Dallas Cowboys: Derek Ross

IRVING, Texas – Jerry Jones basically bought an ad in the NFL classifieds during Monday’s pre-draft press conference, sending out the message that the Cowboys could be in trade-down mode when they get on the clock with the 18th overall pick.

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That news was met with a lot of moaning and groaning from Cowboys fans.

How can you be adamantly against trading down if you have no idea what the offer might be or which players might be available? Folks just don’t trust GM Jerry.

Should they in this situation? Let’s look at the Cowboys’ history of trading down in the first round during the Jerry era.

1991 -- No. 14 overall (obtained from New Orleans – RB Leonard Russell) to New England for No. 17 overall (traded to Washington – DT Bobby Wilson) and No. 110 overall (DE Kevin Harris).

No. 17 overall (Wilson) to Washington for No. 20 overall (traded to Detroit -- DT Kelvin Pritchett) and No. 132 overall (Darrick Brownlow).

No. 20 overall (Pritchett) to Detroit for No. 37 overall (LB Dixon Edwards), No. 64 overall (G James Richards) and No. 108 overall (DE Tony Hill).

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These three deals have to be judged essentially as one. After all the wheeling and dealing was done, the Cowboys turned the 14th overall pick into a second-round linebacker who started for two Super Bowl title teams (Edwards), a third-round guard who never played an NFL game (Richards), a fourth-round defensive end who played 13 games in two NFL seasons (Hill) and a fifth-round linebacker who made 11 tackles in two separate one-year stints in Dallas (Brownlow).

This was a case of great value on Jimmy Johnson’s trade chart and essentially a push in reality. Russell ended up being a decent running back, rushing for 3,973 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career, and it’s not as if the Cowboys passed on a Hall of Famer who went later in the first round. Edwards contributed to three title teams, starting for two.

This deal would have been a steal if the Cowboys selected offensive tackle Erik Williams at No. 64 overall. They ended up drafting him six picks later.

1993 -- No. 29 overall (S George Teague) and No. 112 overall (Albert Fontenot) to Green Bay for No. 46 overall (WR Kevin Williams), No. 54 overall (LB Darrin Smith), No. 94 overall (RB Derrick Lassic) and No. 213 overall (LB Reggie Givens).

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Both of the second-round picks the Cowboys acquired contributed to two Super Bowl title teams. Williams was a quality punt and kick returner who started at receiver for the Cowboys’ last championship team, setting career highs with 38 catches for 613 yards and two touchdowns that season. Smith started all four of his seasons in Dallas.

Teague had a solid nine-year career, but he ended up spending most of that in Dallas anyway. Fontenot also lasted nine NFL seasons, making 81 starts. Lassic lasted 10 games, and Givens never played for the Cowboys.

Give the Cowboys a win for this deal, but it wasn’t lopsided by any measure.

1995 -- No. 28 overall (LB Derrick Brooks) to Tampa Bay for No. 41 overall (traded to Atlanta – DB Ron Davis) and No. 63 overall (OG Shane Hannah).

All Brooks did in Tampa Bay was go to 11 Pro Bowls, be named first-team All-Pro five times, win a Super Bowl and establish himself as one of the best linebackers of his generation.

Hannah started the Cowboys’ tradition of early-round offensive line busts, getting hurt in training camp and never playing a game in the NFL. They flipped Davis for a second-rounder (RB Sherman Williams) and fourth-rounder (TE Eric Bjornson), a couple of backups who combined for 10 career touchdowns.

This might be the worst draft-day deal the Cowboys ever made.

1996 -- No. 30 overall (Andre Johnson) to Washington for No. 37 overall (DE Kavika Pittman) and No. 67 overall (C Clay Shiver).

Pittman made 18 sacks in eight NFL seasons (10 in four seasons for the Cowboys). Shiver started 25 games, but that was evidence of how weak the Cowboys were at center, as he was out of the league after three years.

Johnson was a huge bust for the Redskins. He never played a game in Washington.

The Cowboys would have been better off staying put and drafting Texas product Tony Brackens in the first round. Brackens, picked No. 33 overall by Jacksonville, had 55 sacks and 27 forced fumbles in his eight-year career.

2002 -- No. 6 overall (DT Ryan Sims) to Kansas City for No. 8 overall (SS Roy Williams), No. 75 overall (CB Derek Ross) and a sixth-round pick in 2003 (WR Zuriel Smith).

A couple of Williams’ five Pro Bowl berths were reputation selections after his performance fell off, but he was a dominant force as a playmaking intimidator early in his career. That’s much more than you can say for Sims, who only had one more sack in his career than Williams did.

Ross looked like a steal when he had five picks as a rookie, but the character red flags that caused him to drop into the third round proved true. Bill Parcells got rid of him midway through Ross’ second season. Smith played nine games for the Cowboys, contributing primarily as a return specialist.

This was a good deal for Dallas, just not nearly the steal it seemed destined to be during the rookie seasons of Williams and Ross.

2004 -- No. 22 overall (QB J.P. Losman) to Buffalo for No. 43 overall (RB Julius Jones), No. 144 overall (TE Sean Ryan) and a 2005 first-rounder (DE Marcus Spears).

