Could Jerry Jones Trade Up in the NFL Draft?

In SPORTS on April 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Jerry traded up to take Claiborne in 2012

Jerry traded up to take Claiborne in 2012

Don’t have to go back very far to have an example of Jerry Jones making a surprise trade up in the draft. In the 2012 draft, Jerry traded away a 2nd round pick to move up from 14 and take CB Morris Claiborne with the 6th pick. Was that move worth it? The verdict about Claiborne as a NFL corner is still out but so far, it would be described as “disappointing” by most fans.

Claiborne has had several injuries, made a few plays, and had some bad days. Making the switch from Ryan’s defense to Kiffin’s defense certainly created challenges. I’m not ready to label Mo a bust pick yet, but he better show us something in 2014. Just sayin’.

That surprise move by Jerry back in 2012, certainly appeared to be all about Jerry making a splash as Claiborne had not even visited Valley Ranch prior to the draft. It’s fair to describe the move as “impulsive” and Jerry can certainly be unpredictable on draft day. Jerry loves him some attention during the draft.

“Makin’ a Splash”
In the movie “Draft Day” with Kevin Costner, the owner talks to the GM (Costner) about making a draft pick that makes a splash as they are walking around a closed water park that serves as a rather unsubtle metaphor.
“People pay to get wet”. – from Movie “Draft Day”

The owner is focused on marketing the team and seeks the headline pick that will create excitement among the fan base. Put “butts in the seats” as the expression goes. But the Browns’ owner in the movie isn’t primarily focused on building a winning team. Clearly trading up just to make a splash isn’t a good reason to do it. But don’t put it past the Cowboys owner.

Jerry recently commented that while the Cowboys haven’t had a playoff team in years, they still draw a crowd in TV ratings. ARTICLE
I’m not at all surprised Jerry looks at it that way. Actually kind of had that figured but I was a little surprised that even he would be so bold as to say it out loud. That’s exactly the kind of mindset that will be inclined to trade up and take a big name pick. A symbolism over substance approach, if you will.

Target and Partner Required
To consider a trade up, there must be a target or a player that they believe can be a real difference maker for them. To cut a deal, they will need a dance partner or another GM willing to move down from a pick. Let’s take a look at some of the possible targets for Dallas to trade up on draft day. Dallas does have 11 picks to play with although their three compensatory picks in the 7th round, aren’t allowed to be traded.

Target 1
DE Jadeveon Clowney: This would certainly be considered a bold “go big or go home” move but I’m starting with Clowney because he is the highest rated DE in the draft and Dallas certainly needs a DE with Ware gone to the Broncos.

Clowney has freakish athletic ability that doesn’t come along every draft with a rare combination of speed and size. He would demand accountability from offensive lines that would make all the other defensive linemen around him better. His impact on the Cowboys defense would be profound and immediate. The kind of defender a coach could move around and cause major headaches for his opponent.

Worth it?
It’s not difficult to make the case that Dallas could use a Clowney on their defensive line but would it be worth what it would cost to move up in the draft? Clowney is expected to go very early like in the top 5 picks. Moving up will take a similar offer that got them Claiborne in 2012 and even more. Clowney’s motor has been questioned and that must be a consideration. He’s not a sure thing. But then who is?

Partner Rams: The Rams own the 2nd pick and also the 13th pick. The Texans have the first pick but many speculate they will go QB with that pick. It could be argued that defensive end is not a huge need for the Rams and with the 13th pick, may not want to pay two picks that high in the draft anyway. The Rams may be willing to talk about trading out of that 2nd pick.

Target 2
QB Johnny Manziel: I’m not the only one that wonders how QB Tony Romo will hold up after two back surgeries, as recently former Dallas super bowl winning QB Troy Aikman expressed concern.
“two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.” -Troy Aikman

Romo just turned 34 and let’s face it, Dallas needs to start thinking about who their future QB will be. “Johnny Football” is a unique talent and I love the way he competes. Aikman thinks he is going to be a good one too.

