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Cowboys draft 2018: The Cowboys put on a clinic on how to find value in their picks

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One thing is pretty clear, the Cowboys found a ton of value in their picks this year.

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NFL: NFL Draft Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Much of this draft season was spent talking about aggression, the Cowboys needed to find a way to be aggressive with their 10 draft picks. In fact, in seven of our 10 official BTB mocks, we traded picks on the first or second day to add as many quality players in the Top-100 as possible. Seeing two fourths, a fifth, and three sixth-round selections seemed much more like trade bait than valuable assets. We also made mention that surely the Cowboys weren’t going to use all 10 picks as they didn’t have that many holes on the roster. So naturally, the Cowboys walked away adding 11 players to the roster just to show us up.

Despite all trade talk, from sending their second-round pick to Seattle for Earl Thomas or trying to move back into the back end of the third round, the Cowboys only ended up making two trades in three days. Better yet, they only traded one of their ten selections, pick 192 in the sixth round for the former Rams wide receiver, Tavon Austin. They will be looking to put him in their backfield as their gadget player that can also serve as their kick returner. The role that they likely envisioned for Nyheim Hines before he was selected ahead of their 116th pick.

Then, needing a defensive tackle in the seventh round, they instead decided to go after a former favorite of theirs, Jihad Ward. To secure an asset, you have to give up an asset, so they traded Ryan Switzer, last year’s fourth-round pick. Dallas simply traded a player they liked but had in excess for a player they liked with a higher draft grade and played a position of need. It was a wild finish to a wild weekend but that’s just the nature of this three-day strategy game.

The draft has become about one important need that all teams share, that’s value in the pick. It’s argued that teams often overvalue their draft picks but that’s why you see veterans go for such low prices in free agency and the draft. As Will McClay has said it’s a young man’s game, the minute a player walks in, they’re already looking to replace him, you need picks to replace guys, picks are gold. Whether the team is the Colts, needing roster help at just about every position, or the Patriots, who just picked in the the first round for the first time in two years, the goal is the same for all 32 war rooms. How can we get the most value out of every pick we make? The Cowboys may have just put on a clinic in drafting value with their haul over the weekend.

What they did in the first round wasn’t the most popular decision but when you put it up against how the linebackers ended up going after pick 19, it looks a whole lot better. Leighton Vander Esch was their guy for multiple reasons and they took the linebacker they loved rather than settling for one they liked. As the second and third rounds came and went, you saw teams start to grasp at what was left. Meanwhile, the Cowboys, under Kris Richard, are looking to put three talented linebackers on the field together that could be dynamic. Vander Esch is not here to be an insurance policy, he’s here to add athleticism and production to a defense in need.

Perhaps the best definition of value for the Cowboys was on display in the most valuable day of the draft. There was a shared idea by the majority of all draft experts that the second day of this event was where the true value would be. After seeing how the first round shook out, there were well over ten players left that had first-round considerations by multiple big boards from mock draft season.

The Cowboys sat through a murderer’s row, watching four of their starting guard targets go before them. They survived the wait, landing Dane Brugler’s 23rd-ranked player, versatile lineman Connor Williams at 50. PFF had this to say about Williams:

Williams was the No. 2 tackle on our draft board and allowed just one sack across three seasons of play for Texas. He has shown excellent pass-blocking and run-blocking skills and looked to have the ability to stay outside at tackle but was seen as a candidate to move in to guard by many.

In the third round, the Cowboys took Michael Gallup, a receiver that CBS ranked 32nd overall and Dane Brugler had as a Top-10 WR in this class. PFF had him graded as their top receiver. Jeff Cavanaugh of The Athletic said:

I had Gallup as my third-rated wide receiver in the draft behind Calvin Ridley and DJ Moore, and it was going to take other teams valuing other guys more for the Cowboys to find him in the third. They are very lucky.

He is not only solid route runner but he’s got the ability to separate using tempo, something this offense truly needed. They needed a receiver that can dial up the RAC yards, Gallup can be that guy.

On day three, the Cowboys added Brugler’s 13th-ranked edge rusher, Dorance Armstrong.

Then with their next two picks, they went after Brugler’s 8th-ranked tight end, Dalton Schultz, and 8th-ranked quarterback, Mike White, (who was given a third-round grade).

To close out the sixth round, they picked up Chris Covington, a special teams linebacker to fill the departed spot by Kyle Wilber.

They also snagged Cedrick Wilson, a wide receiver that Jeff Cavanaguh gave a fourth-round grade that will compete for a roster spot. Josh Norris had Wilson in his Top 100 prospects.

With their final pick in the seventh, they took Bo Scarborough, adding much needed depth to a running back room of two. Scarborough was also given a fifth-round grade by Brugler. SB Nation called him one of the biggest steals of the draft.

While Scarbrough wasn’t in the top group of backs this year thanks to his numbers dropping last season compared to the year before, getting him in the seventh round is big. He’ll be an excellent complement to Ezekiel Elliott, who has more speed than Bo has — his size at 6’1 220 pounds makes him a power runner, but he’s got some decent speed for his size, too.

Every pick the Cowboys made could be argued as a sensible one. When they didn’t like what transpired before them, they made savvy moves in other ways. They addressed all but one position but we hear they will consider revisiting potential talents at safety. Brugler stated on the Mothership’s draft coverage that the Cowboys had selected four of his Top-100 players in the first four rounds. They let this draft come to them and walked away with a significantly better roster.