The NFL Draft is a beautiful thing. In a blink of an eye, it can throw months worth of draft research into the trash as you realize how small you are in the real world when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys front office. I learned this the hard way back in 2012 when I spent hours trying to decide who the team was more likely to pick - edge rusher Melvin Ingram or guard David DeCastro. The team threw us all a curve ball when they traded up for Morris Claiborne and just like that - my top 50 players no longer had relevance. Those were good times.
You’d think such a lesson learned would prepare me to not get my hopes up, but no - I get lulled into believing the Cowboys are going to pick my top guys because I’m a sucker. In all fairness, the three-year streak of Zack Martin, Byron Jones, and Ezekiel Elliott built up my confidence as I was able to correctly predict those selections. And although I have no definitive proof - I strongly feel my pick of Takkarist McKinley would have been the team’s 2017 choice if the Atlanta Falcons hadn’t moved up ahead of them in the draft.
So a new streak was started that year - one where I am whiffing on correctly picking the team’s first selection of the draft. It carried on the next season when Leighton Vander Esch was selected. Vander Esch was a great player that we spoke highly of quite a bit leading up to the draft, but he just wasn’t the top player for many of us. It felt like a reach. Of course, it didn’t take very long for us to realize the Cowboys knew what they were doing the whole time. Despite being selected 19th overall, Vander Esch has emerged as one of the top five players in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The reality is - the Cowboys draft well. Whether we recognize it right away or not doesn’t change the fact that when the dust settles, there is a great chance they’ll end up with a really good football player. Trust has been earned. So when they once again select a player who’s not the player I wanted, I come quickly come to terms with the idea that I’m mistaken. So, like it or not like it, here are my initial assessments of all eight of the Cowboys draft picks from the 2019 NFL Draft.
Pick 58 - Trysten Hill, DT
Buzz started generating early Friday morning that the Cowboys loved Hill and he was likely to be the pick if he made it to 58. This exact sorta thing happened last year with Vander Esch so we had a little bit of time to prepare ourselves. How this kind of stuff leaks out the day of the draft is baffling and seems like it could be detrimental should another team catch wind and jump ahead of you. The Cowboys may want to do a better job keeping their secrets under wraps. So with the hype of Hill already in full swing, I made a plea to the organization, but something tells me they weren’t listening.
Dear Cowboys front office: If you love Trysten Hill so much, please package picks 90 and 128 to move up in the third to get him.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) April 26, 2019
Please do not squander 58 on a player that's going to take a couple years to develop.
I have no problem with Hill the player. The Cowboys have traits they look for and Hill matches that to a tee. The get-off, the motor, the pass-rushing presence who can also stuff the run - he’s got it. The perplexing thing about Hill is despite his talent, the coaching staff at Central Florida chose to not start him last season. The Cowboys did their homework and Rod Marinelli ended up developing a close relationship with Hill. This pick is not just about the athletic upside or the need they have on the inside of the defensive line. I mean, those things are important, but the icing on the cake was what the team felt about the person. When you take all of this into account, it’s easy to see why the team loved Hill so much.
Pick 90 - Connor McGovern, G
This pick caught a lot of fans off guard. There were so many great choices available and it was surprising that they would choose a player at a position where they are strong. Last week in our follow the money piece, we identified an offensive lineman as a surprise third-round pick. We made our best guess at a talented lineman that might slip through the cracks and that choice was Max Scharping who was selected 55th overall. The team actually went with Connor McGovern who turned out to be that crack-slipper for the Cowboys front office.
McGovern was a four-year starter at Penn State that featured two of the top running backs taken in the draft over the last two years (Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders). He’s a smart player who is run blocking stud. He’s athletic, he plays with good leverage, and he’s got a little bit of nasty the team loves on their OL. The position flex also is big and opens up some doors for the team going forward. Losing La’el Collins in free agency next season suddenly isn’t a big concern. If Travis Frederick suffers a setback, the team will be ready. The team has had a great amount of success when their offensive line dominates and this puts them one step closer to doing just that. It’s not sexy, but it’s super smart.
Pick 128 - Tony Pollard, RB
Memphis running back Tony Pollard was an official pre-draft visit, so it wasn’t surprising that the team selected him. However, it was surprising that they took him so early. There was a run on running backs right before the Cowboys picked so maybe they got nervous, but this pick looked like a panic move.
Even more unsettling was the notion that the team appeared to mess up the order of in which they should’ve selected their fourth-round picks. From the war room camera, there was an lively discussion going on right before they picked. It felt as if they were debating who they should pick first, hoping they could get guys they wanted with both picks. They opted to go with Pollard first, but wasn’t able to get the other guy they wanted at 136. That forced them into plan B. You might want to look away if you’re a John Cominsky fan as this could sting a bit.
Cowboys got jumped for Cominsky and decided to trade back— KD Drummond (@KDDrummondNFL) April 27, 2019
If the Cowboys went Cominsky first, there’s a great chance they get both the players they want.
Pollard is a good player and he’s dynamic enough to offer the offense a little excitement with his touches, but it’s hard to get too worked up about this type of player when we’ve witnessed the team not utilize them to their full potential. We’ve all been duped before when it come to players like Lance Dunbar or even last year with Tavon Austin, so we’ll believe it when we see it, but maybe the Kellen Moore era will present some new opportunities.