“I wasn’t in Houston for the workout, but I think he’s (Manziel) got an opportunity to really have a special career, and I’ll be pulling for that to happen.” -Aikman

If Johnny Football was wearing the star on his helmet, it would never be boring, I can guarantee you that. This pick energizes a fan base for sure if that’s the priority, but he also may win some games too.

Worth it?
It’s not real clear where Manziel could get picked but he is projected to go in the top 10 picks. A franchise type QB for the future doesn’t come along every draft so those are the type positions worth moving up for. I’m not even sure if Manziel is on the Cowboys radar or not, but if he slips down to around 10, they should think about it.

Target 3
DT Aaron Donald: Early in the post season Donald was considered a 2nd round prospect but he performed well in the Senior Bowl then he went out and destroyed the combine by displaying outstanding speed and strength. He helped himself and now is considered the highest ranked DT in the draft. Once a possibility for Dallas at 16, Donald is now likely to go before their pick.

Marinelli’s defense needs a strong 3 technique defensive tackle like the Broncos offense needs a Peyton Manning. And Aaron Donald is exactly what Marinelli would order if he could order a DT like a pizza. Donald would make an immediate impact on the Dallas defense in pressuring QBs and he would certainly thrive in their 4-3 defense. Donald visited Valley Ranch last week and is a player Dallas is considering for sure.

Worth it?
Of all the possible trade ups, this one may make the most sense for Dallas and appears reasonably obtainable. Speculation is that the Bears, who run a very similar defense as Dallas and enter the draft with similar needs, will pick Donald at 14 just ahead of Dallas at 16. Moving up just a little, could land Dallas a player that will turn their weak defense around quickly.

Partner Rams: Again the Rams have the 2nd pick and a 13th pick. If the Giants don’t take Donald at 12, then by moving into the Rams 13th spot, Dallas could intercept Donald from the Bears. And since the Bears took DT Jay Ratliff from Dallas last year, that could feel kind of good. Like high fives in the war room good.

After making the 2nd pick in the draft, the Rams may be willing to move down just a couple spots to select their next player. The Rams need more than defensive linemen.

Final Take:
I’ve provided three players worth considering a trade up. Three players that would be game changers for the Cowboys. Clowney is probably going to require more than it’s worth and Manziel becomes more intriguing if he should fall in the draft a little.

Moving up just ahead of the Bears to select Donald my be a move to look for on draft day.

Final Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Mock Draft: All 11 picks

In SPORTS on April 16, 2014 at 6:04 pm
Jerry and Stephen in the war room

Jerry and Stephen in the war room

Frankly I’m not one who subscribes to the “best available player” approach to drafting. Who is to say who the best player available is anyway, Mel Kiper? The experts often don’t agree and have been proven wrong time and time again in past drafts. The NFL is a win right now league and a GM best draft players who can come in and make an impact very soon. That means determining who may best fit into your system on offense and defense. For example, what good is it to draft a best available player who is a OLB for a 3-4 defense if you really need a DE for your 4-3 defense?

In this my final 2014 mock draft for the Cowboys, I’ve carefully selected players that can uniquely fit into the current schemes particularly on defense, where upgrades in 4-3 personnel are greatly needed. I’ve tried to be realistic about when players can be picked based on their current rankings which in some cases, have shifted a lot in recent months.

Aaron Donald
In my previous mock draft, I had DT Aaron Donald going to Dallas in the first round and I still think he is the best pick for that Dallas defense. But as Donald continues to climb up the board (currently 14 over all), I must consider a first round plan B if Donald is drafted before 16.

If Donald is off the Board before Dallas is on the clock? I’m sticking with filling the need of getting a defensive tackle.

1st Round: DT Timmy Jernigan- Florida State
I actually think Jernigan could be a very effective one technique for the Cowboys defensive line and compliment the play of former Bear Henry Melton at the three technique. Provided Melton returns to his old form, he can provide the pass pressure up the middle getting after QBs while Jernigan can stuff the run inside. An effective 1-2 punch. Both Donald and Jernigan have visited valley Ranch and would appear to be on the Cowboys radar.

