Jerry Jones Pulls a Fast One

Football fans everywhere block off one weekend in April each year to watch the NFL Draft, to watch their favorite team select new talent and imagine how that talent will affect their team's future.

For Dallas fans, even the speculation will have to wait a year. But at first glance, this year's first-round pick could be well worth the wait.

Dallas traded its first-round pick, No. 22 overall, to Cleveland for the Browns' second-round pick this year (No. 36 overall) and next year's first-round selection. The Browns then used the pick they got from Dallas to pluck free-falling Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.

Analyzing a trade of draft picks is like analyzing a trade for players – accurate evaluation only can take place after those players take the field, and after draft picks are turned into players. Translation: if the players taken with the picks acquired from Cleveland turn into Ring of Honor guys, then the Cowboys look brilliant. If they draft guys who play no better than a couple of couch-sitting sportswriters, then Cleveland pulled off a major heist.

Until then, the trade can be evaluated only on the value of picks.

Several players the Cowboys were considering at No. 22 – safety Reggie Nelson, linebacker/defensive end Jarvis Moss, safety Michael Griffin, etc. – already were gone. Other players, like wide receiver Dwayne Bowe or safety Brandon Merriweather were still there, but whether they were worth the money that pick would bring is a matter of heavy debate.

By making this trade, the Cowboys positioned themselves to improve one postion this year – at perhaps an equal level as if they had stayed at No. 22, since many players projected in the late first round and early second are viewed as being widely equal – and added a chance to land a marquee player at the top of next year's draft. The Browns spent last season looking up at division rivals Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and there's no reason to believe their status will change next year.

Because the difference between the players projected to go around No. 22 and No. 36 is minimal – aside from the money each player will make – the Cowboys might end up with a player (USC's Dwayne Jarrett? Ohio State's Anthony Gonzalez?) who they liked all along, and still add a potential franchise player if the Browns continue to struggle. If Cleveland remains at or near the league's cellar, Dallas has added a major asset in the team construction process. This is the kind of trade almost every team outside of the top handful of picks wanted to make.

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