Nov 11, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (center) talks with COO/EVP Stephen Jones (left) and EVP Jerry Jones, Jr. (right) prior to playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 38-23. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Dallas Cowboys Change Their Draft Philosophy?

NFL football and football in general is a tough and violent game. It has often been called a “man’s” game due to just how physical the game is.  Football teams need a good quarterback to run the team, good receivers to throw the ball to, and a stable of dependable running backs is also vital to have any kind of offensive success. The defense needs a good secondary to cover the passing attack of the opposition, and a good line backing corp to get anything that gets past the line of scrimmage. However, a base of a good football team is built along the offensive and defensive lines. This is where the struggle occurs in football, and the team that most wins the battle at the line of scrimmage will usually win the game.


While the Cowboys defensive line has been adequate over the last few years, the offensive line has been another story.  The last time the team had a dependable line it consisted of Flozell Adams, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis, and Marc Colombo as the starters. While this unit wasn’t great, it was solid enough until age caught up to it and the players became too slow to do their work effectively.  Once this line had started to be broken up after the 2009 season, the Cowboys have tried to rebuild it using undrafted free agents and players they could find for the cheap in free agency that their prior clubs did not bother to keep in the fold.

As a lifelong fan of the team, I love how the Cowboys never waver when they think a draft move up the board, a big trade, or a glitzy free agent signing is what they need and go for it.  I got excited when the team moved up in Round 1 and got Dez Bryant and Morris Claiborne in recent drafts. I was excited when they swung for the fences and made the big move and acquired Roy Williams from the Detroit Lions. I was excited when the team signed Leonard Davis, Terrell Owens, Adam “Pacman” Jones, and Brandon Carr as recent notable free agent acquisitions.

What the team has neglected to do, however, is put a true emphasis on the importance of the offensive line play and stay true to that premise. The following are all of the offensive linemen the team has selected in rounds 1 or 2 (premium picks) since 2000:

Tyron Smith                        Round 1                               2011

Jacob Rogers                      Round 2                               2004

Al Johnson                          Round 2                               2003

Andre Gurode                   Round 2                               2002

While true, it’s still hard to believe that the Cowboys have only selected four offensive linemen in Rounds 1 & 2 in the last thirteen drafts.  Looking at this from the outside in, it feels as if the team just does not understand or value how important solid offensive line play is to overall team success. However, this deficiency is a huge problem as to why the team has not made any noise in the playoffs over the last decade.  Gurode had a stellar career playing for the Cowboys and was selected to the Pro Bowl for five consecutive years (2006-2010). While it’s early to make a call on Smith, his future in the league looks to be bright. Rogers & Johnson both had injury problems coming out of college.  These injury concerns caused them to fall to Round 2 where the team selected them. Unlike Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, who also were first round talents that fell to round 2 due to injury concerns and picked by the Cowboy and later overcame their injury problems, Rogers and Johnson were never able to overcome these issues and have success in the league.

With this as the Cowboys history since 2000 of drafting offensive linemen with premium picks (round 1 & 2), let’s take a look at some of the better offensive lines today in the NFL and what round “their own” drafted current starting lineman were found:


San Francisco 49ers

Anthony Davis                   Round 1                               2010

Mike Iupati                         Round 1                               2010

Chilo Rachal                        Round 2                               2008

Joe Staley                            Round 1                               2007


New England Patriots

Nate Solder                        Round 1                               2011

Sebastian Vollmer           Round 2                               2009

Logan Mankins                  Round 1                               2005


Cincinnati Bengals

Kevin Zeitler                       Round 1                               2012

Clint Boling                          Round 4                               2011

Andre Smith                       Round 1                               2009

Andrew Whitworth         Round 2                               2006


Denver Broncos

Orlando Franklin               Round 2                               2011

Zane Beadles                     Round 2                               2010

J.D. Walton                         Round 3                               2010

Ryan Clady                          Round 1                               2008

Cleveland Browns

Mitchell Schwartz            Round 2                               2012

Shawn Lauvao                   Round 3                               2010

Alex Mack                           Round 1                               2009

Joe Thomas                        Round 1                               2007


These teams are just a few examples, but they help demonstrate the importance of using premium draft picks to select offensive linemen. These teams are all known for strong offensive line play, and are either up and coming teams or perennial contenders. These teams understand that while it may not be “sexy” to draft an offensive lineman high in the draft, a talented and solid offensive line is key to having any kind of sustainable success in the NFL. Teams can find quality receivers, running backs, and tight ends much later in the draft or as undrafted free agents. The same can be said for the defensive side of the ball for the most part as well (excluding defensive linemen). What is hard to find, and why there is a dearth of these in the NFL, is that quality offensive lineman are just hard to come by.

The Cowboys failure to realize this has contributed mightily to basically being a .500 team since 2000. With the upcoming draft in a few weeks and the talent level of the offensive linemen coming out this year, hopefully the team can change their philosophy. The Cowboys have been one of the better teams at finding undrafted contributors. However, their history of finding quality linemen is quite the opposite. The Cowboys have always stated that they draft by their board and pick the “best player available” on their board when they are on the clock. Hopefully going forward, the organization will increase the value they place on offensive linemen and this can alter the value these guys have on their draft board and are then selected accordingly.


Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH

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Tags: 2013 NFL Draft Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line

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