Here is what I said about Jernigan in my analysis on defensive tackle prospects:
Strengths- Quick feet-Not great straight line speed but surprisingly very good quickness moving laterally.
Hands- I really like how Jernigan uses his hands to control the blocker and disengage form the blocker to pursue the ball.
Run defender- Jernigan is an excellent defender against the run. He gets off blockers, slides down the line to collapse the hole and stuff the runner. Appears more like a LB when he pursues the ball.

Weakness-Just an average pass rusher. Not very productive in sacks last season with just 4.5.

Fit for Dallas-
Very Good- I think Jernigan would improve the Cowboys run defense significantly right away. He is probably more of a 1 tech. than 3 tech. but I think he can handle both. Jernigan will be excellent on run plays but on 3rd down may not be a great help against the pass.

Draft: Third ranked DT and expected to go in the first round. Some mocks who think Donald will be off the board, have Dallas picking Jernigan instead.
Conditioning? A lot has been made of the National Championship game when Jernigan appeared to run out of gas against Auburn. Jernigan is not a large appliance type DT that kills grass like you see in some larger DTs. Jernigan plays with tremendous effort and energy which is a good fit in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. He flies around to the ball and it’s important to have him part of a rotation on the defensive line that keeps him ready to go late in the game. Don’t keep him out there every snap.

With this first selection of a DT, Dallas forms a defensive line that is younger, quicker, more athletic, and presents a lot for offensive lines to deal with.

2nd Round: DE Kareem Martin- UNC
Martin was previously my 3rd round pick but now it’s official that Ware will not be with Dallas next year so I think it becomes more critical that Dallas add a defensive end. Kareem Martin’s ranking has been on the rise (now 46 overall CBS sports) so I think Dallas will need to take him with their 2nd pick since Martin won’t likely be around by their 3rd pick.

At 6-6, 272 Martin has ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end which he played at North Carolina. In fact, Martin was recruited by former UNC coach Butch Davis who coached the defensive line for Dallas during their super bowl wins of the 90s. Martin has the longest arms of any DE prospects in the draft which help him control offensive linemen. He is excellent against the run.

Last season Martin had 11 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. While his strength is defending the run, he has tremendous potential to develop as a pass rusher. He needs to be coached up a bit in that area and Coach Marinelli can provide that teaching.

Last season Martin had flashes of outstanding play and then disappeared at times too but he played his best football down the final stretch of the season. I think Coach Marinelli is the kind of coach that can get the most out of a high ceiling talent like Martin.

With this selection, Dallas replaces Ware by picking up a true “plug and play” 4-3 defensive end with tremendous upside potential.

3rd Round: OG Cyril Richardson: Baylor or Guard Gabe Jackson Miss. State
Previously I had Dallas taking guard Gabe Jackson of Miss. St. in the 2nd round but with Dallas getting a much needed DE in the 2nd, now they pick up a guard in the 3rd round to solidify their improved offensive line. Currently, there are no guards listed on the roster behind Leary and Bernadeau who both have a history of injuries.

Recently, Jackson has dropped a little so he may be available for Dallas as a third round pick. If so, I give Jackson a slight edge over Richardson but if Jackson is gone, then Richardson is a solid pick. Both represent depth and even an upgrade over their current guards for years to come.

Richardson was named to the All American Team as a guard last season. He also has experience playing offensive tackle too and was actually protecting RG3 at tackle a couple years ago. Not only can he help them at guard right away, Richardson could represent a replacement at right tackle for Free in 2015.

Without Costa, they have no back up center for Frederick and Bernadeau is the only one with some experience at center. Adding a guard in the draft becomes a must for Dallas.

Richardson is huge (6-5, 329) and his strength is power blocking straight ahead. Has the strength/power to be a real asset in short yardage particularly at the goal line. I noticed on video that Baylor preferred running behind Richardson at the goal line and he came through for them over and over again. Putting him next to center Travis Frederick, will give the Dallas run game a significant push up front particularly in 3rd or 4th and one.

It’s in pass protection where Richardson needs to improve and where he received criticism at the Senior Bowl practices early in the year. He certainly moves well when asked to pull and he can hold up to a bull rush for sure but I saw weakness on video when defensive lines ran stunts and Richardson was asked to adjust laterally. I believe offensive line coach Bill Callahan can help his game much like he helped young Pro Bowl OT Tyron Smith who had to learn left tackle.

