The Dallas Cowboys just held their pre-draft press conference. Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett all answered questions as the media probed for clues as to what the team might do in the upcoming draft. This is always a good time to carefully evaluate their answers, study their mannerisms, and see if we can pick up on any clues that might narrow down some potential draft plans. It’s like being at a poker table and trying to read your opponent. Sometimes there are obvious tells that grant huge amounts of information and other times you get nothing. Sometimes there are smokescreens deliberately put out to throw you off the scent. And if you get lucky, maybe someone will slip and expose something meaningful. But before we analyze their words, let’s take a behind the scenes look at the players at the table so we know what we are up against.
Jason Garrett has the best poker face at the table. He gives you absolutely nothing to work with. Whether he is talking about a top 10 player or an undrafted free agent, it’s always the same thing. He’ll tell us that he’s a good football player and then proceeds to list some positive traits about him. It doesn’t matter if he’s holding pocket aces or rags, he’s playing his hand the same way.
In all the vanilla speak that he provided during last year’s conference there was one thing he said of that was useful. When asked about all the suspensions the team was facing in 2016, Jason simply responded that the team needed to do better at their evaluation process. That may have not seemed like much of anything, but if you look how things played out, you could see there was a stronger emphasis on character. From the 2016 leaked draft board, we now know that Noah Spence wasn’t even on the Cowboys radar last year. From a talent perspective, that may have looked like a suspect decision, but one thing is clear – this team wants a certain type of person to go along with the talent they provide. And when you look at each and every player they drafted last year, you can see they got the right type of people.
The Executive Vice President
Similar to Garrett, Stephen will tread carefully around each question. He will speak in generalities and say many things that are true in order to make you think he is being genuinely honest. And then, when your guard is lowered, he will turn around and dupe you. Stephen’s no dummy. He’s not giving up any free information. He will go the extra effort to send you down the wrong path.
For example, when talking about Ezekiel Elliott last year, Stephen praised the Ohio State running back and told the press that he’s worthy of a top 10 pick. Now, with the knowledge that Zeke was at the absolute top of the Cowboys board, clearly Stephen was significantly downplaying Elliott’s true value.
It is no secret that Jerry Jones is the biggest wild card at the table. I’m convinced that even he’s not completely sure what he’s saying at certain times. Jerry would love nothing more than to just spill the beans and tell you what he plans to do if you pinky swore not to tell anyone that would use it against him. But clearly, that’s not how things work so instead he will try his darnedest to not indulge anything important involving draft strategies. Unfortunately, he slips up and exposes his cards.
Jerry will speak honestly about anything that is asked and when it gets to a point where he needs to be deceptive, he’ll start stuttering his words. If Jerry starts struggling with his speech it is because he has gone too far with the information he was supposed to provide and is now trying to back pedal. And he is relentless with his effort and it can go on for minutes. He will talk so much gibberish at times that people will have completely forgotten what he said earlier.
And finally, Jerry will have these quick impulse ticks. It’s almost like Tourette syndrome. He had two moments last year that were big tells.
When a reporter commented on the Cowboys offensive struggles in 2015 after Tony Romo and Dez Bryant went down with injuries, he was asked if the team had enough offensive weapons. Jerry blurted, “No.” At this point Stephen gave him a stern look and Jerry stumbled around his words saying, “we’d like more.” Stephen started laughing as if Jerry was just being silly, but he wasn’t. He wanted more and more meant Zeke.
He made a similar slip when discussing Joey Bosa’s character. Jerry went out of his way to say his character wouldn’t be a factor in whether or not they drafted him. He oversold it to point that he painted a picture that the Cowboys would be inclined to pass on Bosa, however, it wouldn’t be because of character issues. While Bosa was selected before the Cowboys were up, the leaked draft board tells us Bosa wouldn’t have been the teams selection. Jerry’s tell was confirmed.
So what did these guys give us this year? Here are three predictions based on comments made from the pre-draft press conference.
No First-Round Trade
The Cowboys will be picking at 28 this year. While staying put has been a trend that is occurring more and more in the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys are always open to the possibility of driving to where they need to go to get a good player. But this year, that can be accomplished right where they are at as the team feels they can get a good player late in the first round. Stephen jokingly stated that they did a study and the numbers showed that there is an 86.762 % chance that the Cowboys would get a good player at that spot.
That’s a lot of significant digits in that estimation and while Stephen was just being funny, it doesn’t change their confidence level that they’ll get a good player there.
But more so than just having good players available late in the first round, the ability to properly stack them can make things difficult when picking that late in the first round. Stephen said they are having “pod drills” which are challenging themselves to distinguish between the players. With so much that can happen before it gets to them, there could be a lot of different names in play. Being strong with those distinctions will be paramount. That way, when it’s decision time – the Cowboys will be completely prepared to draft the best player for the team.
Another Redshirt Pick Is Coming
Even though it was hinted around earlier in the month that the Cowboys wouldn’t be rolling the dice on injured players this draft, this concept is still in play. When this was brought up in the press conference, Jerry stated “I don’t want to rule that out.” And when you factor in the great progress that Jaylon Smith is making, this type of risk looks even more appealing.
And with two prime candidates, Sidney Jones and Fabian Moreau, being passed up by other teams, the carrots will be dangled. The Cowboys have shown the patience to be willing to hold out for something great.
Again for a second straight year, a player’s character will hold more meaning than his medical situation. Injured players can heal, but some bad apples stay rotten.
Look for another draft filled with great character players.
And you ready for the biggest reveal?.....
The Cowboys Will Draft A Cornerback With Pick 28
Are you on Team EDGE or Team CORNER? Both teams are delightful and many fans wouldn’t complain either way as the Cowboys could use a strong college player at both positions. But the team will end up going with a cornerback for two reasons.
#1 - A “war daddy” won’t be there.
The Cowboys would love to get an impact edge rusher in this draft, but they won’t force it. They will have a short list of players that are worthy of pulling the trigger on, but once those names are gone, the Cowboys will be out of the pass rushing business for round one. That’s because there are so many strong corners that trump the next tier of defensive ends.
#2 - The Cowboys figured this out before free agency started.
The team looked at this draft prior to making decisions in free agency and realized that they could revamp the secondary in this draft. Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and J.J. Wilcox have all departed and the Cowboys haven’t blinked. That’s because they have a good plan in store for replacing them.
There are good corners to be found in multiple rounds this year, but they’ll get things started off early with one of the top guys.
Sure, these are all speculations, but that’s all any prediction is. Gathering the information presented to me, that is what my poker instincts have deduced. What about you? What are your final predictions for the draft?