Pick 158 - Michael Jackson, CB
While I was still stewing over losing out on Cominsky, the Cowboys adjusted to this misstep pretty well. Rather than settling, they moved back and got an extra pick. And then they turned that pick into yet another pick. All in all, the compensatory pick courtesy of Anthony Hitchens yielded them three players. And the team put them to good use.
At pick 158, the Cowboys got themselves a long, physical corner with Miami’s Michael Jackson. This is the prototypical corner that Kris Richard looks for. He loves to press off the line and is very pesky in coverage. He’s got good speed to stay with his man, plays with a lot of aggression, and will sell out to make the tackle. But my favorite thing about him is how he gets his head turned around to make a play on the ball. He’s just a very good cover corner.
This is a really good depth pick for Dallas this late in the draft. With Anthony Brown on the last year of his deal, Jackson could step in and have a bigger role on this team in 2020.
Pick 165 -Joe Jackson, DE
For a lot of Cowboys fans there was a huge sigh of relief when edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson was selected by some other team. The NCAA’s all time leader in sacks just didn’t grow on a lot of us, but word on the street was that the Cowboys liked him a lot. The knock on Ferguson had to do with his traits, or lack thereof. He doesn’t bend or explode off the ball, yet his production was astounding. And that is what the Cowboys get with Miami’s Joe Jackson, albeit a discounted version.
The team has been throwing draft resources at the defensive end position every year since the departure of DeMarcus Ware and even though it’s a crowded house, it didn’t deter them from doing it again this year. Like Ferguson, Jackson just isn’t colored with a lot of appealing pass rushing traits, but his effectiveness at this point in his development is intriguing in it’s own right. Just how good can he be if he can’t refine his pass rushing technique?
Last month we mentioned that the Cowboys two starting edge rushers, DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, both finished in the top four in terms of win percentage last season. It looks like they now have another edge rusher that wins at a high rate.
Joe Jackson had the highest pass-rush win percentage among qualified ACC Edge defenders this season. He totaled 56 pressures on only 286 pass rush snaps. pic.twitter.com/gTIP00OOkD— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 10, 2019
Pick 213 - Donovan Wilson, S
The Cowboys had so many opportunities to get a good safety in this draft, but time and time again, they passed. On one hand, you have to credit their discipline to favor talent over need as they continued to pluck good players off the board. But on the other hand, how are they ever going to improve the safety position? And for that reason, it leaves many of us unsatisfied that Wilson was the best they could come up with at safety.
But if you can accept the fact that there will be no new upgrade at the top of the depth chart and just focus on depth, the Wilson pick has way more appeal. There is little hope that he’ll give the team something better than what they already have. He’s not athletic enough to be a strong safety, and his 199 lb. frame isn’t optimal to be a punishing strong safety.
Despite the lack of upside, Wilson has the traits to having a fighting shot at making the roster. Whether his body can handle it or not, he’s going to give the effort and has the physical nature to hit hard. And he’ll be better in coverage than Kavon Frazier, who he’s likely to replace in 2020. Solid pick.
Pick 218 - Mike Weber, RB
Another running back? What’s going on here? The Cowboys had two Day 3 running back prospects in for pre-draft visits and I’ll be doggone it if they didn’t take them both.
Ohio State’s Mike Weber was a guy that we had mocked to the Cowboys in the fifth round so getting him a round later works for me. And it doesn’t really matter that Pollard was already drafted. The Cowboys really don’t have any running backs behind Zeke so both these guys can have a role on the team. Pollard would have a different role, where Weber is a more well-rounded running back that could actually fill in as the lead back should Elliott be unavailable. Like Pollard, Weber’s vision is really good, but he attacks more within the tackles.
The team knows what they want for their offense. Damien Harris was brought in because he’s sort of a poor man’s Zeke. He’s very good at a lot of different things. Well, Weber is a poor man’s Harris. Sure, it’s another level down from the original, but the team now has a viable backup running back on a cheap four-year deal.
One of the first pieces we wrote in the aftermath of the Cowboys divisional playoff loss was how all four of the conference championship teams had success utilizing multiple running backs in contrast to the Cowboys relying too heavily on Zeke. So really, I should be much happier about these new toys than I am leading on.
Pick 241 - Jalen Jelks, DE
It’s hard to have too much of an opinion about a seventh-round draft pick, but this move was puzzling. The Cowboys defensive end position is extremely crowded and now they bring in a player who is not exactly athletic? What are they trying to do here exactly? Answer: throw darts.
Jelks selection was a preemptive priority free agent signing that they knew wasn’t likely to happen had they waited until after the draft. I mean, what edge rusher is going to want to show up to Dallas and fight for a roster spot with all this surplus of depth already on the roster? By drafting him, he’s not given the choice. And when you look at some of the nice adds they picked up as undrafted free agents, it certainly makes a lot more sense with how they approached this.
With Jelks they have a long defender that does a great job utilizing his size. He processes well and his reaction skills is where he makes his money. The limitations athletically doesn’t paint a promising picture, but we’ll let camp battles sort that all out.
There were times when I felt like the Cowboys were reaching, but I think subconsciously my mind wasn’t seeing the effects of not having a first-round pick. When you take a step back and lay it all on the table, it looks like a much more impressive draft haul.
What do you think of the Cowboys overall draft?