The Dallas Cowboys are preparing for the 2019 NFL Draft and on Wednesday they held their annual pre-draft press conference. Here is a breakdown of everything that they said. (All answers are paraphrases of what was said and not direct quotes).
Gil Brandt is always awesome
The Cowboys began the pre-draft press conference with some more well-deserved attention for Gil Brandt, recent Ring of Honor inductee and 2019 Pro Football Hall of Famer. He went through some history which is always great to hear from him. He and Jerry Jones even had a conversation for what felt like 30 whole minutes together, continually adding “let me just say one more thing” before speaking. What a treasure.
No first-round pick isn’t fun, but this draft has a special deepness
Asked if the absence of a first-round pick would lead them to move around Jerry Jones said ambiguously that he didn’t think so. He noted that you have to be ready to go, referencing the Morris Claiborne draft, and also said that sitting without a first-round draft pick isn’t as fun.
Pressed on if he would move up in the second round he kept it close to the vest and said you would do what you have to do for whoever is worth it. Anything can happen.
Gil Brandt chimed in and said that there are 15-17 players who you can bet on going in the first round. He expanded that from about 17-70 that all of the players look alike, saying that the 70th player could be drafted early or 70th overall. He specifically said that this type of draft benefits the Cowboys and went as far as saying there were more safeties of quality in this draft than he’s ever seen in his life. Centers, too!
There will be groups, not clusters
Asked if there would be clusters of sort that they would be looking for Stephen Jones responded that he believes there will be players there at the positions that they’re looking for. This group obviously includes safeties (thanks Gil), defensive tackles, tight ends, you name it. That there will be a lot of options is a very good thing.
There’s no regret about trading for Amari Cooper
The Cowboys famously said that they would be watching Amari Cooper highlights when their original first-round pick was on the clock and Stephen Jones doubled down on that on Wednesday saying that there isn’t any buyer’s remorse in Dallas.
He did note that after the Cowboys went through the receivers available in this class that they are very happy with the trade for Cooper. Good for them. That was the whole point.
Safety talk is heating up
Stephen Jones gave a cliche answer when he said that he feels you can always improve any position, but he did mention that the least amount of resources for the Cowboys have been put towards the safety spot. He explained that if a really good safety showed up at some point in the draft that they liked, that could certainly upgrade them. We’re all hoping for that.
Jason Garrett chipped in on this answer and said that you want safeties to be versatile and able to do it all. He noted that typically on most teams guys will have a strength, box safeties or deep ones for example, but then he pivoted to Gil Brandt with a Bob Lilly question... a masterclass move of getting out of something that he didn’t want to talk about.
Running back is a very fascinating spot
While the Cowboys know that Ezekiel Elliott is a special talent Stephen Jones did note that the team feels they can improve at the running back position. Asked if a pick was too rich to spend on a running back when someone like Zeke is on the roster, Stephen noted that it depends on the player. He expanded saying that if Zeke is healthy there aren’t going to be a lot of touches going to that player but that you will never know when you’re going to need a player like that.
It seems more and more like the Cowboys are leaning towards getting a compliment to Zeke in the backfield. Reading into what Stephen said you can almost assume that it’ll be somewhere in their first three picks.
Asked if the team had any plans at the moment for Ezekiel Elliott’s fifth-year option Stephen Jones said that the team was “obviously going to do it” but didn’t expand any further. So there you have it.
Roster surplus doesn’t mean anything
Jason Garrett was asked if he felt that the team was complete as an overall roster entering the draft and if it felt more that way than in season’s past. He kept it simple and noted that sometimes wherever you feel you’re deep might be where you spend a particular draft pick. He even mentioned Zack Martin as an example of this.
Being talent rich at any spot is never a bad thing. Injuries happen in the NFL and cannot be predicted. You can never hedge enough. Welcome to best player available town.
Will McClay is beloved by the Cowboys
The trio of Stephen, Jerry, and Jason were asked about the impact that Will McClay has had on the draft process and they all spoke glowingly of him. They noted that he spends a ton of time with his staff and the coaching staff, as well as how involved he is with upper levels of Cowboys management.
Obviously what McClay has going on with the Cowboys is unique as far as how most NFL teams operate. What’s important is that there’s a happy marriage with all parties involved and if Will is keeping those particular three happy, he’s doing his job to an excellent level.
Rounds 3 through 7 will be extremely important
You can’t pay everybody on an NFL roster and the Cowboys know that better than most. When players leave your team you have to replace from within so that you can avoid spending and spending and spending, this puts an extreme level of importance on the deeper rounds of the NFL Draft.
Stephen Jones spoke powerfully about this and said that there will be situations where the Cowboys “can’t sign them all.” He noted that the current Cowboys roster has the potential to win championships, but that they’re very young and time will move forward. He said that it’s also very important to have success in free agency even though they’re not paying huge contracts (he did also touch on the compensatory pick system). Basically it’s important to have all of your acquisitions be good. Got it.
Kris Richard’s preferences (and all coaches) matter
Asked how much the Cowboys take into account the type of players that someone like Kris Richard likes to coach, Stephen Jones deferred back to the role that Will McClay plays. He said that Will is great at understanding what each coach likes, he even noted that the Cowboys are looking at players that they haven’t before based off of Kris (including a factor like height) and what he prefers.
Stephen emphasized that this is why communication across the board is extremely critical.
Russell’s contract doesn’t raise the urgency for Dak’s
Stephen Jones said that Russell Wilson deserves to be paid at the level that he now is but that his new deal doesn’t create an extra sense of urgency to sign Dak Prescott to his own long-term deal. We continue to wait.
Tight end is what it is
Jason Garrett said that the Cowboys like their tight ends, reminded us that Jason Witten is back, and also said that they really like what Blake Jarwin has to offer. He also cited the team’s youth and noted that they all grew up over the course of last season.
Garrett emphasized that there was a big hole at the tight end position when Witten left and said that it was “good to have number 82 back.” Okay then.
Drafting off of need isn’t necessarily how the Cowboys roll
Stephen Jones preached that you don’t want to get into anything specific as far as needing a particular position one year entering the draft. He said that if you set your board right to see what options are available as far as a trade or something else, if you’re prepared you can make some good and quick decisions. If the Cowboys go into a draft with a particular position in mind, say defensive tackle, then they limit themselves. They feel like having a more open mind that allows flexibility is the way to roll.