The Dallas Cowboys had a great draft this year, addressing needs on defense and shoring up their offensive line to protect Tony Romo, who is coming off two back surgeries. However, the trade Dallas made for Demarcus Lawrence cost the team later in the draft, and that could have a long domino effect.
The Cowboys were determined to get Lawrence in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, as they should have been. Jerry Jones, known as Trader Jerry this time of year, jumped the gun by giving up his third-round pick to move up 13 spots to grab Lawrence with the second pick in the second round.
While the pick itself was the best of the draft for Dallas, Jerry gave up too much in the deal.
Had the Cowboys given up their fourth-round pick in addition to swapping second-rounders with the Washington Redskins, they would have landed Lawrence and still retained the 78th overall pick. Dallas could have taken underrated defensive tackle Will Sutton there, four picks before he was selected by the Chicago Bears.
Why is this important now? After Lawrence, the Cowboys drafted only two other defensive linemen, both in the seventh round. Sure, their two linebacker picks were good ones, but unless they’re unwisely banking on Ken Bishop becoming a solid contributor (highly unlikely), the defensive tackle position wasn’t addressed well enough in the draft.
Dallas signed Henry Melton this offseason, but didn’t really do anything else to show up that interior defensive line. The Cowboys got a couple of bodies with undrafted free agent signings, but none of those players provides the promise of a guy like Sutton.
As a junior at Arizona State, Sutton set the woods on fire with with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss, earnings Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. As a senior, his numbers dropped considerably, but he still won the individual award again because he was the same dominant player going up against double teams after other Pac-12 teams paid him more attention.
Heading into the NFL Combine this year, teams wanted to see Sutton lose weight to prove that wasn’t a problem during his senior year at ASU, and he did just that. What that also tells us is that Sutton could play both the one- and three-technique defensive tackle spots in a 4-3 defense, which is exactly what the Cowboys need.
It’s too late to change things now but if Jerry is truly learning to be a better general manager, he’ll remember this in future drafts, especially if he’s reminded of it by the Cowboys’ defensive line play later this season.
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