One of the deepest thinking cinematic characters is Patrick Swayze’s Dalton from the movie Roadhouse. He taught us many lessons that we could use to live our life by, including such advice as “expect the unexpected” which sounds cool to say, but it’s actually rather contradicting. If you’re expecting it, doesn’t it cease to be unexpected? To be honest, Dalton wasn’t the most forward thinking individual as he would later choose to get stitches without anesthetic and deliberately crash up his new Mercedes just to create a distraction. These are not things I would have chosen.
As much as you think you can plan for surprises, the Cowboys always seem to figure out a way to sneak one in on us come draft time. Many of us who analyze the Cowboys’ draft strategies have acquired a nice list of tendencies that Jerry Jones and company like to do. For example, we all know how well the picks correlate to pre-draft visits. The Cowboys also love coming away with the best of something. Even when they don’t have a shot at the blue-chip talent in the draft, the team will still pounce on grabbing the best guard (Zack Martin), safety (Byron Jones), or even center (Travis Frederick). There are several nuances as well and I highly recommend you checking out former BTB writer, K.D. Drummond’s Eight Draft Commandments to get a larger sense at what the Cowboys do.
And while those are all good guidelines to build from, there has been one constant over the last five years - the Cowboys do something wild and crazy in the second round. Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but five years in a row - that’s a chronic problem. And I label it a problem because almost always, it doesn’t work out.
Like every team in the draft, the Cowboys are trying to make out like bandits by taking as many talented players as they can. But unlike other organizations, the Cowboys are always trying to take a shortcut and shock everyone with their brilliance. We have to tip our cap to the Cowboys war room for the great work they’ve done in recent years, but that greatness occurs despite their second-round decisions, not because of it. To the testament of the team, they don’t make the same mistakes, but rather all new ones. They are constantly changing it up how they go about trying to steal a player in the second round. Let’s takes a look at some of the tricks they’ve tried over the last five seasons and see if it opens up any doors for possible moves this year.
2012 - No Mo Second Round Pick
The Cowboys attempted to trade quantity for quality when they pulled the trigger to move up to select Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. Despite Mo putting together some quality games late in his stay with Dallas, this pick is by far the worst first-round decision the team has made in several years.
To move up to the sixth spot, the Cowboys had to surrender their second-round pick and to add insult to injury, word on the street is that All Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner would have been the Cowboys second-round selection. The Claiborne pick hurt in more ways than one.
2017 Comparison: This is a terrible draft to give away your second-round pick for, but if you had to take a shot at a player sliding that would draw the Cowboys attention, it would be CB Marshon Lattimore or SS Jamal Adams. Both these players are expected to go off the board early, but what happens if they start slipping? The Cowboys love having the best of something and both these defensive backs are star caliber players at a position the Cowboys have a need for. Nothing against these players, but let’s hope something like this doesn’t happen.
2013 - Another Early Round Tight End?
If you ever wondered why there are so many jokes made about drafting a tight end early, it stems from the Cowboys choosing a player from that position three times in the second round over the span of eight years. It started with Anthony Fasano in 2006, followed up with Martellus Bennett in 2008, but the most shocking of all came when Gavin Escobar was selected with the 47th overall pick. It would be the earliest the team has drafted a tight end since 40 years prior when they selected Billy Joe DuPree with the 20th pick of the 1973 NFL Draft.
The problem with this pick wasn’t really anything to do with Escobar as he was a talented player coming out of the draft. Here is some good praise from Todd McShay:
Ertz and Eifert have very good hands, but best ball skills grade I gave to TEs went to SDSU TE Gavin Escobar— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 23, 2013
The issue with this pick had more to do with the Cowboys having more pressing needs than to grab a player that was going to buried on the depth chart behind Jason Witten. And sure enough, Escobar only received a small share of targets and never took off in Dallas. Like Claiborne, Escobar signed with an AFC team in free agency this offseason. Their Dallas days are over.
This move continued to demonstrate to us that the Cowboys don’t draft by need. It’s always about the talent. While Escobar didn’t turn heads like the team was hoping he would, he was rated high on their board in 2013 and that played the biggest role in that decision.
2017 Comparison: Keeping true with an offensive player that the Cowboys don’t have a pressing need for, this selection would go to wide receiver, Curtis Samuel from Ohio State. The Cowboys just re-signed Terrance Williams so what would be the point of adding another WR? That’s a tough question to answer, but the Cowboys didn’t invite him for a pre-draft visit just to discuss dinner recipes. If his talent puts him high on their board, be advised.
