IRVING, Texas -- While he didn’t speak with reporters during the three days of the NFL draft, Will McClay’s name was mentioned quite a bit.
McClay, the Cowboys' assistant director of player personnel, was given the task of putting the draft board together and making sure the coaches and scouts were on the same page in terms of personnel.
And the man who makes the final call on all things Cowboys, Jerry Jones, gave McClay the highest grade possible for his work.
“From organizing the initial days, from the Senior Bowl all the way to the combine, the organization of the board, coordination with the coaches – I’m going over all that because I’ll break it down – and I couldn’t give him anything but an 'A' in every respect,” Jones said. “We all know how smart he is, but he’s got a unique perspective. He’s been around this game long enough. It really came to bear in that room. He made a significant, really a significant contribution to this being a success.”
The Cowboys made significant changes to how they approach the draft from creating Pods so coaches and scouts can discuss prospective draft picks to McClay putting the draft board together and allowing Tom Ciskowski, who previously did it, the ability to do more scouting.
The Cowboys made smart football decisions over the three days from bypassing quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was the top-rated player at the time of their selection at No. 16, to selecting Zack Martin, a tackle, who was the best player available.
In a draft where defense was needed, the Cowboys used all five of their seventh-round picks on defense. Upgrades to the defensive line were achieved when the team snagged defensive end Demarcus Lawrence in the second round and in Rounds 4 and 7 when Anthony Hitchens (fourth round) and Will Smith (seventh round) were selected to upgrade the inside linebacker spots.
Stephen Jones said despite giving up a third-round pick to move up in the second to draft Lawrence, it was worth it because the Cowboys picked up wide receiver Devin Street from Pittsburgh, considered one of the top receivers on their board.
There were little debates about players, and the Cowboys bypassed an opportunity to draft an offensive lineman in the middle rounds.
You could attribute the success of the draft to McClay and his staff.
“That may be his best trait,” Jones said. “He’s got great people skills. Everybody’s comfortable with him, but yet he’s real articulate. You understand clearly what he’s asking and what he’d like to get done. You put all that together and he did a great job. He had these coaches operating full bore as far as what they were doing, what he wanted of them. He coordinated.”