America's Team hasn't sat this high in the first roun with their own organic pick since Jerry Jones bought the franchise in 1989. For a club that gives annual lip service to winning and championship pursuit, Dallas doesn't to ever be in this spot for the next 25 years.
The prevailing philosophy is to use the fourth overall pick on an impact player or to address the question of Tony Romo's successor. Cowboys fans can recall with weeping and gnashing teeth the futile seasons between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo and the eight stiffs who lined up under center. For Dallas fans, it is probably more enticing than taking the best player available in UCLA linebacker Myles Jack or the closest Dez Bryant clone in Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell to use that blue-chip pick on a quarterback, whether Cal's Jared Goff, Memphis' Paxton Lynch, or dark horse Carson Wentz from North Dakota State -- anything to prevent history repeating itself and consecutive 5-11 finishes to return.
What if there was a way to address the issue of Romo's replacement and stockpile draft picks?
The Davey O'Brien Foundation thinks college football's best quarterback didn't even declare for this year's draft. Enter Clemson sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson. After Watson's outstanding season where he became the first FBS player to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, Watson led the Tigers to a 14-1 record and to the College Football Playoff championship game. Though Clemson fell 45-40 to the Alabama Crimson Tide, Watson piled up 478 total yards against college football's stingiest defense in 2015.
Rather than being fat and happy with the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award and a 2015 All-American honors, Watson still feels he has a lot left to prove. Watson talked about the rest of his college football career Monday at the Davey O'Brien Awards Dinner at the Fort Worth Club.
"Hopefully be back here again next year," said Watson. "And just a national champion, the Heisman, on track to get my degree in three years this December, so having that."
Watson threw 35 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. He rushed for 12 touchdowns and secured ACC Offensive Player of the Year. In spite of his personal accolades and being hot prospect for the 2017 draft, Watson still speaks in terms of "we."
Said Watson: "We proved a lot. We did a lot. We did a lot for the program and Clemson University. But we didn't finish the main goal and that was to win it all. We had a good resume. We were a 15-0 team, but we came up short. So, we still have a lot to prove, a lot to get better at. And we have to pay attention to details and the goal is still excellence."
Watson won't talk about his pro career until his business at Clemson is over. After all, he is trying to get his bachelor's degree in three years, fulfilling a promise he made to head coach Dabo Swinney.
However, we can talk about his pro career. The Cowboys' new goal needs to be to get Watson. Here is how the plan would go.
Dallas needs to shop the fourth overall pick and find a trade partner, preferably a team that is in the midst of a Philadelphia 76ers-like rebuild. Take the Browns, Bills, Buccaneers, or Lions. Swap your first-round pick for theirs along with their first-rounder, third-rounder, and seventh-rounder for the 2017 draft. That is not a typo -- the '17 draft.
Why '17? Why not '16?
Whoever the Cowboys trade partner picks may very well be an impact player and a future Hall-of-Famer, but chances are they won't be able to help their current franchise achieve new heights in their rookie campaign. Therefore, the team's draft picks would be higher priced or even in the top-10 of the first round.
If Watson declares for the '17 draft after a stellar junior season, the Cowboys now have two first-rounders along with their complement of '17 picks to use to move up to take Watson.
If Watson doesn't come out for the '17 draft and again feels he has unfinished business with Clemson, the Cowboys flip the first, third, and seventh that they netted in the '16 draft trade for more picks, chiefly a first-rounder, in the '18 draft. By that point, they would certainly have enough ammunition to take Watson when he inevitably comes out for the draft.
Now, all of this is a lot of work and calculations to get one player, but Watson could be worth it. Already, he displays the "right kind of guy" traits that Dallas head coach Jason Garrett would love. You know what Watson's first focus is as a Clemson Tiger? Being a good citizen.
"We're focused on being great citizens," Watson said. "And it starts off the field. Everything off the field translates to things on the field. And, so, he preaches on being a good citizen, being a good student."
Kellen Moore is a good citizen too, but he isn't the Cowboys' answer at quarterback. Watson stands at 6-2, 210-pounds and can run in the 4.7 range in the 40-yard dash, indicating that he has speed. Granted, he's built like Robert Griffin III, who took a beating with injuries playing for Washington in the NFC East. However, what Watson would have, regardless if he came out in 2017 or 2018, that Griffin did not would be the stellar Cowboys offensive line that would be hitting its prime. Look at how well the Cowboys offense line was in 2014 at keeping Father Time from sacking Romo. Think of what they would do in preventing Watson from having too harsh of a "Welcome to the NFL" moment.
Dallas does not need to worry about the 2016 NFL draft and finding Romo's replacement. They can continue to use their eight other picks to take the player that can best help the Cowboys. This current front office has shown the ability to take quality talent in the draft, so sacrificing the '16 fourth overall pick for the future shouldn't be a concern. The whole manuever would be in the Jerry Jones wheelhouse of "driving across the water."