Cowboys fans everywhere are gradually becoming aficionados of the front office’s draft day decisions. And why not, they are scintillating. After an epic 2016 draft, the Cowboys followed it up with an encore performance that consisted of slowly easing fans across the nation away from the edge, round after round. With so many key defensive players lost in free agency, what in the world were they to do? For months, we’ve had to listen to the front office try to sell us a bill of goods that everything is going to be alright and that this draft is deep with defensive players that they can rebuild the team effectively. Well, in this draft - they closed the deal on that promise.
When they started the draft off with Taco Charlton, there were Cowboys fans who weren’t too pleased with this decision. Charlton wasn’t a fan-favorite. But the team saw it differently and they had a plan going into this draft - one of the higher-tiered edge rushers was going to make it to them and they were going to get him. And that’s exactly what happened.
There is a lot to be excited about with Charlton. He’s got great size and powerful hands to push his blockers around. He also possesses enough agility to bend around the edge. He’s a high-effort player who has shown improvement in each of his four years in college. That’s the direction you want a young player to be trending and the Cowboys are hoping it continues to rise.
The Taco selection set the stage for the brilliance that followed. If you were playing that hindsight game combining Kevin King + Jordan Willis or Tarell Basham or Derek Rivers as those pass rushers were falling, you might have believed the Cowboys should’ve had some buyers remorse for the Taco pick. But when Chidobe Awuzie was still available at 60, that feeling should have went away. The Chidotle Taco was the best one-two DB/CB combo the team could have asked for with how the picks played out. And what a delicious combo that is.
With Awuzie, the Cowboys get a quick-footed, physical corner who has the instincts and athleticism to make plays on the ball. He’s smart, he’s tough, and he’s versatile. And at pick 60, he’s a steal. It’s a lot of blowing smoke to say repeatedly that the draft is deep with corners and that a good one will be available late in the second, but it came to fruition and the Cowboys are reaping the rewards.
And if landing one starting-caliber corner in this draft doesn’t tickle your fancy, then how about two? Having Jourdan Lewis still available at 92 gave the Cowboys another gift. Like Awuzie, Lewis also has great quickness and is very instinctive going for the ball. And while Lewis is smaller, he also packs a good punch and is very physical for this stature.
After the first three picks, the Cowboys front office looked like Nostradamus as the pieces were falling right in place like they said they would. And if you thought the team was just hell-bent on picking based on need, that idea was debunked when they selected WR Ryan Switzer. Nobody saw that one coming.
If you like Cole Beasley, you’ll love Switzer. While Beasley has played extremely well for an undrafted free agent, Switzer is no UDFA. He’s got quite an impressive college resume. And not only is he a little bigger than Beasley, but he’s quicker, too. Switzer’s three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle times are faster than Beasley. But this isn’t about Beasley vs. Switzer. The Cowboys don’t have to choose. They will find ways to work both them onto the field and make the offense even that much more dynamic.
Fun Fact: Tom Brady threw for 366 yards during the Super Bowl victory against the Atlanta Falcons. Julian Edelmen, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan combined for over 200 of those yards. The New England Patriots hit the jackpot by playing the slots.
And as satisfying as the first four picks were, the icing on the cake came with the next one. When the Cowboys selected Switzer, it was the one time in the war room that the group was hashing out a serious debate. Scott Linehan advocated for Switzer, but it wasn’t an easy choice. And that’s because Xavier Woods was in that conversation. So when round six came around and the Lousiana Tech safety was still available, the Cowboys jumped into action. They traded away some of next year’s draft capital to get back in the dance to select Woods.
Woods is another DB who has a versatile skill set with speed to close and toughness to bring down the ball carrier. He has great work ethic and exhibits strong leadership on the field. The fit couldn’t be more perfect.
All in all, the Cowboys drafted five players ranked in their top 68. When you consider there are 32 teams in the league, those are remarkable results. Now just because they are ranked high on the Cowboys board, doesn’t mean they are guaranteed winners, but there is one thing that should make you feel optimistic about their chances. Jason Garrett said there was very little angst about many of these selections and when that has happened in the past, they’ve ended up being real good players.
Last year, the Cowboys landed great players with four of their first six picks, with the only two missing being Jaylon Smith and Charles Tapper. And that’s because those two haven’t stepped on the field yet. The days of striking out in later rounds of the draft seem to be fading. After these last two drafts, it’s time to believe. And that’s not just lip service.