Many draft experts have judged the Dallas Cowboys’ draft haul among the best in the NFL this year. How did America’s Team accomplish this feat?
It may seem like a dream, but it’s true. According to most accounts, the Dallas Cowboys had one of the best drafts in the league this year. How did they do it?
Let’s just say they didn’t just show up on draft day and get lucky. Although the Cowboys most definitely had great draft karma, there was much more to it than that.
They had to get a lot of things right for it all to work out. In fact, we could put a list together of the steps Dallas management took and got right to get this magnificent result…
1. The scouting department put together a great draft board.
I don’t know if Will McClay, vice president of player personnel, is the best judge of talent in the NFL, but sometimes it feels like he is. Like in 2016 when Dallas drafted Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round and identified three other starters (including All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott), one of them in the sixth round.
Saturday night after the draft’s completion was another time to appreciate the brilliant judge of talent. Since McClay has taken over Dallas’s scouting department, they’ve often seemed to have a better feel for personnel than many other teams. For those who want to dissent, with the choice of Trysten Hill in the second round of the 2019 draft, who hardly played at all last year, remember, he wasn’t McClay’s choice.
That was management kowtowing to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who had a man-crush on the under-achieving defensive tackle. According to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer, Kansas City Chiefs’ starting safety Juan Thornhill (who made 58 tackles as a rookie for the eventual Super Bowl winners) was also someone the Cowboys were zeroed in on when they chose Hill (and his five rookie-season tackles).
For those who want to bring up risky picks, like perennially suspended defensive end Randy Gregory, who Dallas picked in the second round of the 2015 draft, remember it was Trader Jerry (Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) who made that choice. When Dallas management follows McClay’s draft board, they draft like geniuses. When they deviate, things don’t go as well
2. Before the draft, Dallas management plugged (almost) all the holes in the roster.
It looks like the Cowboys handled free agency better this year than in previous years. Instead of waiting for weeks as they’ve done in the past, the Cowboys opened the free agency period in late March with a bang, signing Pro Bowl defensive tackles Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy.
Then, they re-signed slot cornerback Anthony Brown, and signed former New York Jet cornerback Maurice Canady, and former Chicago Bears safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Finally, they signed another corner in Saivion Smith, former star defensive end Aldon Smith, and kicker Greg Zuerlein, which will lead to a hopefully exciting training camp kicking duel with current kicker Kai Forbath.
Along the way, they re-signed four-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper to a massive five-year hundred million dollar contract and slapped the franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott.
All of this allowed the Cowboys to truly enter the draft with the freedom to draft the best player available, instead of being forced to prioritize gaping holes in the roster. But that left a major question. Would they actually do the smart thing? Or would they blow it?