In the third round of the NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys changed course a good bit. After scoring an immediate impact cornerback in Byron Jones and the steal so far of the entire draft in pass rusher Randy Gregory, they returned to the place that has paid so many dividends for them in the past four years. They selected offensive tackle Chaz Green from Florida.
This was the first time this draft that the Cowboys did something unexpected. With Jay Ajayi and several good defensive tackles still available, they went away from the perceived top three positions of need and went for a second-tier position. After the loss of Jermey Parnell in free agency, they needed a swing tackle. In Green, they get a player that has already been talked about by offensive line coach Frank Pollack as also being able to play guard. Given that the offensive line is the engine driving the success of last season, and the obvious value Dallas has been putting on getting the right players there, this is actually more in line with their strategy than it might appear at first blush. It further reinforces the thought that the team believes that the blocking is the real key to the successful running game, since they have put the chance to get a running back off again. And they may forego that completely.
I believe that I've been trying to prepare y'all for the possibility that the Cowboys would be comfortable not drafting a RB...— rabblerousr (@rabblerousr) May 2, 2015
There is certainly an argument to be made that Dallas made a bit of a reach here. Green was seen as a fourth-round pick at best in the various rankings, and was as low as a 7th round/UDFA in places. But on Twitter, reputable draftnik Dane Brugler chalked that up to his injury history, and said he would have been a likely second-rounder if healthy.
That is certainly a risk to be considered, but this is one of those times we have to put a little faith in the scouting staff at Valley Ranch. It is clear that they think he is going to be able to put his injury problems behind him to invest a third-round pick in him.
As was also noted by rabblerousr, there was a run on offensive tackles, which may have pressured the team to take him earlier than most (or all) projections. There are certainly a lot of other picks in the draft so far that represent as much of a reach as this, which is really a reflection that teams see players very differently from one another. He is just an example of one player where the Cowboys think they have something that others might have missed.
Hopefully he is something of a mix between Travis Frederick and Anthony Hithchens. Like Frederick, he will look to most to have been overdrafted. Like Hitchens, many don't know who he is. But the Cowboys scored hits with both of those earlier picks. And for those who were paying attention to the visits to Valley Ranch, his name was there. All three of the draft picks so far were invited in by the Cowboys, according to reports. The visits and personal interviews away from headquarters may be even more important to the team than we thought.
As Dave Halprin has covered on his posts tracking the picks, this checks off another of the identified team needs. And the Cowboys have needed to upgrade depth for a while. The starting offensive line was outstanding, but very thin. This may have been a bit overpriced as a selection, but it does address one issue. Now the team goes into the last day of the draft, and the pool of players is far from exhausted. Ajayi and David Cobb, just to name two, are still out there as running backs. They also can look for a wide receiver/returner, a linebacker, a defensive tackle, or double up on a position. And Bryce Petty is still hanging around as well. (By the way, if the Cowboys should take him, don't look for me in that comment thread. I ain't going there.)
In the first two rounds, the Cowboys clearly got excellent, even outstanding value. To thoroughly mix my sports metaphors, Dallas hit a triple (at least) with Byron Jones, and in terms of talent, blasted a grand slam with Randy Gregory. In the third, they have gone small ball, and are looking to scratch out a bunt single with Green.
As long as they make it safely on base, there is nothing wrong with that. You can't swing for the fences every time.