Last season in my mock draft, I had Dallas selecting guard Larry Warford in the 2nd round but the Lions drafted him instead. Warford went on to have an outstanding rookie season and was even PFF’s offensive rookie of the year. I don’t think Dallas can afford to pass on drafting a guard this time.

With this selection, Dallas adds much needed quality depth at guard and finds one in either Jackson or Richardson, that has the potential to start very soon.

4th Round: LB Christian Jones- Florida State
Still working on that weak Dallas defense, I have them picking up some much needed depth at LB and a guy who offers an upgrade over Bruce Carter in pass coverage. Last season, too often Carter appeared a step slow in covering backs out of the backfield such as Danny Woodhead of the Chargers. Offenses exploited this weakness so Dallas needs a guy with the speed to play the “Will” LB.

Jones is a 2nd Team All ACC player in 2012 and 2013. He played middle LB last year and played the “Will” in 2012 which is where I think he can help Dallas the most. In the 2012 season, he led the team in tackles with 95. Jones ran a 4.74 time in the 40 and his speed really shows up big on video watching the FSU national championship season. Capable of covering TEs and RBs out of the backfield and also excellent at pursuing the run sideline to sideline.

At 6′-3 and 240, he has good size to fight though blocks to get to the ball. A very athletic LB that should fit in well in their 4-3 defense and he is described as a player that loves football. Jones is an excellent special teams player in covering kicks and can help right away in that area. Versatile enough to fill in at any of the LB spots when needed.

There has been speculation that Sean Lee may get moved to weak side LB next season to decrease his chance of injury. If so, Jones represents a very solid option a MLB. He can play any of the three LB positions and he likely will be needed at some point in the season.

With this pick, not only does Dallas add quality depth at LB, but a potential starter. Jones offers an option at LB that Dallas will be glad to have at some point in the season.

5th Round: WR Jeff Janis- Saginaw Valley State
Miles Austin is going to be cut and while rookie Terrance Williams developed into a solid replacement last season, it still will leave Dallas with a net loss at the WR position. They kept 5 WRs last season and without Austin, they will have four on the current roster.

Janis played at the same school that gave us safety Jeff Heath last season. Janis has good size for a WR at 6-3 219, and outstanding speed with a 4.42 time in the 40 at the combine. That’s even faster than top rated WR Sammy Watkins. Janis was also a top performer in the 3 cone drill and he had a strong performance on the bench press.

Janis has plenty of size/strength to get off pressing corners and also enough speed to get behind coverage as a deep threat.

Janis was productive at Saginaw Valley with 1,572 yards and 14 TDs. He averaged over 18 yards per catch representing an explosive option in the passing game.

With this pick, Dallas adds a WR with impressive size and excellent speed representing good value in the 5th round. A very capable back up that can develop into a starter in the future.

No 6th round pick but now 6 Picks in the 7th round
Mock 2.0 comment- Dallas is not allowed to trade their three compensatory picks.

7th Round: DT Jay Bromley -Syracuse
Another defensive tackle? Yes, I think Coach Rod Marinelli will be very intentional about fixing up his defensive line that lacked depth last season. Bromley represents good value here as a DT capable of getting in the rotation right away.

Bromley moves very well and is a natural fit in the 4-3 defense as a three technique. He is capable of playing any position across the 4-3 front line (even DE) which will be useful. A three year starter that was named All ACC Third Team after 10 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Described as very coachable with good leadership ability and he was a team captain.

With this pick, Marinelli adds more depth to his defensive line rotation in DT Jason Bromley who represents nice value in the 7th round.

7th Round: RB DeAnthony Thomas- Oregon: Lance Dunbar is expected to recover from injury and play a large role in the Dallas offense as a receiver out of the backfield. Thomas can step into that role if Dunbar is not healed up, or gets injured again. Thomas ran a 4.50/40 time and can contribute as a kick returner right away. A very capable pass receiver and provides explosiveness similar to Dunbar in the open field. It would be wise for Dallas to think about a Dunbar replacement just in case and “Dat” (Thomas nickname) set records returning KOs and punts at Oregon.
HIGHLIGHTS of Thomas at Oregon.

