The Cowboys front office has done a remarkable job with their first-round picks in the past decade. The list of the hits is long including Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott and Leighton Vander Esch. There are a couple of names left off that list. Morris Claiborne never lived up to his draft position and while still carving out an NFL career, he’s still seen as a little bit of a bust. But that’s nothing compared to what the Cowboys have seen so far out of Taco Charlton. The Cowboys first-round pick in 2017 has yet to have any real impact on the field, and has picked up a little bit of a poor reputation off of it. This year is going to be a pivotal one in his career, he absolutely needs to show he can play in the rotation or he’ll cement his bust status.
ESPN decided to engage in a flight of fantasy as they asked how each NFL team would fix their biggest draft mistake since the 2014 draft. They had three basic rules:
The re-drafted player has to be at a position of reasonable need in that particular draft (no Todd Gurley allowed for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015).
The re-drafted player has to be available at the pick in question (no using the 30th pick in 2017 to draft Patrick Mahomes).
You cannot trade the pick you’re looking to re-draft, but you can choose not to trade a pick the team traded (see the Buffalo Bills’ entry).
For the Cowboys, there was no doubt about which mistake would be fixed. The interesting part, from our friend Todd Archer, is that he didn’t go with the player that many assumed would have been the right pick to make. Instead, he went in a totally different direction.
First round of 2017 draft (No. 28 overall)
Actual pick: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Do-over pick: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Charlton is the only Dallas first-round pick since 2013 not to make a Pro Bowl, so there is some disappointment thus far. While many believe T.J. Watt should have been the Cowboys’ pick due to his success in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, the organization (front office and coaches) did not feel he was a perfect fit for their 4-3 scheme. Ramczyk is the pick because he has started every game and would have allowed the Cowboys to keep La’el Collins at guard instead of moving to right tackle. The Cowboys like to say they want to keep their strengths strong, and Ramczyk would have done that for their offensive line. -- Todd Archer
Watt was a fan-favorite among many at the time of the draft, but Archer brings up the reason many believe the Cowboys weren’t interested in Watt in the first place. They were never sure if he was the right kind of player, with the right body type, to put his hand on the ground play after play and rush the passer while also setting the edge against the run.
Watt has certainly prospered standing up as a pass rusher in the Steelers 3-4 scheme, amassing 20 sacks in two years. Could he have done something similar in Dallas in a 4-3? We’ll never know the answer.
Archer decides the Cowboys should have taken Ramczyk who eventually went to the Saints. Ramczyk is certainly a solid pick, and as Archer mentions, they could have kept Collins at guard. So instead of drafting Connor Williams in the second round last year, that whole draft could have gone in a different direction after they took LVE.
That was the fix for the Cowboys, but some of the other fixes also involved Cowboys players.
First round of the 2014 draft (No. 27 overall)
Actual pick: Deone Bucannon, LB, Washington State
Do-over pick: DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
Yeah, I can imagine they would have liked to have Lawrence.
Second round of 2014 draft (No. 33 overall)
Actual pick: Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA
Do-over pick: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Su’a-Filo did a pretty good job filling in for the Cowboys at times last year, but if Dallas had drafted Ramczyk and Collins stayed at guard, we might never have had Su’a-Filo on the team.
And then there is this alternative history.
First round of the 2014 draft (No. 26 overall)
Actual pick: Marcus Smith, DE, Lousiville
Do-over pick: DeMarcus Lawrence, DE/OLB, Boise State
No. Just no. No way, no how. Not gonna happen. Not even with a Delorean time machine. The universe would explode before this could happen.