- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys want us to trust their judgment, but they don't make it easy.
Not when they pass on Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, pretty much a perfect fit in the 4-3 defensive scheme they're going to use this season. And not when every draft trade chart you find on the Internet says they were fleeced by getting only the 74th pick from San Francisco for moving down 13 spots in the first round.
And not when they draft a player in the first round -- Wisconsin center Travis Frederick -- who says he didn't expect to go until the second round.
It would be one thing if owner/general manager Jerry Jones had earned our trust over the years. But he hasn't. We're talking about a GM who would've been fired years ago if he didn't own the team. Only a man who owns the team could survive a 128-128 record since 1997 with one playoff win.
Don't forget we're talking about a team that hasn't been to the NFC Championship game or posted consecutive 10-win seasons since the graduating class of 2013 was in diapers.
So forgive me for not buying the Cowboys' company line. Not yet anyway. It's going to take some time to sift through the poppycock and find the truth.
For now, take solace in the Cowboys adding another offensive lineman to a raggedy group that was among the worst in the league last season. Frederick will start at guard or center against the New York Giants in the opener or Jason Garrett and Jerry will spend much of their postgame news conferences explaining why he didn't.
From the time Jerry bought the club in 1989 until 2011, the Cowboys never spent a first-round pick on an offensive lineman. They've spent first-round picks on a lineman in two of the last three seasons.
For that, you should be happy. It's progress, and a sign Garrett is committed to building a strong offensive line.
The problem, of course, is the Cowboys rarely have a clean pick. You can't find any so-called draft expert that had Frederick rated as first-round talent. Most had him rated in the second round. A few had him in the third.
And here's where it gets tricky.
According to their draft board, the Cowboys had 19 players worthy of being drafted in the first round. Ordinarily, that would be considered pretty good since they had the 18th pick. But the Cowboys didn't think the players left with first-round grades, including Floyd, fit their offensive or defensive schemes. That's why they opted to trade down when San Francisco called looking to move up.
(Just so you know, the Cowboys' internal draft trade chart said they received good value. Make of that what you will.)
By the time the Cowboys drafted, the consensus top five offensive linemen had been selected, as well as the top four defensive linemen and the top two safeties. So they took Frederick, rated the 22nd player on their board with the 31st pick. Go figure.
"A little surprised," Frederick said of being picked in the first round. "I thought that I was going to probably fit somewhere in the second round, but Dallas had showed a lot of interest in me throughout the process. I knew that they definitely needed a little bit of help inside (the offensive line) and were looking to upgrade that. I think that I'm going to fit in pretty well down there."
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.
"It's a real debate as to what's more valuable, two players or one player," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "That's what we have to come to grips with the strategy with our football team when you make that trade. Is the guy we pick at 31 and the player we pick at 72, when it's all said and done, better than what we picked at 18? We have to make those decisions for how we form our football team.
"Were there players rated ahead of Travis? Yes, there were. But I don't know that those players were going to fit better for us based on how we look at our team over the next three, four or five years."
Then it seems like something is amiss in the construction of the draft board. That said, we know the Cowboys had a team full of holes and they believed adding an extra player in the third round will help them fill them.
We'll see. But this team's track record of poor drafting and questionable decision-making doesn't instill much confidence that they got it right Thursday.
Cowboys could have stayed at 18 and picked a talented player and still land Travis Frederick.