The few weeks following free agency is a tough time for Cowboys fans. We’ve all watched the rest of the NFC East revamp their teams as they’ve picked through the delicious treats on the free agency tree. Meanwhile, the Cowboys just sat back and let it all happen. They didn’t get any exciting new stars, just role players. Instead, many of their own players bolted for that bigger paycheck. And the argument can be made that the Cowboys are a weaker team now that they were when the season ended.
That’s absolutely correct in my view, however, it’s no reason to become distraught. Look at it this way, whenever I go get my tires replaced on my car, there is a point in time where the old tires have been removed that my car does not function nearly as well as when I first brought it in. Am I worried? Of course not, because I know that the new tires are coming. And that’s what’s happening with the Cowboys - they’re getting their new tires in a month.
The Cowboys are very set on building this team through the draft. And building consists of selecting the right players, coaching them, and then retaining them for years to come. We all can attest to the idea that this front office has become really strong at the draft process. Many of us have been preaching this belief for a couple years, but then 2016 happened and now everyone is on board. The team has finally got the coaches they want and have been doing a great job getting quality play out of their players. And finally, the Cowboys are able retain their talent because of their commitment to back off in free agency spending.
It’s all part of the plan.
But speaking of the plan, what should we all expect in next month’s draft? There are a lot of different theories going around, but I wanted to focus on three claims that have been circulating the heaviest this year.
Strategy #1 - It’s Always Best Player Available
The Cowboys have demonstrated that the best way to build a good football team is by grabbing as many talented players as they can, regardless of whether or not it is a position that would help them the most. Their pledge towards this approach has been on display again and again and there is no reason to expect it to change.
While everyone is planning for the new edge rusher or cornerback that the team could be selecting with pick 28, don’t put all your eggs in that basket. Dallas will use that pick to take the best college player left on their board. But the great news is that there are some really good DE’s and CB’s in this draft to where “BPA” and “need” align perfectly.
This concept really makes me feel good about this team. It’s this new promise of doing things the right way that will have this team contending for years to come.
Strategy #2 - Redshirt Candidates Are Fair Game
There has been some buzz going around that the Cowboys can ill-afford to roll the dice on an injured player that won’t be able to help them immediately. After watching their secondary depart in free agency, there is a greater sense of urgency to fill this position with immediate starters. Well, this is true, but the Cowboys will not shy away from taking calculated risks if it helps the team in the long run. This was never more evident that when they decided to draft Jaylon Smith last year, despite him having a serious knee injury that would keep him out the entire 2016 season.
Could the Cowboys pull off another stunt in this year’s draft?
The deciding factor in all this will depend on what the remaining talent pool looks like. This is a very deep draft at some key defensive positions to where it would take some draining to occur before players like Sidney Jones and Jake Butt start entering the picture. Dallas could very well select one of these injured players, but it won’t be in the second round this time. There is too much talent to pick from.
So if the Cowboys don’t take one of these injured guys, it’s not because they are learning from their mistakes. It’s simply a matter of the trade off involved. Some times it makes sense to do it, other times it doesn’t.
Strategy #3 - Listen To The Smart People
Every year there seems to be a fair share of skepticism regarding how the Cowboys could potentially botch up the draft. Even with the recent history of drafting All Pro’s in the first round, fans still can’t shake the idea that Jerry Jones could do something crazy.
Well, get those crazy thoughts out of your mind because those days are over. If you’ve ever been able to read about the war room antics that goes on behind the scenes during draft time, it’s very eye opening. Peter King provided the transcripts to last year’s action which gave us some insight as to who’s saying what when it comes time to make a decision. It’s a real treat to read.
Whatever has happened in Dallas regarding the draft process is very encouraging these days. Maybe it’s the effect of Will McClay? Or maybe Jason Garrett’s influence drives the ship more now? It’s really tough to put your finger on the difference maker, however, what’s easy to determine is that collectively, they’ve got it figured out. It’s not just the Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott picks that have propelled the front office into one of the league’s best at finding players. It’s the Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown picks that really speak toward the proficiency of their drafting skills.
Certainly the 2016 is one we will remember for a long time (especially if #54 turns out to be great), but did the Cowboys just get really lucky? Maybe. But if it’s not luck and they are dialing it in and finally listening to the right people now, this team can clean up with another strong draft.
If you are a little uneasy by how nonchalant the Cowboys front office seem to be acting after losing all those free agents, don’t be. There is a reason they are not worried. They believe strongly in their draft process.
The Cowboys went 13-3 last year. Sure, they lost some key players, but none of them were great players. And with another good draft to replace those players, this team could very easily take a nice step towards improving upon last year’s team. And once we get those new tires on, it’s going to be a smooth ride.