A Look Back on the Weekend: Saturday

The Cowboys approached the draft just as they did free agency -- making value decisions based on building for the future rather focusing solely on immediate improvement. And thanks to a surprising and too-good-to-pass-up offer from the Buffalo Bills, the Cowboys were able to accomplish both goals.

The Cowboys traded their first round pick, 22nd overall, the Bills for three picks for three picks -- a second round (44th overall) in which they used to draft Notre Dame running back Julius Jones, a fifth-round pick and a first-round pick in 2005.

The speedy Jones should make an immediate impact in the ground game as either the primary starter or the feature back in a shared situation. A Cowboys team which entered the draft also hoping to acquire more than their allotted five picks in an attempt to fill a number of needs, addressed some offensive line concerns with Southern California tackle Jacob Rogers in the second round and Louisiana State guard Stephen Peterman in the third round. Rogers should step in immediately at right tackle and Peterman at worst gives them insurance for disgruntled left guard Larry Allen, who has been on the trading block.

After getting a cornerback in the fourth round, Georgia's Bruce Thornton, who will compete with Pete Hunter in the search for Mario Edwards' replacement, the Cowboys drafted Boston College tight end Sean Ryan in the fifth round.

They used the extra fifth round pick to trade down to acquire three seventh round picks. They took two more corners, Nathan Jones of Rutgers and Jacques Reeves of Purdue and receiver Patrick Crayton of Northwest Oklahoma.

They also swapped picks with Tampa Bay in the seventh round to acquire fullback Darian Barnes, a two-year veteran from Hampton. The coup de grace, however, was getting the first-round selection out of Buffalo, giving the Cowboys two top picks next season and a chance to build long term.

And while the Cowboys have been focused since their NFC Wild Card Game loss to the Panthers toward making next season better than their surprising 10-6 campaign, owner Jerry Jones and coach Bill Parcells reiterated that the future of the organization would always be their top priority.

"It points to the fact that this is a building process," Jones said. "Bill is as interested as I am about the long-term view in terms of the building process."

Said Parcells: "In my heart I have to approach this from the long-range view if I am going to be honest and forth right. I have to look at the best interest of the franchise. The best way to rejuvenate a team is with multiple picks on the first day."

Still, Parcells said it was "a hard decision" to trade down, especially considering the draft seemed to playing out perfectly for the Cowboys.

Running back was their biggest position of need. And sitting there at 22 when it was there turn to pick were the two best backs on the board, Oregon's State's Steven Jackson and Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones.

The Cowboys would have taken a running back at 22, likely Jackson, whom they had as the top ranked runner on the board, if Buffalo wouldn't have offered the No. 1.

The possibility of the pick being a possible top 15 selection in 2005, given Buffalo's current struggles, was a huge factor in the Cowboys okaying the deal, as was the possible shot at getting Julius Jones in the second round.

The 5-foot-10, 217-pounder, who impressed Jerry Jones and Parcells during a visit to the team's Valley Ranch training complex last Friday, was among six runners the Cowboys had targeted as possible draft-day options. He was rated slightly behind Jackson on the team's draft board and was already penciled in as a prime second-round target if the team didn't get a runner in the first round.

Julius Jones said his heart skipped a beat when Parcells called him on Saturday to announce their selection.

"When Coach Parcells called I was overjoyed," Jones said. "He called and asked me how I was doing. Then he said, `What did I tell you.' I said `You told me if I was available come the second round you were going to come after me.' He said, "All right then, you are about to become a Dallas Cowboy."

After not playing in 2002 due to academic problems, Jones started seven of 12 games for Notre Dame last season. He rushed for 1,341 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also set school career records in total kickoff return yardage (2,104) and kickoff returns (72), while impressing the Cowboys with how he battled back from adversity.

Jerry Jones and Parcells acknowledge it's a bit of a gamble to pass on higher rated backs for Julius Jones. Yet, the owner believes they didn't settle for a drop off in talent and says emphatically that he has a chance to be every down back for the next season.

Parcells wouldn't guarantee starting jobs to any of the draft picks, saying he hoped they all would make significant contributions to the team in 2004.

However, he acknowledged that Julius Jones has the potential to be as good as any of the backs in the draft, while pointing out that history says the bigger gamble would have been taking a runner in the first round. He said runners in the first round have "the highest-degree of failure." He also pointed out that the best running back he ever coached, (Curtis Martin of the Jets), was a third-round pick.

The Cowboys believe they got value with Rogers in the second round. The former Trojans star, who played all last season with a sprained knee, should be able to solidify the right tackle spot for the Cowboys.

Peterson gives the Cowboys more options along the offensive line. He could potentially push the inconsistent Andre Gurode at right guard and will serve as insurance for Allen, who was unable to be traded but still remains a concern.

A closer look at the Cowboys' first-day picks:
Round 2/43 -- Julius Jones, RB, 5-10, 217, Notre Dame
Didn't catch many passes in college but has the ability to be an every down back. Has home-run speed.

Round 2/52 -- Jacob Rogers, OT, 6-6, 305, Southern Cal
Showed toughness as a senior by playing an entire season with a sprained knee. Should step in immediately at right tackle.

Round 3/83 -- Stephen Peterman, OG, 6-4. 317, LSU
Pedigree of playing on a national champion doesn't hurt. Will serve as insurance for the disgruntled Larry Allen and the inconsistent Andre Gurode.

CowboysHQ Top Stories