There have already been some big trades for the NFL Draft, and it’s still over two weeks away. That leads to some anticipation that we could see quite a few more when things actually kick off. Trades are fun, exciting, and offer the chance to debate who got the best of things. Over the years, the Dallas Cowboys under Jerry Jones have not been shy about moving around in the order. That has led to a bit of speculation this year about just what kind of deal they might make, as well as what players might tempt them to do so. It seems logical with the extra picks in their hands that they can use to move up, and there is always the chance of a deal they can’t refuse to drop back a few spots and garner even more picks.
However, there is a very good argument to be made for them sticking right where they are through the draft and letting things come to them. That is mostly what wound up happening last year, and while one season is not sufficient data to properly evaluate a draft, the results so far have been about as good as you can hope.
Just to refresh your memory, here is how things went for them.
Round 1, pick 17: WR CeeDee Lamb
Watching Lamb slide closer and closer to the Cowboys had many hearts pounding while wondering if it could really happen, and then it did. It was a somewhat daring pick, since just like this year, Dallas really needed more help on defense. The reward was an instant starter who had an excellent rookie season despite the team’s problems at quarterback, with a bright future ahead.
Round 2, pick 51: CB Trevon Diggs
More than one mock had him going to the Cowboys in the first round, so getting him here was a bit of a coup for the team. He would start 11 of the 12 games he played, and more importantly he would get three interceptions, something that had become very rare for Dallas. Now a priority for the team is to get another CB to pair with him in the wake of Chidobe Awuzie’s departure.
Round 3, pick 82: DT Neville Gallimore
It took him a bit longer to claim a spot, but he would wind up starting nine games for the Cowboys. The team was more or less forced into going with him as the Dontari Poe experiment crashed and burned just beyond the end of the runway. It would have been better for him to have a season before being pushed into the starting lineup, but by the end of the year he was starting to look more comfortable. Like with Diggs, the team now needs to find him some help in the middle of the defensive line. Free agent Brent Urban may be part of the answer, but we can hope for the draft to add more.
Round 4, pick 123: CB Reggie Robinson II
Well, they couldn’t hope to hit on all the picks, especially as they got deeper in the draft. Robinson saw very limited action, appearing mostly on special teams in only five games. There still is a bit of confusion whether Dan Quinn will use him as a corner or a safety. Training camp and preseason are going to be important for him.
Round 4, pick 146 (via trade): C Tyler Biadasz
Is this the exception that proves the rule? Dallas came into the draft with eight picks and packaged a fifth-rounder plus a 2021 fifth-rounder to move back up into the end of the fourth and get what they hope to be the long-term solution at center. The move to get Biadasz was made after Travis Frederick had announced his retirement just about a month before the draft. He had some injury issues in college that were the reason he was still available at this point. He would also get banged up his rookie season and miss four games, but he did start in four others when Joe Looney was hurt. Looney is not with the team at this point and Biadasz is the heir apparent.
Round 5, pick 179: DE Bradlee Anae
Reports continue to persist that Anae, indeed, is a member of the Dallas Cowboys, although there is almost no evidence that he was with the team last season. The coaches had nothing but nice things to say about him, but it appears he was buried in the depth chart behind DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith, Randy Gregory, and others. Lots of people were excited to see what Anae can do on the field. If we are lucky, it might actually happen this year.
Round 7, pick 231: QB Ben DiNucci
Officially, he started one game during the quarterback injury travails of last year. Unofficially, we are going to pretend that never happened while trying desperately to forget the actual events of the game.
Things can always regress, but any draft where you get FOUR starters out of seven picks has to be considered a success, possibly an outstanding one. And for the first four rounds, where they found most of the value, the Cowboys just let things come to them instead of trying to move up or down.
There is certainly an argument that all four of the “real” starters (pretending about that fifth one, remember) should not have been there when Dallas picked them. It was a strange draft since things went virtual due to the COVID pandemic just after the NFL Combine. Perhaps that contributed to what certainly looks like some talent that slid right to Dallas. Now we are facing another year of limited data on the prospects, with the Combine cancelled, pro days the only source of standardized measurements and testing, and no in-person visits for the second year in a row.
It seems highly unlikely that things would fall the Cowboys’ way for round after round. Unlikely, but not impossible.
Actually, that is exactly how the first round is shaping up. While we should be leery of mocks as a tool to predict how things will actually go, there is every sign that the Cowboys will have a variety of appealing options at 10 this year. It is very possible that they will go on the clock with no defensive players having been taken, and with so many needs, there is no reason not to just take the best defender on their board. If not, it will be an offensive player that, like Lamb, just grades so high that they can’t bring themselves to pass him up.
Even the one trade that was made last year is a useful model for 2021. Don’t mess with the “premium” picks in rounds 1 through 4, but be free with those later ones if you see someone intriguing sliding on Day 3.
The number of starters that have already emerged from the 2020 class is evidence that Will McClay and his merry band of scouts had a real handle on things despite the restrictions last year. Hopefully they will do the same, and the rest of the league will mostly still lag a bit. If they can, there is no reason to think the team might put together something a bit like last year’s crop even without a lot of trading.
It is not as much fun, but patience can be rewarding, too. Maybe we should not be too eager for the draft room at The Star to be working the phones when they go on the clock.