The Dallas Cowboys got the call about noon Thursday.
It was the St. Louis Rams, wanting to move out of the sixth pick, wondering if the Cowboys would be interested.
Owner Jerry Jones, who told reporters later he had only one player in mind that he would move up for, told the Rams he was interested at the right price. If the draft started going the right way, he told the Rams they could talk again.
The draft went the way the Cowboys wanted. The teams talked again. And the Cowboys acquired the No. 6 pick and used it to select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, the top-rated defender available in the NFL draft.
“We use the word ‘elite,’ ” Jones said. “We think he is. We’re not the only ones. You couldn’t say that about many players in this draft. We had that opportunity to get that elite player, one with character, who had the deal we call makeup.”
The Cowboys swapped their first-round pick, No. 14, and gave up their second-round pick, No. 45, to get the deal done.
“I would go as far as say this: He is the most consensus pick, the most consensus move I can ever remember on our draft day,” Jones said.
Claiborne, 22, won the Jim Thorpe Award last year at LSU as the nation’s outstanding defensive back. He intercepted six passes last year and 11 in his two years as a starter. He averaged 24.9 yards in interception returns, the second-best total in school history.
He also is a kick returner. At LSU, he returned 24 kicks for a 25.4 average and a touchdown.
Jones said when the Cowboys played out scenarios, they tried to practice a move to get Claiborne if he fell out of the top four or five picks. When the Vikings and Browns swapped places at three and four and it became clear neither was going to take Claiborne, and that Jacksonville was unlikely to, either, at No. 5, the Cowboys put their plan in action.
“I do want to reiterate. We spent time talking about a type of scenario like this,” Jones said. “We were we as comfortable as could imagine when we had somebody like St. Louis that we could trade.”
Still, the Cowboys wanted to reassure themselves one more time. There was a concern about Claiborne’s Wonderlic score, a 4 out of 50, reportedly. The test measures aptitude and problem solving, and Claiborne said later Thursday night that he didn’t take the test seriously because it was not about football.
Jones said the Cowboys made a few more calls to Claiborne’s college coach, Les Miles.
“We had three different people in our organization today in Les Miles’ ear in New York just last-minute talking,” Jones said. “We understand his ability to play the game and play the defense. It is not an issue with us at all. We have to, and we do, look at scores. And I’m not even going to be defensive of this, but it’s also got to relate how you take coaching and your football instincts and skills.”
For Jones, it was another first-round trade, which he likes to do. Only six of the Cowboys drafts under him as owner have gone without a first-round trade.
“I like the idea of going up for quality,” Jones said. “Because it diminishes the chance of a bad pick. And so, it’s easier for me. Any time I’ve ever gone for bargains in my life, I had a tough time seeing my success ratio being acceptable. Any time I’ve overpaid, like buying the Dallas Cowboys, I seem to be more successful.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Claiborne was the second-highest player on the Cowboys’ board. (Only Andrew Luck was higher).
“We thought he was an outstanding football player, an outstanding young man, who plays a position we regard as being really, really important,” he said. “He’s a big corner. Six feet tall. As fluid as he is, as athletic as he is, ball skills, can plant and drive, can play off, can play press, is a kick return guy. An outstanding football player and an outstanding young man. We’re really fortunate to be able to get him.”
Claiborne had surgery this spring to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist, and Garrett said the cornerback will be in a cast until about mid-May. After that, he would wear a brace about four weeks.
“So we anticipate him being able to run around. We don’t anticipate him practicing much football in the offseason,” Garrett said. “But we fully anticipate him being ready for Day 1 in training camp.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760