Connor Williams on his preferred position
What does Dak-friendly mean to you?
To the Dallas Cowboys, it is embodied by a strong offensive line leading the way for a dominant running game with Ezekiel Elliott along with a stable of versatile pass catchers.
An entire off-season of tailoring the offense and organization to maximize the skills of third-year quarterback Dak Prescott came full circle on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft with the selections of Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams and Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup in the second and third rounds, respectively.
Williams, a first-round talent who slid to the Cowboys with the 50th overall pick, will certainly bolster an offensive line that is looking to replace left guard Jonathan Cooper, who joined the San Francisco 49ers in free agency.
Gallup is physical pass catcher who will be part of a committee to help replace the departed Dez Bryant.
Combine them with the selection of Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th overall pick in the first round on Thursday, and it's been a solid first three selections for a Cowboys team in transition.
"What we did is give Dak more time and give Zeke more running room," a pleased owner Jerry Jones said. "Gallup can play immediately, especially with the way we are approaching receivers. It involves using a lot of receivers. We are giving him speed and playmaking. Today we have given him protection and blocking. Dak needs some blocking too."
"That pick we made yesterday is going to give Dak the ball. I strategically like what these three picks do. I am pleased the talent is able to match with the strategic value of the different positions."
It's a good start for Cowboys team that is now charged with rebounding from last season’s 9-7 campaign not only minus their all-time leader in touchdown receptions in Bryant but also possibly tight end Jason Witten, the team’s all-time leader in receptions and yardage and a future Hall of Famer.
Per a source, Witten plans to retire after 15 seasons and join ESPN as an analyst on Monday Night Football.
Jones said Witten would use a couple of days to consider his options before making a final decision.
In the interim, the Cowboys went about the task of improving the football team and stayed close to home with their first pick on Friday.
Williams grew up roughly 20 minutes away in Coppell following the Cowboys.
After a standout career at Texas, Williams got called to come back home. It was a little later than Williams expected, considering he was projected as a first-round pick, but it ended up being a dream come true.
"I knew it was a Dallas area code when the phone started ringing," said Williams, who dropped to his knees and cried when he go the call from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "I was thinking this can't be. I got on the phone and it was Cloud 9. My family knew in the back of my mind I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy. As a local kid, I grew up a fan. For my name to be called to represent America's Team is a dream come true."
Williams, picked 50th overall, played tackle at Texas but likely projects to guard in the NFL where he would fill a huge need at left guard next to Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith and Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick.
Again, Cooper played left guard in 2017, but the Cowboys made no attempt to resign him in free agency. He eventually joined the San Francisco 49ers.
Williams has the flexibility to play guard and tackle.
He said he is coming to the Cowboys with no expectations and is open to either position.
It gives Cowboys some flexibility as well.
Right tackle La’el Collins played left guard his first two years before moving to tackle in 2017.
Collins wants to stay at right tackle but the Cowboys' goal is to put the best five players on the field in their ideal spots.
If that means Collins at left guard and Williams at tackle, then that is also on the table.
The most important thing is that he's coming to the Cowboys with a chip on his shoulder and motivated to work after dropping out of the first round.
"It’s been a process," Williams said. "I have a fire. I am ready to get to work. I am glad it’s the Cowboys so that makes the wait worthwhile."
There was talk of the Cowboys possibly trading the pick to the Seattle Seahawks for safety Earl Thomas.
But nothing got serious while teams were on the clock on Friday.
So the Cowboys stood pat and filled a need along the offensive line with Williams.
The wait to select a receiver proved fortuitous for the Cowboys as well, considering that Gallup was rated as high as a second rounder on some charts but was acquired by the Cowboys with the 81st overall selection.
He had 100 catches for 1,418 yards as a senior in 2017 when he was named a consensus All-American and was a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff award as the nation’s best receiver.
Gallup has traits similar to Bryant in that he is a big physical receiver who competes for the football.
“That’s the only way I know how to play the game,” Gallup said. “If you are not aggressive, you are going to get beat. I like to go up and get it. I like to high-point the ball. I like to catch with my hands. I don’t like to body catch.”
Gallup said he is not here to replace Bryant. He is just trying to find his role on the team and help the Cowboys win games.
He will join free-agent signees Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson on a revamped Cowboys receiver corps aimed at making things friendly and efficient for Prescott.