Jerry Jones believes one or more of the draft’s top defensive players will be there when the Cowboys pick in the first round at No. 16.
But if not, it is not necessarily a disaster for a team seeking to improve its league-worst defense from a year ago.
“That means there was some real value over on the offensive side of the ball, and that could result in a heck of a draft,” the Cowboys owner said at the team’s pre-draft news conference. “To say it another way, if you’ve got somebody that shouldn’t be within 20 picks of you that was there, you add that value to the team. We have needs on the offensive side as well.”
Jones said the Cowboys just need to keep their eyes open.
“We shouldn’t go overboard and be influenced to the point where we pass up a great opportunity,” he said.
He added, “We certainly think we’ll have an opportunity to address the interior defense. The question will be whether there will be an alternative there that is better for us — without being trite. There should be defensive linemen there.”
Orton, Cowboys talk
Coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys have had “some good conversations” with backup quarterback Kyle Orton, but do not expect him back until the mandatory minicamp in June.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail on that right now,” Garrett said, asked if he is satisfied with Orton’s explanation. “The situation is what it is. We anticipate him being back at some point this off-season.”
The mandatory minicamp is June 17-19. The conditioning program, which began April 21, and organized team activities, which begin on May 27, are voluntary.
Jones said drafting a receiver makes sense for the Cowboys in the right circumstances.
“There’s depth issues you have with your starters ... and that’s one that’s had a lot of attention in our draft room — about the makeup of our receivers and what our plans are for how to use the players that we’ve got,” Jones said. “You don’t want to forgo a tremendous opportunity somewhere to upgrade a depth situation that you can find yourself in with an injury.”
Now that Miles Austin has been designated a June 1 cut, the Cowboys’ top receivers are starters Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams and slot receivers Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris.
“We’ve got two starters that we’re proud of, and we’ve got some other guys that have made contributions that certainly give us some depth there,” Jones said. “But the facts are, the right situation pops up there, it makes some sense for our team.”
Free agent signee Henry Melton, recovering from a knee injury, was not 100 percent as the Cowboys took the field for the first time in the off-season conditioning program, Garrett said.
“He has worked very hard,” Garrett said. “He spends a lot of time here, and he’s really committed to getting himself back and going. He was not 100 percent. Was doing a lot of good things, moving around, involved in some of the drills, making some progress.
“We’ll see how he responds to that work. But we’ve been really pleased with his progress.”
Garrett said the Cowboys will wait until after the draft to see where Tyrone Crawford plays on the defensive line.
“We could see him playing right end, we could see him playing left end. He’s played inside. He’s been a nickel rusher,” Garrett said. “We’ll wait to see what happens. I think it’s important to go through this draft process and see where the numbers are.”
Crawford, the Cowboys’ third-round pick in 2012, missed all of last season after suffering an Achilles injury on the first day of training camp.
Strikes for Kids
Jason Hatcher no longer is a Cowboy, but he is helping host a draft day party in Arlington to benefit multiple non-profit organizations in DFW. Alley Cats Entertainment Center in Arlington is hosting the Strikes for Kids’ party at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Fans can bowl alongside pro athletes. Cowboys players J.J. Wilcox, Tyrone Crawford, DeVonte Holloman, Dwayne Harris and Kyle Wilber are scheduled to participate, along with Hatcher, who signed with the Redskins in the off-season.
Bowlers are encouraged to sign up in teams of six per lane for a donation of $250 or $25 per bowler.
Registration includes three games, rental shoes, event shirt, event bag and unlimited putt-putt, billiards, laser tag, arcade games and buffet for four. Guests not interesting in bowling can attend for $30. There also will be a silent auction.
The Cowboys will host a draft party on the field at AT&T Stadium on Thursday. Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Dan Bailey, Terrance Williams, Jay Novacek, Charles Haley, Drew Pearson, Daryl Johnston and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are scheduled to sign autographs.
Parking and admission are free. Doors open at 4 p.m.