Gil LeBreton

May 11, 2014

Odds slim on Cowboys rolling a Lucky Seven

If history tells, loading up in the seventh round of the draft was dubious.

After all these dollar-flaunting seasons, it seems odd to see Owner Jones suddenly trying to exploit the NFL Draft’s market inefficiencies.

But you know Jerry. His hair may remain sewn in place, but his general manager philosophies are constantly changing with the wind.

Clearly, the Dallas Cowboys now have embraced the more-the-merrier draft model, the idea that since the draft is one big crapshoot anyway, why not reach for the dice as many times as possible?

Nine picks in seven rounds. It beats trading, say, your entire draft for Ricky Williams. To the contrary, the multiple-pick philosophy is prudent, sensible and cost-effective — things that have seldom been applied to Owner Jones in the past.

I have one beef with what Jerry and the new personnel structure at Valley Ranch did in the draft. Using extra picks to fill needs, good. Having those extra picks be mostly in the seventh round, not so good.

Unless ... unless the new guy in the war room, Will McClay, has found a way to clear the personnel evaluation fog that has hovered in the Cowboys World Headquarters air since Jimmy Johnson left.

“I give him an A,” Jones said of McClay when the draft was over. “In every phase of it — preparation, organizing from the Senior Bowl all the way to the combine, the organization of the board, coordination with the coaches. I couldn’t give him anything but an A in every respect.”

I’m going to guess it was McClay, who has the new title of assistant director of personnel, who lashed Jerry to the mast and helped him to ride out the Johnny Manziel draft storm. I’m also going to guess it was McClay who convinced Jones that you can never have enough solid offensive linemen — hence, the Zack Martin pick — and urged the owner and his son not to let No. 2 choice Demarcus Lawrence slip away.

Doing whatever it takes to move up and draft a player you’ve targeted is sound draft strategy.

But ... but why so few targets for an 8-8 team? In answering the media’s questions later, Stephen Jones explained that giving up a No. 3 was necessary because Lawrence, a premier pass rusher, was on a rapidly dwindling list.

Their stated intention was to replace DeMarcus Ware, now with the Broncos. Yet, that’s like trying to find another genie in the bottle. Ware had a Ring of Honor career with the Cowboys. Good luck to young Lawrence for having to measure up to that.

Surrendering the third-rounder to move up 13 draft spots is the problem. An 8-8 team could have used the possible starter that the third round would have produced.

Instead, the Cowboys’ strength in numbers all came in the draft’s last call for playoff ball, the seventh round.

A cursory check of the history books will tell you that the post-Jimmy Cowboys have not fared well in Round 7. The list includes Caleb McSurdy, Shaun Chapas, Bill Nagy, Mike Mickens, Manuel Johnson, Courtney Brown and E.J. Whitley.

Stop me if you have any of these guys on your fantasy team.

Oh, the seventh round of the 2010 draft did produce defensive lineman Sean Lissemore, who started six games in three seasons. Defensive back Alan Ball also was a seventh-rounder, and in his first four years with the Cowboys he started five games.

Perhaps, the current Cowboys’ best No. 7 pick ever was Jay Ratliff, selected in 2005.

But that’s a lot of wasted energy to find one regular starter. The entire league, in fact, has not produced many starters from the seventh round.

Strength in numbers is a worthy philosophy to take into training camp. Don’t be charmed, though, into thinking the Cowboys found five starters.

In the end, it otherwise seemed to be a sound draft, a sensible draft, for the Cowboys, and that’s both stunning and refreshing.

Next time, however, instead of five seventh-round picks, Owner Jones might want to think about finding another third-rounder.

Quality over quantity — still a wise NFL Draft philosophy, too.

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