It’s all business in the 2017 NFL Draft for the Dallas Cowboys, who are addressing needs with a deliberate focus.
After taking a much-needed defensive end in the first round Thursday in Michigan’s Taco Charlton at No. 28, the Cowboys filled huge voids at cornerback with the selections of Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie in the second round with the 60th pick overall and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis in the third round with the 92nd pick.
It’s the first time since 1983 that the Cowboys drafted defensive players with their first three picks. It was in keeping with the team’s defensive focus heading into the draft.
The run on corners Friday offset the free-agent losses of Brandon Carr (Baltimore Ravens) and Morris Claiborne (New York Jets), as well as the possible loss of Orlando Scandrick, who is on the trading block, according to a source.
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Owner Jerry Jones vehemently denied that the team had any interest in moving Scandrick.
“Absolutely not,” Jones said when asked if they were trying to trade Scandrick. “That is completely erroneous. He is a valued member of our team. There is absolutely nothing we would do with Orlando other than have him on the field.”
The Cowboys passed on a higher-rated cornerback in the first round Thursday because of the depth of the position in the draft and the feeling that if they didn’t take a pass rusher early they wouldn’t get one.
Cornerbacks were certainly available Friday.
Awuzie, UCLA’s Fabian Moreau and Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley — all pre-draft visitors — were all available at No. 60.
Awuzie, a four-year starter at Colorado who has the versatility to play outside, in the slot and safety, proved to be the surest and safest choice for the Cowboys.
“They are getting a player whose mentality is always trying to be the best,” Awuzie said. “I’ve been an underdog my whole life and I’ve embraced the role. It made me into the player I am today, and nothing has changed.
“They got me in the second-round, 60th pick, and that’s fine with me. That’s going to give me more motivation to be the best player I can be for them.”
The NFL used Hall of Famers and legends to introduce picks Friday, and former Cowboys receiving star Drew Pearson created a stir in announcing the Awuzie selection.
Pearson toyed with the host Philadelphia Eagles fans by bringing up the Cowboys’ five Super Bowl championships (the Eagles have none) and owner Jerry Jones’ election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Pearson opened his speech with a “How about them Cowboys!” to a chorus of boos and went on to “thank the Eagles fans for allowing me to have a career in the NFL.”
The Cowboys doubled up on cornerback with Lewis, whose selection was announced by Bradie James.
The team’s solid and business-like approach brought drama with the reports of Scandrick being placed on the trading block in hopes of adding a third-round pick.
A trade has yet to materialize, but the news did not sit well with the prickly Scandrick.
“It’s out of my control,” Scandrick said via text. “If they don’t want me, I’m just waiting it out.”
Again, Jones denied it.
Considering the free-agent losses at cornerback, moving Scandrick was curious at best. The only experienced players at the position on the roster are second-year man Anthony Brown and free-agent signee Nolan Carroll.
But the Cowboys are keeping Scandrick as of now.
And they can be satisfied with the results of filling needs as well as getting younger at the position.
Lewis brings his own drama. He is facing trial July 24 for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge after allegedly pushing his live-in girlfriend to the ground, dragging her and putting his hand to her throat in March.
He pleaded not guilty March 16.
But the trial will conflict with the start of training camp. The team is scheduled to fly to Oxnard, Calif., on July 22 and have their first practice July 24.
Lewis believes all charges will be dropped and said “he’s completely innocent.”
Jones said the Cowboys have vetted the Lewis situation and are satisfied with the draft pick and his future standing.
“We thoroughly looked at his situation,” Jones said. “We looked at his outstanding character throughout his life. We are satisfied we will be OK. He is an outstanding player with great talent.”
Lewis was downgraded in the draft because of the charge and his size, but he was a big-time playermaker in college.
“I think the charge hurt me a lot,” Lewis said of the charge. “I’m ready to move forward.”
82nd NFL Draft
Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Selections: Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m.
TV: ESPN/ESPN2 and NFL Network
Round 4 (pick 133), Round 6 (pick 211), Round 7 (pick 228), Round 7 (pick 246).