Dallas Cowboys: Mike McCarthy wants to draft the best player available

Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

With the hiring of Mike McCarthy, the Dallas Cowboys figure to have a different approach to acquiring players. Now, owner Jerry Jones has confirmed it.

For nearly a decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been under the tenure of a single head coach, Jason Garrett. But last month, the Cowboys opted to part ways with Garrett, who officially took over the job back in 2011. And that change figures to heavily influence the way the team goes about acquiring players moving forward.

The introduction of former Green Bay Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy as the new man in charge has and will impact the Cowboys’ organization in several ways. McCarthy has already revamped nearly the entire coaching staff leaving very few remaining who were in Dallas just last season.

But where McCarthy’s impact might be felt the most will be in player acquisition. For nearly a decade, Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay and the team’s scouting department have been searching for players to fit in the previous regime’s scheme. Now, with McCarthy at the helm of America’s Team, that focus will shift.

During his yearly bus interview with the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was asked about the team’s biggest roster needs this offseason. Here’s what Jones said about McCarthy’s impact on the Cowboys’ draft mentality headed in 2020 via the Dallas Cowboys official YouTube page.

"“What I will tell you in the draft is the best player that’s sitting there. The very best player. One thing that Mike [McCarthy] has basically emphasized with everybody is ‘I can change what I’m doing to the skills of the player’ … so he says get me the good player and I’ll put him to work in what he does best.”"

Drafting for the best player available will be a stark change for the Cowboys. They’ve missed out on several talented players due to their previous preference often to draft for need or scheme fit over pure talent.

The best example being in 2017 when Dallas passed on Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt in the first round and instead drafted Michigan defensive end, Taco Charlton. The less talented Charlton was viewed as a better scheme fit for then-defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s defense.

Watt would go on to become a two-time Pro Bowler who has racked up 34.5 total sacks in three seasons. While Charlton isn’t even with the Cowboys anymore after posting 4.0 sacks in 27 regular-season games with Dallas.

For the past decade, the Cowboys have seemingly valued need over talent in the draft. And that’s resulted in them landing players like All-Pro guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick. But that draft strategy has also been behind some of the team’s biggest draft busts like Charlton, cornerback Morris Claiborne, and potentially defensive tackle Trysten Hill.

Drafted in the second round last year, Hill was viewed as the perfect scheme fit for Marinelli’s defensive unit as an interior pass rusher at the three-technique. Yet, he played just seven games, spending most of his rookie season as a healthy scratch, and recorded five total tackles and no sacks in 2019. And now, Marinelli is no longer in Dallas.

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With Mike McCarthy now shopping for the groceries in Dallas, pure talent will seemingly supersede team need in the upcoming NFL draft. And fans should prepare themselves accordingly as there a good chance one of the top wide receivers might be available when the Cowboys’ number is called in the first round at 17th overall. And according to this latest quote by Jerry Jones, if a receiver is the top-rated player on their board at the time, McCarthy would love to welcome them to Big D.