As it turns out, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t need to get cute in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
They didn’t need to do anything to enhance their chances and they didn’t need to try to outsmart themselves with a trade.
They didn’t need to take a chance on a character risk.
The Cowboys, who admittedly withstood some moments of anxiety as they waited until the 27th overall pick, simply stood pat and watched Connecticut cornerback/safety Byron Jones fall into their laps.
“It was a hard wait for sure,” owner Jerry Jones said. “But it worked out for us. We were fortunate when you put in the crosshairs of our team needs and what type of player he is. All our coaches were on the the table for him.”
There were hugs all around in the Cowboys’ war room when they saw they were getting Jones. Jerry Jones was smiling. Vice president Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett were hugging. And defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was simply ecstatic to get a playmaker for his maligned unit.
“You target guys,” Garrett said. “Some guys come to you and sit there and wait. There are some guys you are hopeful come off way earlier. And then there are times you get a guy you really want and that works out for you. We want to have guys on defense who can impact the defense and make some plays. We feel Byron is that guy. He is absolutely a playmaker.”
Byron Jones, the second first-round pick ever from UConn, was just as excited to be taken by the Cowboys. He also saw it coming.
“When my agent answered the phone I was like, ‘Is that Dallas? Is that Dallas?’ … He gave me the phone and I was ecstatic,” Jones said on a conference call. “But you could tell they were really eyeing me and hoping I would fall to that pick. I’m happy I did.”
Jones is easily one of the top athletes in the draft, playing safety his first two years before moving to cornerback his final two years.
His athleticism is off the charts in that he set a would-be world record in the broad jump at the NFL Combine with an effort of 12 foot, 3 inches, shattering the old record of 11-7. No one has ever had a mark over 12 feet.
At 6-foot, 199 pounds, Jones had 24 tackles last season and two interceptions. He returned one of the interceptions for a touchdown.
The Cowboys like his versatility and will play him at both positions, starting him out at cornerback and then hopefully moving him to safety, depending on the health of cornerback Morris Claiborne.
The Cowboys had huge needs at running back and defensive end. They had some interest in running back Melvin Gordon, who went 15th to San Diego. They also had Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory ranked high on the board even though he was a character risk because of a failed drug test.
But they prioritized Jones from the beginning in hopes of improving their secondary and never wavered.
“We had him rated high on our board, in the top 15 picks,” Jerry Jones said. “We never tempted to move around for any other players. I can sleep if we come out of the draft without a running back or a pass rusher. We would have had trouble getting a nap without help in the secondary.”
Claiborne finished last season on injured reserve with a knee injury, but is expected to be ready for training camp.
Brandon Carr has been asked to take a pay cut or be cut and Orlando Scandrick is staying away from the off-season program in a contract dispute.
Jerry Jones expects all of them to be in a Cowboys uniform next season, allowing the rookie to roam the field as a ball-hawking free safety.
“This is not a workout warrior,” Garrett said. “This is a football player. He plays the right way. He has the physical traits to play safety. He can play both in this league. We do see him starting out at cornerback, but we can see him moving to safety.”
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760
Second-day thoughts ...
The Dallas Cowboys have one selection in each of today’s second and third rounds of the NFL Draft. Rounds four through seven are Saturday: Here’s a look at their picks going into the weekend:
None. Traded to Baltimore for Rolando McClain.
19th pick (236) from San Diego for Sean Lissemore and 26th pick (243) from Baltimore.
Today-Saturday, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, Chicago.
Rounds 2-3: 6 p.m. Friday. Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m. Saturday. TV: NFL Network, ESPN/ESPN2