7th Round: FB J.C. Copeland- LSU: I’m not usually big on drafting a fullback but when you have 6 picks in the 7th, why not? Good FBs and RBs can be found late in the draft.

Jason Garrett appears to want to get away from using a FB at all in the offense but every year they seem to search for a lead blocker for short yardage situations. Described as a 5-11, 271 pound human wrecking ball, Copeland is a converted defensive lineman who knows how to clear a path for a running back. Can catch the ball too, but mostly he is there to help get Murray in the endzone.

Three Compensatory Picks in the 7th

7th Round: FS Jonathan Dowling -Western Kentucky
Free agent Safety Danny McCray signed with the Bears leaving a spot open. The Cowboys have young safeties Jeff Heath and JJ Wilcox that they hope will develop next season but adding another guy in the mix doesn’t hurt just in case.

Dowling transferred from Florida to Western Kentucky and he comes with some questionable character issues related to his time at Florida. While his attitude may be questionable, his athletic ability certainly isn’t. He reminds me of CB Janoris Jenkins who transferred from Florida because of issues but was drafted by the Rams in 2012. Jenkins proved to be a pretty good player.

On film, Dowling displays outstanding free safety instincts. A true ball hawk which Dallas has been looking for at the position. He has ideal size for a safety at 6-3, 190 and also has long arms (33 1/8″) which help. He is one of the fastest safeties in the draft running a 4.52/40. Dowling covers a lot of ground in a short time and knows how to play over the top in a defense like a Tampa 2 requires.

The previous two seasons he had 9 INTs (3 in Kentucky game) and 8 forced fumbles. Represents a good special teams contributor in kick coverage as well.

Without the character red flags, Dowling would be projected to go much earlier. He has the potential to be a difference maker and that makes him worth investing a 7th round pick on. He does come with risks but with this pick, Dallas may find the ball hawk safety they have been looking for.

7th Round: OT Wesley Johnson- Vanderbilt: Like that he has played every position on the offensive line including center, so he is capable of providing depth across the entire Cowboys offensive line. Described as a high character guy and a two time team captain. A good pass protector and light on his feet as a top performer in the 3 cone drill at the combine, among linemen.

7th Round: QB Jeff Mathews- Cornell
Coming off back surgery, no one really knows how Romo will hold up during 16 games next season, although he appears to be recovering fine.

Backup QB Kyle Orton may retire and Dallas added QB Brandon Weeden from the Browns. They usually keep just two QBs on the roster so drafting a QB is not a huge need but drafting a QB with potential in the 7th and putting them on the practice squad, would not be a bad move. Will need him in preseason games for sure.

Make no mistake, Jeff Mathews is not currently NFL ready as he does represent a project. What I like are the traits he possesses that can’t be coached such as his 6-4 height and his strong NFL caliber arm. Also a team captain for 3 seasons which was a first at Cornell.

Very productive career as he rewrote the record books setting Ivy League records with 11,284 yards and 18- 300 yard games. Mathews reminds me of QB Alex Tanney who the Browns signed off the Cowboys practice squad last season.

Mathews needs to be coached up on throwing mechanics as he holds the ball too long, and doesn’t display proper foot work consistently. But an intelligent player for sure that should be very coachable in those areas of weakness. Accurate passer and on film, his throws down the field are impressive. Makes deep throws effortlessly.

Jerry & Stephen Can’t Afford to Draft “Best Available” This Time

In SPORTS on March 24, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Dumb & Dumber

Dumb & Dumber

Jerry & Stephen

Jerry & Stephen

Jerry and Stephen Jones, or “Dumb and Dumber” if you prefer, can’t afford to go into the 2014 NFL draft looking to draft the “best available” player in each round while pretending to address glaring needs in free agency. They have played that card before but the salary cap rule bending and restructured contracts are all catching up to them now.

