With no first-round pick, thanks to the 2018 mid-season trade the Oakland Raiders to acquire receiver Amari Cooper, the Cowboys are unlikely to get cute early on in the draft.
When the first round commences on Thursday, the Cowboys brass will be in their war room at The Star in Frisco watching Cooper highlights with no regrets.
The draft board has proven what they forecasted before making the trade last season: there’s not a player the Raiders could pick at No. 27 overall that will have the future impact that Cooper has/will have. At least that’s the hope.
The Cowboys won’t get the first of their six picks in the three-day draft until the second round on Day 2 at No. 58 overall.
And because Dallas doesn’t have a first-round pick, the Cowboys plan to resist any temptation to move back into the first round, as it would likely cost them a future first-round pick.
”There might be some players that can be difference makers up there, you might consider it, but from my perspective without that one, I’m not interested in stacking up these one-less draft days,” owner Jerry Jones said. “They’re no fun.”
Safety first for the Cowboys is not just about an attitude or motto but also an area of focus.
The Cowboys did a great job in free agency filling needs so they can take the best available player.
But if the Cowboys had their druthers, being able to choose a safety at 58 would make them happy.
The team brought in six safeties, the most of any position, among their top 30 pre-draft visits. The list includes Mississippi State’s Jonathan Abram, Florida’s Chancey Gardner, Boston College’s Will Harris, Washington’s Taylor Rapp, Virginia’s Juan Thornhill and Michigan State’s Khari Willis. Abram, Rapp,Thornhill and Gardner are considered Day 2 prospects who could possibly be available when the Cowboys make their first pick in the second round.
It remains a position of focus even though the Cowboys signed Geoge Iloka to a modest one-deal in free agency. It’s been one of concern since last season when the Cowboys moved 2014 first-round pick Byron Jones from safety to cornerback and began talking to the Seattle Seahawks about a trade for Earl Thomas.
The Cowboys stayed away from Thomas when free agency began because his price was too high. He eventually signed with the Baltimore Ravens. The Cowboys entertained Colts safety Clayton Geathers and former Chiefs safety Eric Berry before signing Iloka.
The team is focused on finding a replacement for Jeff Heath opposite rising free safety Xavier Woods. Heath will likely return to being a situational backup and core special teams player if the Cowboys can find an upgrade, either with Iloka or a rookie draft pick.
”I think you can always improve any position,” Stephen Jones said. “Obviously, if you look at the resources we have there in terms of money or quality of pick, it’s probably got the least amount of resources that have put toward any position on our team is the safety position. Xavier was a later pick, (Jeff) Heath was a later pick. Kavon (Frazier) was a later pick. Iloka we got him in free agency, but I wouldn’t say we broke the bank bringing him to Dallas. If a really good safety showed up we think can improve us at some point in the draft that could certainly upgrade us in terms of that particular position.”
What’s also clear is that the team seems set on investing in a position that has been neglected for far too long.
Since taking Roy Williams in the first round in 2002, Jones was the only safety taken in the first two rounds in the last 16 years.
And if truth be told, the Cowboys haven’t had a true difference maker at the position since three-time Super Bowl champion Darren Woodson retired in 2004.
“Well, I think a playmaking safety is few and far between in terms of guys who actually make plays on the ball, who are very productive in terms of tackling and that type of situation,” Stephen Jones said. “I mean they’re rare. Obviously, we’ve looked at play-making safeties and hadn’t been able to get deals done. We had one here in Darren Woodson that was special. And Roy Williams certainly was special at what he did. If you find the right player at that position then it certainly warrants not only a high pick but it can warrant a big contract. So I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s not a priority but at the same time you’ve got to find the guy and those guys are rare. They can be hard to find.”
Will the Cowboys finally find one in the second round in 2018? That’s where they found Woodson in 1992.