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Cowboys draft day trades: Evaluating the contributions of Tavon Austin & Jihad Ward

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Taking a closer look at the two veterans the Cowboys traded for on draft day.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Day three of the 2018 NFL was an interesting one for the Dallas Cowboys. They walked in with seven picks and walked out with eight players. Though most of us thought the Cowboys would try to move some picks, they doubled down on competition as this roster will be pretty full come OTA’s and training camp.

What was more interesting about last Saturday was the moves the Cowboys did make and why they made them. The first trade the Cowboys made was to send pick 192 in the sixth round to the Rams for Tavon Austin. The second was when the Raiders traded defensive tackle Jihad Ward to the Cowboys in exchange for Ryan Switzer. Here's how these trades came to be.

When the trade for Austin was announced, the question became how does he fit for the Cowboys? If you think of Austin as a better version of Lucky Whitehead + Lance Dunbar, you’re starting to get a clear picture. The Cowboys tried some reverses and jet sweeps with Ryan Switzer but found it to be ineffective. Switzer just doesn’t have the explosion as a receiver in the backfield that Austin has. The Cowboys will think of Austin as a running back with wide receiver abilities and use him as a feature player that Scott Linehan really likes to have, just go check out what Linehan did with Reggie Bush.

These trades go hand in hand though as Austin’s acquisition made Ryan Switzer redundant. If you listened to the final episode of the Draft Show, Bryan Broaddus explained that the Raiders, who now have Rich Bisaccia as their special teams coordinator, saw an opportunity to make a pretty even trade. Bisaccia wanted Switzer to become his kick returner and knew that Will McClay really liked Jihad Ward in the 2016 NFL Draft. Not only did McClay like Ward but so did Rod Marinelli. This trade became a pretty easy one to make for both parties as the Raiders had as little use for Ward as the Cowboys had for Switzer. With that said, what are the Cowboys getting with these two additions?

Tavon Austin

Offensive Production:

Season Games Rec Rec Yds Rec Avg Rec TD Rush Rush Yds Rush Avg Rush TDs 20+ 40+ First Downs Fumbles
2017 16 13 47 3.6 0 59 270 3.7 1 2 0 11 1
2016 15 58 509 8.8 3 28 159 1.9 1 8 1 32 2
2015 16 52 473 9.1 5 52 434 3.2 4 7 2 44 1
2014 15 31 242 7.8 0 36 224 6.2 2 2 0 23 0
2013 13 40 418 10.5 4 9 151 0.7 1 7 4 20 1

Kick/ Punt Return:

Return Total Ret Total Yds Avg. Long TD 20+ 40+ Fumbles
Kick 25 451 18.0 32 0 12 0 0
Punt 158 1,356 8.6 98 3 18 5 17

Cowboys fit: Again, the Cowboys have a specific role in mind for him and will only be paying $3 million for his services if he plays every game. Coming out of the 2013 Draft, Austin was considered the most explosive athlete and was taken 8th overall. He’s never lived up to the billing with the Rams but they liked him enough to extend him a few seasons ago. In an offense such as the Cowboys', there are easy ways to get him the ball five or six times a game. His fumbling on punt returns is a concern though, as he fumbled four times on just 12 attempts last season. Six seasons into his career, Austin is still one of the more explosive players in the league, the Cowboys just have to make sure they put him in a position to succeed.

Jihad Ward

Defensive Production:

Season Games Snaps Tackles Sacks FF PD
2017 5 127 2 1 0 0
2016 16 636 30 0 0 0

Cowboys fit: Ward hasn’t really had the production in two seasons to warrant his 44th overall draft status. The Cowboys really liked what they saw from him a couple of years ago at the Senior Bowl and you wonder if he wasn’t in the right scheme for his makeup. Ward is 6’6 and 295 lbs, he looks more like David Irving than he does a 1-tech. The Cowboys have the coaching staff to make something out of Ward and he’s still fairly young. However, the need for a 1-tech tackle was not filled with this move. In fact, Bryan Broaddus stated on “Hangin’ with the Boys” that Ward will get 3-tech work as well as defensive end looks too from what he’s been told.

The Cowboys want all of their defensive tackles to have pass rush ability and the only two guys on the roster that really can play the one are Maliek Collins and Brian Price. That’s precisely why a potential reunion with the “Dancing Bear” Terrell McClain could be in order. McClain was Marinelli’s perfect blend of a 3- and 1-tech all in one productive package.