Early in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Cowboys stayed true to their board and won a sure-fire star running back. Late in the first round, they stayed true to their value chart and lost a potential star quarterback.
“Talent’’ over “need.’’ And a great grade on Dallas’ execution of its intended plan.
It was the talk of the draft last year after the departure of DeMarco Murray, but it didn’t happen. But finally on April 28th, with the fourth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected their running back of the future (and present) in Ezekiel Elliott.
(ht @DCBlueStar )
After a good but not great year in the running game last season, Tony Romo will once again have a bell cow back to hand the ball to, and take some pressure off of him in the passing game. And the offense looks star-studded.
Said Dez Bryant in an exclusive visit with CowboysHQ.com: "I'm so excited about Zeke. I want him to come in and make a big impact!'
Elliott (6-0, 225) possesses ideal size for the running back position in the NFL. His size, combined with his elite balance, pad level and competitive nature, make him an extremely well rounded back at the next level.
Elliott also displays outstanding field vision and ability to stop and change direction on a dime. He explodes through holes along the offensive line, getting to the second level with the ability to punish defensive backs. Lastly, Elliott has great speed and athleticism in the open field, even showing the ability to hurdle defenders at times.
Said COO Stephen Jones: “I think Ezekiel is about as well-rounded of a back that’s come out in many, many, many years. We’ve had some great runners come out, but as far as a guy that can run it, catch it block it – he’s the full package. That was very intriguing to us.”
Elliott is an immediate upgrade over successful incumbent starter Darren McFadden, and figures to excel behind a Cowboys’ offensive line that is built to block for running backs of Elliott’s style. Dallas now has Elliott, Alfred Morris, McFadden and Lance Dunbar in its backfield.
Why pick Zeke when there are others so capable?
Because Dallas picked for “talent’’ more than need.''
The Cowboys received an offer from Baltimore, which wanted to move up from No. 6 to get No. 4, offering a fourth-rounder. But we could see Garrett telling the Joneses “No, no’’ while on the phone and on the clock — almost certainly because Garrett and company had learned that the Ravens were targeting Zeke at 4 — and that the Jaguars, picking at 5, would grab Jalen Ramsey.
“No, no’’ because that would’ve meant Dallas being at No. 6 and then watching the two players Jones said ranked atop their overall board — Elliott and Jalen Ramsey — go bye-bye.
Could the Cowboys have picked Florida State defensive back Ramsey and been perfectly happy? Sure. CowboysHQ.com had been reporting all week that Ramsey and Elliott were the pinpointed guys (though we thought they were in that order, as “Stud 1A and Stud 1B.’’ We’re going to assume their “tags were touching,’’ as the scouts like to say.
And then there was another first-round trade not done — though Dallas was the one initiating this and then coming away slightly disappointed.
Sources told our Mike Fisher that Dallas was trying to trade up to Seattle’s spot at No. 26 for Memphis QB Paxton Lynch — and Fish reported that live on the air on Cowboys flagship station 105.3 The Fan. But Seattle received an offer from Denver (…) that trumped the Cowboys (…) and so a possible franchise QB was close to Dallas … but not close enough.
Why didn’t Dallas offer more and more? Because it stuck with the Trade Value Chart.
And now? Just as Dallas was in a driver’s seat of sorts atop Round 1, the Cowboys do the same entering Day 2’s second round, where they hold pick No. 34.
There will be a temptation somewhere (probably later) to grab that QB. There will be a movement to “make sure you get defense,’’ which would be a violation of the tenets of the draft board. There will be calls to reach for “need’’ — because you “need’’ pass-rushers.
But what you really need is somebody like defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State to be there at 34 and to be ranked highly enough to merit that spot. (Same with defenders A’Shawn Robinson, Kevin Dodd, Andrew Billings, Reggie Ragland and Jarred Reed.) What you need is to make sure Noah Spence is the wrong kind of guy (as the Cowboys hint to us he is). What you need is for the Joneses to go back to their doctors one more time to make sure the gifted-but-hobbled UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is too much of a medical risk (that’s the feeling, despite the dazzling concept of adding yet another stud).
And what did the rest of the NFC East do?
The Eagles may have found their quarterback of the future in Carson Wentz, but still have an unhappy Sam Bradford (to whom they just gave an extension) hanging around that locker room begging for a trade. Give the Eagles credit though, they think Wentz is their guy, and they went and got him. (Again, an “A’’ for the execution of the plan.)
The Giants meanwhile, may have reached a bit with corner Eli Apple out of Ohio State. He’s a talented defensive player, and will undoubtedly help solidify the Giants secondary, but considering he was projected between 20-25 by most pundits, this pick is a bit of a reach — thought apparently not on the New York board.
The Redskins decided to add another weapon to Kirk Cousins’ arsenal when they selected wide receiver Josh Doctson out of TCU with the 22nd pick. Doctson has speed, an insane catch radius, and phenomenal hands to add to his 6-4, 190-pound frame. Washington desperately needed someone to pair up opposite of DeSean Jackson, and this just might be their man.
In Day 1 Summary
In the end, the Cowboys formulated a plan and executed it. Elliott will wear No. 21 and will hopefully be more Deion-like in impact than Joe Randle-like. Lynch will play in Denver, and Dallas will be haunted by losing him but soothed with the knowledge the war room avoided emotion and stuck with the formula.
And today they get to do it all over again.