Dallas Cowboys find being picky pays dividends

Posted Saturday, Sep. 01, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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IRVING -- The Dallas Cowboys are being stricter about who they consider drafting.

In turn, they're being stricter about who they consider signing after the draft.

The result of the approach, born under former coach Bill Parcells, appears to mean a higher quality of undrafted free agent is going to training camp with the team lately, and so more are making the squad.

Former SMU receiver Cole Beasley made the Cowboys' 53-man roster this week as an undrafted rookie, joining four such players who made it in 2011 and four in 2010. In the three years before that, Kevin Ogletree was the only undrafted rookie to make the team.

"We used to put 250 players on the board, however many get drafted. Now we put about 100, 120 players on our board, and they're just the players we want," pro personnel director Stephen Jones said in training camp at Oxnard, Calif., last month.

"We don't think about, 'That guy is going to get drafted,' so we put him on our board. If he doesn't fit what we want, even though he may get drafted in the first or second round, we don't put him up there. It keeps us focused not only all the way through the draft, but also through college free agency."

Last year, the leading scorer on the team came out of the leftover draft pool. Kicker Dan Bailey had the second-highest field goal percentage by a rookie in team history, making 32 of 37 kicks, and set an NFL record for consecutive kicks made by a rookie (26).

Guard Kevin Kowalski played in 11 games, linebacker Alex Albright played in all 16 and running back Phillip Tanner played in eight and scored a touchdown.

The undrafted class of 2010 has yielded a starting safety, Barry Church, and the starting center, Phil Costa.

"I just think if you have an attitude that it doesn't matter where players come from, it matters what they do once they come here, I think you're more susceptible, or more able, to find some of those guys, and that's been our approach," coach Jason Garrett said.

Jones said the approach is a holdover from Parcells' days as head coach (2003 to 2006). He drafted to a template and paid no mind to players who didn't fit it.

"He may not fit from a scheme standpoint or from a cultural standpoint or a character standpoint, and those guys, we don't want them on our football team," Jones said. "So let's focus on guys that we do like. I think that's the biggest change is the philosophy there -- let's go after Dallas Cowboys."

The Cowboys' biggest hits with undrafted players came while Parcells was head coach.

Under his watch, the team found Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo and Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin. Nine other undrafted players made the initial 53 in Parcells' four seasons.

"We've evolved from a personnel department, I think, when you look back at the way we used to do it versus the way we do it now," Jones said. "We've got better scouts, better people. We've got better philosophies.

"And pretty much every time we sign those 15 to 20 guys, we sign them from our draft board. I think that's why we've had some really good success with players who weren't drafted."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter @calexmendez

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