- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have the 14th pick in Thursday's NFL draft. They need to use it.
This isn't the time to move up. Or down. The Cowboys simply need to stay put and select the best player according to their draft board when it's time for them to make their first selection.
Do that, and they're guaranteed to add a good player who can help a franchise that has been stuck in the abyss of mediocrity for nearly two decades.
Trading down is dumb. And, in this particular draft, unnecessary. Plus, there's nothing in the Cowboys' recent draft history to suggest they could take advantage of any additional picks they would acquire.
The eight picks they have right now will do the trick just fine.
See, it requires conviction for the Cowboys to trust their scouts and the process they used to put their draft board together and select the player their board says they should take. It forces Jerry and Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett to make a decision. That's what they did last season, and it worked well with the addition of Tyron Smith.
The worst thing the Cowboys could do is move down because they'll be happy with any of a group of players.
Can you say poppycock? That's a coward's move. That's the move of a team with one playoff win and a 120-120 record since 1996.
The Cowboys don't need to pick whoever's left from a small group of players. They need to pick the guy they want.
A team determined to ultimately compete for a title will make a decision and live with it. A cowardly team will let someone else make the decision for it.
Understand, moving down is fine for teams at the top of the draft because they can reap a bounty of premium picks, changing the direction of an entire franchise.
St. Louis' trade with Washington, which netted the Redskins the second pick in the draft, is a good example of that. The Redskins wanted the kind of impact player who's usually only available at the top of the draft, so the move makes sense.
The players with the fewest flaws are at the top of the draft. The farther teams move from the top of the draft, the less likely they are to find a high-level player.
There's zero need to complicate this.
If you look at the draft-trade chart -- it's easy to find on the Internet -- the Cowboys will use Thursday night, you can see the most they're probably going to get for moving down in the first round is a third-round selection.
Especially when you consider the Cowboys' recent shoddy history of third-round picks. Of the nine third-round picks the Cowboys have drafted since 2000, Jason Witten is the only Pro Bowl selection.
Talk to enough folks who study the draft and they'll tell you players selected in the first three rounds will provide the bulk of any draft's best players. Sure, exceptions such as undrafted free agents Tony Romo and Miles Austin exist, as do players selected in the later rounds, such as Jay Ratliff (seventh round) and Doug Free (fourth round).
But the majority of the best players are picked at the top of the draft. That said, the Cowboys have struggled to find excellent players at the top of the draft.
Of the 11 players the Cowboys have selected in the first three rounds since 2007, Mike Jenkins is the only Pro Bowl player. None have received a second long-term contract with the club.
And it's not going to happen until it's time for Lee and Smith to get long-term deals. The odds of Dez Bryant getting a long-term deal are 50-50, at best, right now.
Those 11 players have started only 202 of 353 games (57 percent) -- and that includes 32 starts by Martellus Bennett as part of the two-tight end package Garrett prefers.
When you struggle to draft good players, moving down is a dumb move. A smart team would stay put and take the best available player.
14hEric D. Williams