Gil LeBreton

Versatility, patience ruled the roost in Cowboys’ solid draft

The Cowboys showed great patience in this year’s NFL Draft, focusing on the defense and scoring big with Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.
The Cowboys showed great patience in this year’s NFL Draft, focusing on the defense and scoring big with Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.

To use Owner Jones’ own amusing analogy, the buzzard has left the draft room.

An older, more trusting bird now sits in Jerry Jones’ draft chair, and as the owner put it, “When you’ve danced with it as much as I have and had some of the bruises, then you’re not just needing another thrill.”

Jones referenced the old cartoon with the two buzzards in which one of them colorfully expresses his disdain for patience.

“That can get you in trouble,” Jerry said.

And thus, for three days and most of seven rounds the Dallas Cowboys waited like the good birds they have become under the guiding hands of Stephen Jones, coach Jason Garrett and personnel chief Will McClay.

They stayed the course. They kept their focus. They drafted mostly defense, defense and more defense.

They drafted football players, not cartoon characters. And the results, both on paper and YouTube, were impressive.

I won’t dare try to portray myself as an NFL Draft expert. But the internets and TV channels are awash these days in “scouting” information.

My go-to guy has long been the great Mike Detillier, who publishes an annual guide and is a frequent guest of radio talk shows this time of year.

Between Detillier’s scouting reports and online video highlights, it’s easy to subject today’s draft prospects to the eyeball test.

And the Cowboys largely passed this weekend with trumpets and flying colors.

Detillier ranked the Cowboys’ first-round selection, Taco Charlton, as the fourth-best defensive end in the draft, behind Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas and Derek Barnett, in that order.

“He has very long arms and a huge wingspan to get around would-be blockers,” Detillier wrote. “Big Ten tackles had a tough time controlling him in 2016, and he forced a ton of holding penalties.”

Astute readers of this newspaper should not have been surprised. Long before the mock drafts, yours truly — ahem — predicted Charlton would be the Cowboys’ No. 1 pick five months ago in my annual New Year’s Day predictions column. But I digress.

The Cowboys didn’t even roll the dice this year with their No. 2 pick, a round that has traditionally been a dry hole for wildcatter Jones.

Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie brings first-round upside at a second-round price. His YouTube portfolio is worth the watch.

In it, Awuzie seems everywhere — sacking quarterbacks on a blitz, busting up screens in the flat, lining up chin-to-chin with wideouts.

Clearly, Garrett and his people were seeking players, guys that could get on the field and contribute quickly, somewhere and somehow.

As a result, versatile athletic types abound on the Cowboys’ draft list. North Carolina receiver Ryan Switzer, taken in the fourth round — all 5 feet, 8 inches of him — gives the team an instant threat on punt returns.

McClay’s influence and eye for talent has been profound, as has Garrett’s. Son Stephen, the team’s executive vice-president, lacks his dad’s buzzard propensities — a good thing — and listens to his coach and his scouts.

It’s only April, of course. College highlight videos aren’t the NFL.

But it was refreshing to watch the Cowboys draft football players, not trade down, trade up or try to reinvent the NFL wheel.

That’s the former philosophy. And it was for the birds.