It’s time to pay the piper. Back before the 2017 NFL Draft, I made some predictions about how things would play out for the Dallas Cowboys. Four of them, to be exact. And I talked about how we could look back at them and see how accurate they were. Well, here we are, and things did not go so well for this attempt at prognostication. To be specific, three of the four were pretty much clean misses.
But you learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes. And while this does not mean that I am going to be any better at guessing things next year, there are some things to glean about what the Cowboys may have been thinking. So here are the predictions, starting with the bad ones, and what actually happened.
If you are looking for a defensive end early, prepare for disappointment.
Oops. The reasoning on this one turned out to be almost exactly the opposite of what Dallas used. The prediction was that the defensive backs were going to be going too fast, forcing the Cowboys to take one in the first round. Instead, it was the defensive ends that the staff saw as where they had to use the 28th overall pick, trusting the depth at cornerback and safety to allow them to get good value in later rounds. And while there is still a lot of discussion about whether Taco Charlton is really the defensive end they were looking for (hey, this is written on May the fourth), they got excellent to outstanding value with their defensive backs, particularly Chidobe Azuwie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods.
Sometimes, it’s good to be wrong.
Dallas will take a quarterback in the seventh.
This was seen as a way to keep from having to try and sign who you wanted as a UDFA. Instead, it looks like they might have had a deal already in place with Cooper Rush, based on how rapidly they got him locked up after the draft wound down. And given the relative weakness of the quarterback class, that was probably the wisest way to go.
They are going to draft a tight end.
This was a real break from the trend over the past few seasons. It may be good news that they didn’t. It could be a sign that both James Hanna and Geoff Swaim are doing well in their recovery from injury, and that is especially encouraging given that Hanna is recovering from the dreaded “bone bruise”.
But what is most encouraging is the repeated statements about how the team is really expecting to see a role for Rico Gathers. We heard repeatedly how he was nearly unstoppable in the red zone during practices late last season, and that has been carried through, with Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Will McClay all keeping the narrative alive. If Gathers does come through, he will join Jaylon Smith and Charles Tapper as “red shirt” members of the 2016 draft class that could make that group even more impressive than it already is. With Jason Witten coming back for at least one more season, the tight end group may just have been too deep to spend any draft capital.
So those are the three misses. But there was one prediction that was dead on.
The Cowboys will draft at least three defensive backs.
The first sentence after that is also important here: “And that is if they don’t take four.” The Cowboys added Marquez White right after taking Woods, giving them a quartet of rookie defensive backs that bring a history of college production and a lot of position flexibility. The first three taken are almost certain to make the 53-man roster, barring mishap in camp and preseason, and White has a good shot at joining them. Dallas loaded up and, numerically at least, has replaced the losses in free agency. And they also have Nolan Carroll and Robert Blanton as insurance. Prior to the draft, the secondary was seen as the biggest concern for the Cowboys. Now, it may be the deepest unit on the team - with the defensive line close, and that was the second biggest concern.
We have to see how everything works out once the players start practicing, and it is a long way until the roster is formed for the season. But Dallas seems to have done an excellent job of addressing all the big problems.
And if they get it right, I will gladly be wrong all day long.