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Cowboys accomplish most of their draft goals

IRVING -- The 2008 NFL Draft ended Sunday and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is still at the team’s Valley Ranch training complex trading down to pick up extra picks.

Or least so it seems.

After a largely drama free first day Saturday -- Jones truly began working the draft Sunday.

He made four trades before making his first selection and five trades overall -- going down four times and up once, turning three picks into four picks and back down to three picks Sunday while acquiring two picks in next year’s draft.

The dizzying moves were the theme of the day for an owner/general manager who prides himself on trying to win the draft by stockpiling picks and trying to increase value.

The Cowboys finally picked Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice with the 23rd choice of the fourth round, 123rd overall, to continue with the business of talent acquisition. They also picked up Boise State cornerback Orlando Scandrick in the fifth round and Middle Tennessee linebacker Erik Walden in the sixth round. They also added Cleveland’s third and Detroit’s fourth-round picks in 2009 -- giving them six picks in the first four rounds of next year’s draft.

When the dust settles on the 2008 draft, it will be remembered more for what the Cowboys got in the first two rounds than the second-day trade frenzy.

After going 13-3 and winning the NFC East last year only to watch the division rival New York Giants bask in Super Bowl glory, the Cowboys went into the off-season looking for fits to put them over the top this season.

According to Jones, the Cowboys accomplished their goal.

That’s why they re-signed left tackle Flozell Adams to a $42 million contract in February and signed aging free agent linebacker Zach Thomas to replace Akin Ayodele alongside Bradie James.

And don’t think for a minute that the Cowboys’ gamble in acquiring suspended cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones from the Tennessee Titans was not rooted in their belief that he can contribute to a Super Bowl title run in 2008.

The draft was no different. The focus was to get players who could make immediate impacts in 2008.

"I think we did that," Jones said. "I think we got it done. We have improved our team. We have gotten some wow power."

And while there will be a down-the-road debate on the decision to take running back Felix Jones over Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall _ who was rated as the best back in the draft on a few boards and as high as No. 2 on most boards _ there is no disputing the Cowboys’ argument that Jones is the best immediate fit.

The speedy Jones is an ideal complement to starting running back Marion Barber. His speed and quickness is a nice change of pace to go with Barber’s bruising style.

Look for Felix Jones to be on the field with Barber as the Cowboys will use him on reverses. He is a big play waiting to happen. He is one of just three players in the past 50 years to average more than 7 yards a carry during his college career, joining Nebraska’s Mike Rozier and USC’s Reggie Bush.

Barber will get the bulk of the carries, but when Jones is on the field he gives the Cowboys a bonafide home-run threat to go along with Terrell Owens in the offense.

And any questions about Jones not being able to carry the full load in case something happened to Barber were answered with the selection of Choice, who has size, durability and talent to be an every down back.

However, the biggest moves the Cowboys made in the draft might have come on defense with the acquisitions Pacman Jones and South Florida cornerback Mike Jenkins in the second round.

When the Cowboys let Jacques Reeves walk away in free agency to the Houston Texans without so much as a counter offer, it spoke volumes about their intentions to make upgrades in the secondary. Reeves presence was important because starters Terence Newman and Anthony Henry missed so much time with injuries last season.

But the drop off in talent with Reeves and fourth cornerback Nate Jones in the lineup was obvious, causing defensive coordinator Brian Stewart to play it safe with his calls.

No more. Not with Pacman Jones and Jenkins on the field. Pacman Jones_ if he reinstated by the NFL and the Cowboys truly believe he will be on the field _ has already proven to be one of the league’s top cover cornerbacks. Jenkins was the highest-rated cornerback on the Cowboys draft board.

Owner Jerry Jones said Jenkins was the most ready-to-play cornerback in the draft. Pacman Jones and Jenkins have the athletic ability and ball skills to turn interceptions into touchdowns. And their coverage ability means that Stewart and coach Wade Phillips can take the governor off their defense and push the pedal to the mettle on their blitz packages.

"It gives you more options, more versatility," Phillips said. "It’s going to a three wide receiver league. You have to have three guys that can cover."

When the Cowboys entered the off-season, Jerry Jones said he didn’t think the team would have a chance to make big improvements on defense. But with the acquisitions of Thomas, Jones and Jenkins, he said they have done so in a big way.

The Cowboys didn’t accomplish all of their goals. They would have liked to add a big time receiver to play opposite Owens. Short of that, the Cowboys are very comfortable with their roster and what they have accomplished. He said it was the main reason he could work the draft as he did Sunday. They didn’t feel the need to reach for any players and the additional picks they picked up for 2009 will allow them to be major players in next year’s draft.

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