Cowboys Draft: An 'A' Grade For 'The Plan'

IRVING - It is a few ticks before the start of the NFL Draft and I am in a Valley Ranch restroom, in the urinal next to none other than Jerry Jones. We are talking about giving speeches and about men's shoes and about, well, urinating ... but all that's really on our mind is Cowboys Draft Day. ... Jerry's focus? The execution of a three-round plan. Mine? Grading that execution with a so-far 'A':

The Execution of The Plan

Some Cowboys fans and media members are under the mistaken impression that when you go 12-4, the next logical and natural step is to be better in the ensuing year. Sorry, but that’s not promised to the Cowboys, who recognize — due to their trio of consecutive .500 seasons before 2014 — that this is an 8-8 league. That rings even more true with the parity bylaws that demand Dallas play a first-place schedule in 2015.

This is a talented team, but this is a daunting task.

But before you beat the opponents, you must beat the system. The way to do that is "Asset Management.'' The obsession around here is Dez Bryant having the franchise tag lifted in order to give him a Cowboys-For-Life deal that will ideally total $100 million over seven years is an example of how to do this right. A deal (before July 15) not only secures the team’s best player, but alters his cap hit from the present $12.83 mil down to possibly below $6 mil. ... and such a deal is a great example of how you manage an expensive asset.


There are people who worry about Dez' future here, but he's not one of the worriers. I spoke to him moments after Dallas' selection of Byron Jones and Bryant was all about the "we.''

"I love the pick!'' Dez told me.

Coach Jason Garrett feels the same way about the Cowboys’ pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft.

“This is not a workout warrior,” Redball said of Jones. “This is a football player.’’

The reference is to the 6-1, 199-pound UConn product’s freakish athleticism. Jones, who played safety his first two years in college before moving to cornerback his final two years (position flex that might eventually be put into play in Dallas, though he’ll begin his career as a corner), set an unofficial "world record' in the broad jump at the NFL Combine with a leap of 12 foot, 3 inches.

That shattered the previous combine record of 11-7; no NFL player had ever exceeded 12 feet. Jones also has a vertical leap of 44.5 inches and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds. This sort of thing can become a “backhanded compliment’’ of sorts for a player, though, analysts getting so caught up in the “Underwear Olympics’’ that it overshadows his talents as a player.

“Obviously they saw more than a broad jump,” Jones said of the Cowboys’ long-standing interest in him. “A broad jump doesn’t do anything for you in football. I hope they saw an intelligent, athletic player. I guess they’re happy with what they saw … But I haven’t done anything yet.’'

The background is all there, though — “Garrett Guy’’ stuff, as Jones is a team captain, is the son of a retired state trooper, spend an offseason in Washington D.C. working alongside a congressman and posted the highest Wonderlic score of any DB in this class. All of that factored in to Dallas’ decision to sit tight at 27 … and to truly get lucky to have a guy ranked by them as a top-20 player fall into their laps.

“We probably knew as much about this player as anybody in the draft,” owner Jerry Jones said of Byron, who will wear jersey No. 31. (You can know it all, too, by checking out our in-depth scouting report on Byron Jones here.)

The Cowboys have questions to answer at cornerback, where Mo Claiborne is hurt, Orlando Scandrick is missing voluntary workouts and Brandon Carr is facing a pay cut. Byron Jones is needed as an answer.

So ... Asset Management. The Cowboys were truly fortunate that as they sat there with about seven picks to go in front of them, there were still around four guys they viewed as 27-worthy. When there were two teams to go ahead of them, and Byron Jones and Randy Gregory were still on the board, Dallas was able to begin making its congratulatory phone calls and begin exchanging War-Room high-fives.

To jump up a little bit probably would've cost Dallas a fourth-round pick ... but the presence of Byron and the pass-rusher Gregory made that unnecessary ... and the behavioral red flags on Gregory created the separation between the two in the Cowboys' eyes.

So how is the Dallas Cowboys plan working? What do I have to evaluate after Round 1?

*Byron Jones in the first, without giving up assets at 27.

*A running back in the second, with Dallas presently sitting at No. 60 and maybe being able to sit there again and let a runner come to them. (Tevin Coleman and Duke Johnson make the most sense, but there is a group of at least five backs capable of leading Dallas' running-back-by-committee approach.

*A pass-rusher in the third, with Dallas presently sitting at No. 91 and as the day begins, the names remaining here are so intriguing that maybe the runner comes later and the pass-rusher comes first. I don't envision it that way (a runner in the second and Frank Clark in the third is quite a nice fit) but Gregory and O'Diggy and Eli Harold and others are still undrafted and maybe they keep slipping.

It's also worth noting that a pair of offensive tackles with first-round value, TJ Clemmings and La’el Collins, remain available. Same with DT's Carl Davis and Grady Jarrett. And with LBs Eric Kendricks and Bernardrick McKinney. And WR Green-Beckham. And on and on ... So there is plenty of talent to be pushed down to 60 and 91 ...

And the plan is working. The plan is being executed. I'll let the scouts judge the talents of Jones and the rest ... but Jerry and the men on the more-sensible-than-ever organizational chart beneath him are on the verge of deserving an "A-plus'' for the execution of The Plan.

Onside Kicks

Get educated: The CowboysHQ Big Board ... Pay attention and you know what the Cowboys might do before they do it: "The Cowboys' Six Tells and Tendencies in the Draft'' ... Be sure to stay tuned to 105.3 The Fan for all your radio insights and keep it right here at CowboysHQ for hard-hitting commentary and outstanding analysis. ... As we get ready for RBs, our staff's Cowboys-centric collected thoughts here.


The Final Word

“He’s a good football player. He’s also a good person, both on and off the field. Great character.” Cowboys COO Stephen Jones on Byron Jones.

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