Spears was a serviceable player for the last eight seasons. Ryan was a nonfactor during his two years in Dallas.

But this deal comes down to Steven Jackson vs. Julius Jones.

The Cowboys decided, based strongly on the input of running backs coach Maurice Carthon, that there wasn’t much difference between the top back on the board and the backs who would be available in the second round.

Jackson has rushed for 10,135 yards and counting, more than twice as many as Jones ran for during his career. Jackson has accounted for 64 touchdowns, almost three times Jones’ total.

Oops.

2007 -- No. 22 overall (QB Brady Quinn) to Cleveland for No. 36 overall (traded to Philadelphia – QB Kevin Kolb) and a 2008 first-rounder (RB Felix Jones).

The Cowboys were tempted to pick Quinn, who they had in the top 10 on their board, but they opted to fully commit to a quarterback with 10 starts under his belt named Tony Romo. Considering that Quinn is with his fourth team and Romo just got $55 million guaranteed, it’s pretty clear that was the right call.

The Cowboys moved back into the first round to select OLB/DE Anthony Spencer, giving up third- and fifth-rounders to do so. No regrets there, with Spencer a solid player coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance and Kolb failing to make an impact in Philadelphia.

This deal would have looked like a stroke of genius if the Cowboys picked Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice or Jamaal Charles the next year. Alas, they selected an Arkansas alum to be a change-of-pace back. Felix Jones had some flashes of brilliance, but his Dallas tenure was a pretty big disappointment given the quality of backs picked behind him.

This was still a solid deal for Dallas.

Scout's Eye: Oxnard Day 9

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
10:12
AM ET
My thoughts from Tuesday’s practice:

*The scout in me wants cornerback Bryan McCann to make this team.
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McCann has come in and done everything that Dave Campo and Brett Maxie have asked him to do. He has played with quickness, smarts and competitiveness. McCann has shined against the club’s top receivers on a daily basis and has done well in the Cowboys three preseason games.

McCann is one of my bubble players and has been for the last couple of weeks. The problem McCann faces is that he is in a secondary where fellow rookies Barry Church and Danny McCray have also proved that they belong on this final 53 as well.

McCann is a talented player, but he also plays a position where the Cowboys have three outstanding corners in Newman, Jenkins and Scandrick. Cletis Gordon, who makes an interception a day, has locked down the fourth corner spot. Alan Ball and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah are safeties that can also play outside as well.

In this secondary, the numbers don’t favor McCann.

If he is released and he clears waivers, he will find a spot on the practice squad with Jamar Wall. On the practice squad, both McCann and Wall will benefit from working on a daily basis against receivers like Austin, Bryant and Crayton, so that will be a positive experience.

As much as I want this team to carry five corners and five safeties, I now believe that it’s going the route of four corners and six safeties with the position flexibility coming from Ball and Owusu-Ansah.

Maybe there are other Bryan McCann’s out there that you can find next year if he doesn’t make it to the practice squad. There were several years where the evaluation of defensive backs on this squad was poor, but it now appears that the Cowboys scouting staff is going the right way.

The days of drafting corners like Kareem Larrimore, Derek Ross and Dwayne Goodrich appear over and for this team that is a good thing.

*Tuesday was the first day that the Cowboys had practiced in pads since last Wednesday. After two straight practices of hats and jerseys, it was nice to see them working in helmets and shoulder pads.

I always feel like this team gets more out of this dress than when they go without the pads. The half speed correction practices are necessary, but this team does a good job of working and protecting each other when they have the pads on.

When this team practices in hats and jerseys, it tends to look sloppy and unfocused. When you see this team practice in pads, your see the development of the scheme and the execution of the plays. To me, corrections are easier to make because you see the play being run how it was meant to be.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Tony Romo on our nightly “Training Camp Report” on 103.3 FM ESPN and ask him if the practices that Wade Phillips and the staff put together difficult enough to get this team ready.

Romo, being the old-school player that he is, said that practicing is never difficult for him and he enjoys it but you also have to take into account that he has teammates that play positions in the offensive and defensive line that endure constant banging and contact. Those big bodies get worn down so you have to be smart.

Romo makes a good point, Phillips does have to try and protect his guys for the long season but the work is better when this team is in its shoulder pads and helmets

*Noticed something new at practice today, with all the knee injuries to the offensive linemen (Colombo and Kosier) in practice, all the linemen were wearing their knee braces in shorts.

Usually when the team has a helmet and shoulder pads practice, the line will take the field without their braces. This practice of going onto the field without their braces appears will no longer be the case.

How important are these knee braces? I remember a game when I was working for the club when offensive tackle Flozell Adams came into the locker room at halftime with what appeared to be a knee injury. The play looked bad from the press box and I feared the worst. As Adams was sitting on the training table and the doctors were working on him, there was no structural damage and Adams was able to gather himself and return for the second half.

I remember trainer Britt Brown showing me the brace that was on Adams’ knee that day and it was bent and twisted. It truly was a miracle that we didn’t lose Adams to a serious knee injury. Without that brace, the scouting staff would be searching for the impossible task of finding a starting left tackle for the remainder of the season.

This training staff is usually ahead of the curve when it comes to injuries. This is just another example of their form of preventive medicine.

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