2014 - Trade Up For Tank
The Cowboys felt good about the Zack Martin pick they made on day one. He was a great guard and it was a safe pick. But the team wasn’t satisfied with just one first round graded player. They wanted another. When DeMarcus Lawrence was still available on day two, the Cowboys made a move. They traded away their third round pick (78 overall) + their second (47 overall) to move up to pick 34 to grab Lawrence. With injuries and a suspension the enthusiasm for what Lawrence can provide has been tempered.
2017 Comparison: If there are any of these scenarios that stands a chance of being repeated, this is the one. While many fans will chase you with pitchforks at the mere mention of giving up some valuable draft stock this year, let’s look at this closely. Over the last several weeks we are all over the place when it comes to who we want at pick 28. Some like this guy, some like that guy. What if you can have both guys? This draft will offer up some real interesting names in the first part of the second round. If the Cowboys see one of their first round targets still lingering, they might make a move. And would we really complain?
How would you like to have Takkarist McKinley AND Kevin King? Or what about Gareon Conley AND T.J. Watt? If something like this materialized, some fans would drop the mic, strut around the room and declare the Cowboys the winners of the draft...again.
2015 - Just Say No
You have to hand it the front office for staying patient all the way through the second round in 2015. There had to be some enticing players sliding. But the Cowboys showed a lot of discipline and waited it out until pick 60. The only problem was, when they were finally on the clock, there was a player available that nobody expected to be there. Randy Gregory had a red flag for drug use in college and it was a foregone conclusion that his draft stock would take a hit. But nobody would have thought he would slide all the way to pick 60.
The upside of snagging a potential edge rushing monster was too much to pass up for the Cowboys. It’s been a nightmare decision for Dallas as his drug problem has carried over into his NFL career. Multiple suspensions has kept him off the field and very little is expected of him at this point.
The Cowboys took a chance on trying to land a first round caliber player at a late second round price. But availability is ability and Gregory has given the team very little of that.
2017 Comparison: The CBS draft profile compares Alabama’s Tim Williams to Bruce Irvin and states he could be the most explosive pass rusher in this draft. He also comes with serious off-field concerns. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Williams has an arrest involving a gun and for marijuana. His talent makes him an early second-round prospect, but even a deep slide might not be enough for the Cowboys to punch that ticket. Fool me once, shame on.....well, you know how it goes.
2016 - The Nerve Of This Guy
After these character risk dice rolls were crapping out, the Cowboys decided to go a different direction. Last year, the front office shocked us all by taking Notre Dame linebacker, Jaylon Smith with the 34th overall pick. Smith had remarkable character, but was lacking an important trait in excelling in the NFL - a functioning knee. Smith suffered a serious knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl of last year, which put his NFL career in doubt. But after a good report from the Cowboys team doctor, the team felt like his injury wasn’t that risky and they’d eventually get a star caliber player.
Cowboys fans are optimistic about what Smith can do for them in 2017, but many are also holding their breath. The jury is still out on this one, but if Smith returns and plays at a high level, it will do wonders in quieting some fans who have heavily criticized the Cowboys for taking so many chances.
2017 Comparison: Sidney Jones was a favorite of many fans as a potential pick 28 candidate. But all that changed when he tore his Achilles. Now, his name still comes up, but for a possible target in later rounds. With the level of talent in the second round, going after a player that will miss the entire 2017 season doesn’t seem very likely. But patience could provide rewards. If the Cowboys got a top 15 caliber player at a bargain price, that’s a move we’ve seen them make before.
While these are all scenarios that mirror past decisions, the Cowboys have a propensity of being original and doing something different each year. If you really want to expect the unexpected, then let’s hear some new scenarios that the front office might pull out of their hat this year.
My prediction: I’m sticking with an idea that rolled around in my head last month where the Cowboys can invest some future draft equity towards this year’s draft.
What would be great is if the Cowboys can score themselves an extra pick in the top 100. One way to achieve this is to trade away some of next year’s draft equity. That’s not a practice I would normally subscribe to, but there are some good reasons to give it a good look this draft. One of those reasons is the nice compensatory return the Cowboys will bring in next year. Having so many of their own free agents sign for sizable deals means the Cowboys will get some good comp picks in 2018.
The Cowboys can package a future pick with a 2017 pick to get themselves two swings in the second round.
Throw your ideas in the comments and rec your favorite ones. Who knows, the crazy thing they do this year might be sniffed out by someone in the BTB community.