The Dallas Cowboys had one of the more confusing first rounds of the draft Thursday. They got the offensive line help they needed in Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, but they went about it rather clumsily, trading down from No. 18 to No. 31 and taking a guy they might have been able to get tonight if they'd waited. This leaves their pick open to many possible interpretations. A lot of people hated it. I, personally, was not among them. The one thing on which I think everyone can agree is that the Cowboys' first round was a head-scratcher, and that it required a little bit of time to process and settle on a conclusion.
Which is why I like the point Jean-Jacques Taylor makes in his column for ESPNDallas.com. Jacques acknowledges that the Cowboys addressed their most glaring need, and that trading out of pick 18 was a fine idea if they didn't have anyone there they liked. But ultimately he concludes that "this team's track record of poor drafting and questionable decision-making doesn't instill much confidence that they got it right Thursday."
Understand, the problem isn't necessarily with Frederick, because the Cowboys definitely need help on the offensive line.
The problem is it feels like the Cowboys wasted an opportunity to get a much more talented player with the 18th pick -- and they still could've had Frederick, the top-rated center and 70th-rated prospect according to ESPN's player rankings. Or somebody just as good, such as California's Brian Schwenke (ranked 72nd) or Alabama's Barrett Jones (ranked 97th) in the second round.
The crux of this is the trust factor. I build a fine case that what the Cowboys did makes sense. Watch:
They didn't have a player they liked at 18, so they got out of the pick and picked up an extra third-rounder.
Sure, you can argue that they should have been able to get more in return for the No. 18 pick, but you can't get what's not offered, and if you don't want to pick at 18 then any extra pick is worth the move.
The difference between what it might cost to sign the 18th pick and the 31st pick could be about $300,000, and if you don't think that matters to the Cowboys this offseason then you haven't been following very closely.
It's possible Frederick would have been there when they picked at No. 47, but it's also possible he wouldn't have been. Eight offensive linemen went in the top 20 picks this year. Six in the top 11. If the Cowboys turn out to have overvalued an offensive lineman in 2013, they won't be the only ones.
The offensive line was their most significant need by about 1,000 miles -- the single most crippling deficiency the team has year in and year out. If they take two more offensive linemen tonight, they won't be wrong. Reaching for an offensive lineman in this draft was not a bad idea for this particular team.
But all of that reasoning and logic would, as Jacques insinuates, be a lot easier to swallow if it were coming from, say, the Baltimore Ravens, or some other team with an established reputation of nailing the draft year in and year out. The Cowboys' recent drafts have produced some good players who appear to be part of a solid future core, but in general Jerry Jones has a well-earned reputation of drafting poorly. And that's a big reason why what happened Thursday night doesn't sit right with a lot of people. The Cowboys may have had their reasons for doing what they did, but history makes it hard to trust that their reasons were the right ones.