started to find quality players that had slipped to the end of the draft.
First up was Stanford DE Ben Gardner, a player who put up some impressive numbers at his pro day. He also slid because of a torn pectoral muscle, so we all hope that his medicals look good (but if you are going to take a player with an injury history, the seventh round is where you would prefer to do it). It is expected that the Cowboys will try him as a 3 technique DT as well as a DE. (The call to him took a funny if odd turn as Rod Marinelli took the phone and asked him what his major was. "Is it something long, something I won't know how to spell?")
Next was Texas Tech LB Will Smith (the jokes have already started, so try to restrain yourself). He looks to be a player who has a nose for the ball.
Baylor S Ahmad Dixon is one name that has been mentioned a lot here at BTB, and he may be the next Danny McCray for Dallas. He also had one of the most emotional calls from the Cowboys you will ever hear, as he broke down and could not even talk as the sound of his family and friends going nuts broke out behind him.
Northern Illinois DT Ken Bishop and Oregon CB Terrance Mitchell rounded out the seventh. One thing that struck me about all five of the guys taken as "afterthoughts" was how many people had positive things to say about their play. While I am not looking for all of them to become All Pro, I do think it is reasonable to believe that more than one are going to make a valuable contribution to the team.
So in the end, I wound up feeling a whole lot better than when the Cowboys made their initial pick of the day. How do you feel? Did they make you believe in what they are doing, or did it all leave you cold?