Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of the Dallas Cowboys, Stephen Jones, spoke candidly to the media about the Cowboys draft process late Wednesday while preparing for the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine. During his interview with reporters, Jones was asked about Dallas’ need for defensive line help as pertaining to the first round of the draft. Here’s how he responded:
“Well, I think you get in a lot of trouble if you focus on one spot. I’m mean, you start targeting something and drafting for need. We all know that will get you in trouble. So, I don’t think it’s to anyone’s surprise that it’d be nice to come out of the draft, at some point, with a defensive front guy, defensive lineman or two. But no, I don’t think we can just say ‘Hey, we’re going to take the first two picks and that’s got to be defensive lineman.’ No. I think you get in trouble that way.”
Jones went on to talk in great detail about the problems the Cowboys draft war room experienced last year when there was an apparent disagreement between scouts and coaches concerning defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.
“That was unfortunate with Sharrif. I don’t want to single a guy out, but I think that can happen when you change a system. You move from what we were doing. We were so into that. And then, all of the sudden, you move to a 4-3 and you got new coaches in the room and what their trying to accomplish. That one kinda slipped through the cracks a little bit on us. It won’t happen again.”
What’s interesting here is Jones almost admits that passing on Floyd at #18, who was eventually taken by the Minnesota Vikings six picks later, was a mistake. There was obviously miscommunication between then new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, his coaches and the Cowboys scouting department. And Jones indicated that the scouts may have been misguided in how they approached last year’s draft rankings, putting too much emphasis on need:
” (I) talked about it with our scouts. We don’t want to see it. We want the guys to get the grades they should get and not try to start liking a guy because we might need a position.”
Jones went on to address how they have corrected the communication issues from last year:
”We had a great couple of weeks with the coaches the last couple of weeks. We really got into (it) hard, what they want. What they need for their defense to be successful. Obviously…you want to take players that can be successful in any system. At the same time, how you value them, where you put them, should be weighed…I think, at the end of the day, (it was) that one particular player. I know we got criticized for it. The good news is we didn’t make the mistake. We fixed it at the right time. We were able to work through that. That’s the great thing about having someone like Jerry who’s reasonable enough to say ‘we’re not going to do this on this player’.”
First, it’s great to here Jerry is good for something other than running his mouth (jab). Secondly, it seems the junior Jones backtracks a bit here, not wanting to admit they overreached for Travis Frederick at #31 after the trade with the San Francisco 49ers. When asked if he thought the scouts got it right concerning Sharrif Floyd, Jones responded:
“I feel like we had him graded right, yes. Did we have him graded right for our system? That’s debatable….You have some players you have issues with because they don’t fit your system, necessary. Even though Sharrif may have been a first round-type player in our old system, he might not have been a first round player for what we want in our system, as in under tackle.”
Then Jones made a very telling statement that could be an insight to the Cowboys current draft strategy…or it could simply be an attempt at misdirection (which is all-too common this time of year). Either way, it’s interesting:
“We think, in our system, we can find nose tackles later in the draft that do a good job.”
What’s really interesting here is Jones is speaking in the present tense. If this is true, Dallas may have their eye set on a defensive tackle or tackles in the later rounds of the draft. If so, I think it’s a strong indication the Cowboys could look at the safety position or possibly defensive end with their first pick. If Jones is to be believe, if the most talented player on their board is a quarterback, let’s say Johnny Manziel, they would take him.