But I warn Cowboy fans, they are approaching it this year just as they have in the past, by addressing needs prior to the draft so that Jerry and Stephen can impulsively indulge in their fantasy football league approach to drafting. By “addressing needs”, I mean they are signing players that would be considered NFL journey men or “camp bodies” to fill the roster at positions of need prior to the draft. See, it’s not actually addressing needs at all and we have seen them do it before.

Recently Stephen said, “To me, that’s what free agency is about. You certainly can’t build a football team around free agency, and I think you’re going in the wrong direction if you look at it that way,” he said. “What it hopefully does is fill glaring needs so that you can take the best player available. I think when you start reaching for a particular position you start to make mistakes.”

So far to fill glaring needs left by the departures of Ware and Hatcher, they signed defensive linemen Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain who have a combined 2 sacks in the past two NFL seasons. Both of those were Mincey’s.

Their big splash free agency signing was Henry Melton who is coming off a short 2013 season with the Bears after tearing his ACL. Melton (a pro bowler in 2012) appears to be a good pick up and figures to be an excellent fit in Rod Marinelli’s defense however, the fact is no one knows how he will play after that serious injury.

Jerry and Stephen may view it as all buttoned up at defensive tackle heading into the draft but I think it’s actually a little more fragile than they would have us believe. What if Melton isn’t really all healed up from his serious ACL injury? Jerry and Stephen may have covered themselves with a contract they can get out of easily but who will help that terrible defense then? Don’t fall for it again.

Last Year They were Counting on Rat
Last season Jerry told us DT Jay Ratliff would be ready to go and Jerry went on to not draft a single defensive lineman. We soon found out that Rat was not ready to go at all at least not for Dallas, as Rat (now known as Jeremiah) eventually went to the Bears and actually played against the Cowboys.

And there were plenty of red flags to suspect they shouldn’t put all of their eggs on Jeremiah Ratliff since he was over 30, coming off an injury, had an off field DUI issue, and basically stood toe to toe with Jerry in the locker room. Why couldn’t Jerry and Stephen see how it may go wrong?

Instead of drafting a defensive lineman, Jerry and Stephen made a “best available” pick of a TE in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft (Gavin Escobar) and went on to use him very little (only 9 catches, 134 yards in 2013) while being forced out of desperation, to sign defensive linemen off the couch during the season.

It’s not to say Escobar is not a talented TE but to say the two Jones failed to address major needs during the draft because they felt they had it all covered on the defensive line when they actually didn’t. And they are headed that same direction again based on those comments Stephen made.

Reality is, Jerry and Stephen didn’t have enough salary cap room in 2014, to fully address all their needs at every position. So they must do it through the draft to avoid scrambling to sign players during the season, who thought their NFL careers were over.

Last year it was 36 year old guard Brian Waters who Jerry was forced to sign after failing to address their need for depth at guard, during the draft. Waters, once an outstanding guard, would only last for about 5 games as he is simply at the end of his career. As team GM, that’s not proactively addressing needs, that’s just reacting by plugging bodies into a spot in a spare tire approach.

2014 DRAFT
Jerry and Stephen like to convince themselves, and unfortunately the fan base too, that all needs have been addressed so they are free to draft players that don’t really fill a particular need. But entering the 2014 draft in an era of salary cap restrictions, they simply don’t have that luxury any longer. While signing Melton was a start, there is still a need to pick up defensive tackles in the draft who can get into their rotation immediately.

They also need to draft a 4-3 DE to replace Ware but don’t be surprised if Jerry and Stephen tell us they already have Ware’s replacement on the roster. “Got it covered” we have heard them indicate before. Or even worse, announce they are going to resign 30 year old DE Anthony Spencer on the cheap, after his major knee surgery.

And don’t be shocked if they come out of the draft with yet another offensive toy for Jason Garrett that rarely gets used. When Jerry and Stephen get in the draft, they like to go with their instincts instead of addressing needs and that should be a concern for all Cowboy fans.

In the NFL draft, Jerry is like Floyd in “Dumb and Dumber’, “We don’t usually pick up hitchhikers. But I’m-a gonna go with my instincts on this one. Saddle up, partner!”


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