- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- Well, I'm not going to rip the pick. I made a promise, and I'm keeping it. I wrote for weeks and weeks that the Dallas Cowboys needed to come out of the first round of this year's NFL draft with an offensive lineman, and they did. So I'm not getting on their case for it.
But man, did the Cowboys play the first round strangely.
First of all, they traded their pick, No. 18 overall, to the 49ers for the 31st pick and the 74th pick (which is the 12th pick of the third round). Then, with the 31st pick, they selected Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, who was … not a guy anybody was talking about.
Who is Frederick? Well, Scouts Inc. ranked him the top center in this year's draft (which is good) and the 70th player overall (not so good, if he went 31st). Among offensive linemen, he ranked 12th in this draft, according to Scouts Inc., and he was the ninth one off the board. Those still on the board who got higher Scouts Inc. grades included tackles Menelik Watson and Terron Armstead and guard Larry Warford.
Couple that information with the fact that the traditional NFL trade-value chart says the Cowboys should have been able to get more than just an extra third-rounder for that No. 18 pick, and it's easy to say they overpaid for Frederick. You might even be able to argue that they could have had him in the second round if they'd waited.
But I don't know. Maybe it's the music here at Radio City Music Hall or the fact that the weather's getting nicer outside or that I finally feel like I'm getting back in shape after a couple of years of overeating and under-exercising. I'm looking at this pick, and I'm thinking these very positive things about it:
They needed interior offensive line help more than any team in the NFL needed anything in this entire draft, and this guy is an interior offensive lineman. He can challenge Phil Costa for the center's job or either starting guard for his.
He's a giant -- 6-foot-3⅝, 312 pounds -- and known as a physical presence in the run game. Run blocking might be a higher priority for the Cowboys in their ongoing hunt for line help than pass protection is, since left tackle is the one spot at which they're set and Tony Romo is pretty good at protecting himself and making plays on the run.
Just because Scouts Inc. ranked Warford 53rd and this guy 70th doesn't make the pick ridiculous. You pay your scouts to find guys who fit what you want to do, and then you trust them. All week, everybody told me the Cowboys needed to trust their board, and it appears what happened here was that they didn't have anyone they liked at 18 so they snagged an extra pick and moved down to take a guy they did like. If you think all that's left to you is second-rounders, then why not just start the second round two picks early and add a third-rounder that might help you maneuver into that second round Friday night?
As I always say, I can't predict the way these guys will play, and neither can the Cowboys or anyone else. And if you want to argue that they didn't get great value for their first-round pick, I really don't have a response. But this was a weird year for the first round. The top six offensive linemen went in the top 11 picks -- something that hadn't happened in the history of the NFL draft. Clearly, this was a year in which offensive linemen were being overvalued, so this pick kind of lines up with that.
Had they stayed put at 18 and picked Justin Pugh or Kyle Long, who went at 19 and 20, respectively, to the Giants and Bears, that might have felt like a reach, too. There was not a lot to like about this year's first round. And while they might have been clumsy about it, the Cowboys came out of it with something they apparently do like and definitely need. Can't rip it.