Did the Dallas Cowboys have a good draft or did they really mess up? We won't really know for at least a few years, of course, but that does not slow down all the instant analysis for a second. It was certainly a dramatic draft, with surprises from the first to the last pick. And the attention paid to the dynamics of the war room at Valley Ranch are just the latest evidence of the fascination people have with all things Cowboys.
Peter King does a long write-up of the action for the Cowboys' staff. Although he probably places too much emphasis on Jerry Jones' role in what is a collaborative approach to the draft, it is still a fascinating glimpse into the heart of the war room as well as a lot about the way Jones thinks.
"I've had my finest hours in business going against the grain," he said. "In the oil business, I'm drilling between dry holes trying to make a strike, and everybody around us is laying off geologists. Business is bad. I jump in. Why? The opportunity's good. Buying the Cowboys when I did? Bad business—they were down. Again, opportunity. This decision, this draft, is a little bit contrary, but it's in step with how I think."
That's because Jones and the Cowboys have decided that Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is their top target.
While King focused his piece on Jerry Jones, Brandon George makes an observation that reflects what a lot of other careful watchers of the Cowboys agree with.
I think it's pretty clear that Stephen Jones has more say than anyone in that draft room right now. He's the guy, first of all, working the phones, working the trades. He's the guy who's really making the moves here. I understand it still comes down to Jerry Jones, he's going to have the final say as long as he's still breathing. But I think Stephen has a lot more influence now than he's ever had in that war room. And another guy, Will McClay, has really brought his influence to the war room. As far as the pre-draft process, he's been huge for the Cowboys making these drafts a lot more successful than they had been in the last five or six years.
Sturm is on record as not being the biggest fan of taking a running back with the fourth pick, but overall, he comes up with a very reasonable take on the overall draft class - and the fact that we won't really know until it plays out.
But, clearly, this whole thing hinges on Jaylon Smith. He could be their best defensive player for the next decade if he is right. But, the floor is that he never is right again. That is a pretty big range of outcomes, and therefore, if you want to feel good about what they did, assure your buddies Jaylon is going to be fine. And, if you want to feel like Jerry is still a wildcatter who gambles the farm because the action is fun, then you can cringe about the worst-case scenarios.
Rick Gosselin has been grumbling a lot about the draft, but in this article he makes some good points about the mid-round selections, particularly Charles Tapper and Dak Prescott.
Frankly, I thought the fourth round was the best round for the Cowboys in this draft.
But that's asking a lot of those two players. The last time the Cowboys found an impact player in the fourth round was 2007 when they drafted offensive tackle Doug Free. That was nine drafts ago. And it's been four drafts since any NFL team found a Pro Bowler in the fifth round, that being cornerback Josh Norman by the Carolina Panthers in 2012.
Yet the Cowboys need Tapper to have an immediate impact and Prescott to have a future impact.
If this seemed to be an odd or different kind of draft for Dallas, you are right.
However, with the 2016 NFL Draft now in the books, it might go down as one of the more unique three-day events the Cowboys have had since Jerry Jones bought this franchise in 1989.
Now that the draft is in the books, it is time to figure out how to best use the new players. In recent years, the Cowboys have done well with first rounders, but not so much in the next few rounds. That may change, with Maliek Collins being one draftee that can make a difference.
The Cowboys see Collins as a prototypical three-technique tackle in their defensive line rotation. That's the position Tyrone Crawford plays, but given the Cowboys' depth issues at defensive end with Randy Gregory and (reportedly) DeMarcus Lawrence facing four-game NFL suspensions, Crawford could slide outside early in the season. Either way, Collins could immediately secure a considerable number of defensive snaps on the interior alongside veterans such as Crawford, Cedric Thornton, Jack Crawford, Terrell McClain and David Irving.
With the need for more pass rush, there is hope that Tapper will be a big help. The Dallas Morning News assembles some evals of him, including that of this perceptive expert from a highly respected site.
Ryan Ratty of SB Nation's Blogging the Boys: "Tapper will not immediately establish himself as a stud pass rusher and the future at the position in Dallas. But, he's a project-piece that Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett will be able to mold into what they want him to become. Judging by his get-off, his explosion, and his combination of strong hands and long arms, there is the potential for Tapper to be a really unique player for a long time in Dallas."
This is from a while back, but it was brought up again. Note the three best backs in the NCAA at protecting the ball (the list is from worst to best and the number refers to the touches each back per fumble in their career).
162.5 - Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
169.7 - Aaron Green, TCU
Kelvin Taylor, Florida (no fumbles in college)
The headline says it all. If that nerve does regenerate properly, the Cowboys will have one of the steals of the draft.
Although he has been important the past couple of seasons, there has always been something of a "rent-a-player" aspect to the tenure of Rolando McClain with the Cowboys. And there is now a looming threat to his position, because Rod Marinelli may have a new favorite joining the team.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli discovered who Smith was while doing a clinic last year at Notre Dame. Marinelli is friends with Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. During the first snap of practice that day, Marinelli said he "saw a missile go by me."
"It was unbelievable," Marinelli said Friday night during the draft show on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. "It was Jaylon. That's how you like to get introduced to a player, not by hype, not by measurables, not by Mel Kiper, whatever. You feel it. You see it. Boy, he jumped right out."
Dallas did not draft a wide receiver, but added three as UDFAs. So which veteran is most at risk of being forced off the roster and onto the . . . street?
Arguably, it appears Williams is safe for 2016 considering the challenge an UDFA would face in unseating a WR2. Brice Butler, if healthy, would have a much better shot at accomplishing the task (and most likely will). Even still it's safe to say both of those players remain on the active 53-man roster. It goes without saying Bryant and Beasley are both safe; and Lucky Whitehead is the resident kick returner showing tremendous upside as a wideout.
This places a bullseye squarely on Devin Street.