Could Jerry Jones Trade Up in the NFL Draft?

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 actually called for Jerry Jones to draft Manziel back in December 2012 after he won the Heisman. HERE

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 Senior Bowl week 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.
RELATED: Could Jerry Trade Down?