For some there were hopes, yet for others, fears. With Johnny Manziel still available as the draft wound its way closer to the Dallas Cowboys, would this become the beginning of the Jerry and Johnny Show in Dallas?Anticipation built and by the time that the Cowboys were slated to pick, it seemed that Dallas was allotted three times the window to choose a player and that they were intent on using it all. Add in the drama of Stephen Jones slamming the phone down, and it was high suspense at its best.
In the end it was, in a way, anticlimactic as the Cowboys went the conservative route and selected Notre Dame OT/OG Zack Martin, the third offensive lineman they have selected in the opening stanza of the draft over the last four years.
As I did last year, I intend to to look at each player that the team selects to determine both the tactical and strategic reasons behind each choice. For the sake of this discussion we will use the word strategic to refer to the long-term impact of the player on the team throughout his tenure and his ability to help lead the squad to sustainable success. Tactical will apply to the short-term intent behind why the Cowboys made the choice that they did; in effect, it will mean "What can he do for us right now?" Naturally as we wind to the later rounds, there will be less and less of a short-term impact, and more of a hope for long-term benefits.
Now lets take a look at the Dallas Cowboys 2014 first round selection.
6'4" 309 pounds
During the 2014 Senior Bowl, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made the statement that he did not foresee the team spending another first round selection on an offensive linemen.
"I gladly used those two. I don’t know that I’ve got confidence in using any more. This is an either-or proposition, and if you use your resources one place, you don’t have them to go another place." - Jerry Jones
On Thursday night, in spite of that statement, Jerry and Company once again invested in rebuilding the Great Wall of Dallas when they chose Zack Martin. That brings forth the question, "Why the shift in philosophy?"
Strategic: At 23-years-old, it would seem likely that Martin, who has proven himself to be a durable piece along the offensive front for the Fightin' Irish, is expected to be the type of player that Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack can plug into the starting line up and forget about for the next decade or more. He is a player in the mold of Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, whom Dallas has also recently taken as their first-round picks, a guy who is going to do his job and do it well with little fanfare other than perhaps being voted to Pro Bowls by his peers at the end of the season. Perhaps the final building block to be added to what is hoped to be the "Great Wall II", the choice of Zack Martin is already being lauded by his teammates up front as a great addition that will make what was a solid unit even better for years to come.
Dallas Cowboys LT Tyron Smith on first-round draft pick Notre Dame OL Zack Martin: "He'll be a great addition." http://t.co/ZojEsNyhH3— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 9, 2014
Tactical: Of course, first-round selections are not only taken for what they can do for a team in the future, they are expected to hit the ground running and make the team better from the moment they first lace up the cleats. Martin will do that for the Cowboys. Although most project him as a guard in the National Football League; Zack brings positional flexibility that Jason Garrett likes. He could come in and earn a starting slot at any position along the offensive line.
Mike Mayock: Zack Martin is ranked 4th among OTs. Calls him the only player that could start and play at a high level at all 5 line spots.— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 1, 2014
For Dallas, where we can safely assume that both Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick are firmly entrenched at their positions, it means that they now have a guy who can step in where he is needed the most and hold his own in 2014. For his new teammates Ron Leary, Mackenzy Bernadeau, and Doug Free; the selection of Zack Martin means that it is put up or shut up time. The new guy is coming in with an eye on taking away a slot. The Dallas offensive line will be stronger when the Cowboys take the field to open the season against the San Francisco 49ers than they were when they walked off of it against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 29th. For a team that, until last season, had struggled mightily along the offensive front, that in and of itself is a success story.