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Cowboys draft: Can Jerry Jones resist the temptation of draft-day trades?

With 10 picks at their disposal, should the Cowboys sit tight or move around the draft board?

Dallas Cowboys Introduce Head Coach Mike McCarthy Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

By my count, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have engineered 84 trades involving draft picks since 1989. Some of those trades, like the franchise-defining Hershel Walker trade in 1989, were hugely successful, while others, like the acquisition of wide receiver Roy Williams, were unmitigated disasters.

Since 1989, the team have been involved in draft day trades in 28 of their 32 drafts under Jerry Jones. The only four years in which the Cowboys managed to keep their feet completely still on draft weekend were 2000, 2011, 2016, and 2018, when they did not move away from their originally assigned draft spots once over the entire draft weekend. Is that recent mini-surge of no-trade drafts something we’ll see again this year?

Conventional wisdom holds that teams should trust their draft board and take the best talent that slides into their lap. At the same time, moving back a few spots could net you extra picks with which to address holes in your roster. And the Cowboys have also been successful (at times) in moving up in the draft, which has many fans thinking of slipping the entire Cowboys war room some Adderall to keep Mr. Jones and his crew in their seats, off the phones and focused on their draft board.

So, what to do?

Over the last seven years, the Cowboys have averaged 2.4 trades per year involving draft picks (see detailed list at the bottom of this post), which is slightly below their 2.6 average over the last 32 years. And once again there is lots of speculation this year about the Cowboys moving up, or moving down, or maybe even doing both. It’s not a reach to expect that there could be draft-day trades in the works for the Cowboys.

Sticking to your draft board is not necessarily a guarantee for finding great players, but over the last couple of years, the Cowboy’s draft boards appears to have been pretty solid. Obviously, the danger inherent in moving around is that you can end up missing some very good players.

In 2009, the Cowboys traded out of the 51st pick for the 75th (OG Robert Brewster, zero NFL career starts) and 110th (LB Victor Butler, two NFL career starts) pick. Within nine picks of that original pick, OG Andy Levitre (pick 51, 143 career starts), OT Phil Loadholt (#54, 89 starts), OT Sebastian Vollmer (#58, 80 starts) and OT William Beatty (#60, 63 starts) were selected. Each of those guys would have been a dramatic upgrade over what the Cowboys eventually got. And that’s without factoring in six-time Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy, who would have been available at 53.

At the same time, had the Cowboys not traded up in the 2010 and 2014 drafts, they wouldn’t have gotten Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, or DeMarcus Lawrence, just as their moves in 2013 netted them Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams. Which just goes to show that if you cherry-pick your examples, you can prove just about anything.

So what do you think: Can the Cowboys sit tight during the draft? And more importantly, should they?


Cowboys recent trade history involving draft picks

2014

  • Traded up for DeMarcus Lawrence (34=47+78)
  • Traded up for WR Devin Street (146=158+229)
  • Traded conditional 2015 sixth rounder (204) to Ravens for rights to Rolando McClain and 2015 seventh rounder (243)

2015

  • Traded 2016 sixth round pick (178) to 49ers for 2015 seventh round pick (246-Geoff Swaim)
  • Traded 2016 fifth round pick (143) to Raiders for Brice Butler and 2016 sixth round pick (189-Anthony Brown)
  • Traded 2016 seventh round pick (225) to Seahawks for Christine Michael
  • Traded 2017 fifth round pick (171) to Buffalo for Matt Cassel and 2017 seventh round pick (228)

2016

  • Zero, zilch, nada

2017

  • Traded up for Xavier Woods (191=157 in 2018)
  • Traded down with Patriots for extra picks (211 = 216, 239) -> Marquez White, Noah Brown
  • Traded 2019 sixth round pick (198) to Bengals for Bene’ Benwikere

2018

  • Traded 2019 first round pick (27) to Raiders for Amari Cooper

2019

  • Traded down with Bengals for extra picks (136 = 149, 213)
  • Traded down with Raiders for extra picks (149 = 158, 218)
  • Traded 2020 sixth round pick (197) to Miami for Robert Quinn
  • Traded 2021 sixth round pick (195) to Patriots for Michael Bennett

2020

  • Traded up for Tyler Biadasz (146 = 164 + 156 in 2021)
  • Traded Everson Griffen to Detroit for pick 192 in 2021)