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Tim Cowlishaw: NFL draft had its moments, so make it longer

By Tim Cowlishaw The Dallas Morning News (MCT) • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:50 PM

DALLAS — I miss the NFL draft.

I think the league may be onto something when the subject of expanding the draft to four days was raised recently. Three is clearly not enough for some of us.

I find myself at a loss in mornings without Mel Kiper and Todd McShay on my TV. It’s like I had roommates for four months and they just moved out unannounced.

The fact that I can go to the NFL’s website and click on video of every player in the draft is minor consolation. I was ready for more picks. As far as I could tell from all the analysts on both TV and radio, all the first-round picks had glaring holes. But by the time we reached the fifth round, every team was making great picks, finding it unbelievable that so much talent was still on the board.

Apparently, the Dallas Cowboys had the greatest seventh round of all time, securing no fewer than five players. Why couldn’t we have sustained this thing for a fourth day, picking all the way up through 12 rounds as they did in 1992? With that many extra picks, the Cowboys might have built an entirely new defense.

I guess if you build anything up for four months, there will inevitably be a letdown when the event is over. I know this draft got great TV ratings, and I recognize that the St. Louis Rams made history in the seventh round.

But, locally, I feel like fans were left out in the cold. The Cowboys had the opportunity to create the biggest buzz in all of sports when Johnny Manziel, who could have become the ultimate Cowboys anti-hero, fell right into their laps in the middle of the first round.

Somewhat incredibly, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, “No thanks, we’re going to pick a guard here,” and the world retained its rotation.

It was an understandable decision. I don’t get the criticism directed at the Cowboys for passing on Manziel, ranked higher on their draft board, to take Zack Martin. For one, Jones was the person who revealed that Manziel was more highly ranked.

But if a player performs at the same position where you have already allocated a vast amount of your salary-cap resources and you believe in that player, why add to that position in the first round? Now you can fault the Cowboys for their steadfast belief in Romo if you like. That’s another story.

But once that investment was made a year ago, there was no logical way to add Manziel to the quarterback mix in Dallas. Yes, it would have been wildly entertaining for the Cowboys to have pulled the trigger on that pick. But I wonder how many of the same critics would have been raising their voices, asking how Jones could possibly take another quarterback in the first round when he already had nearly $57 million in guarantees going to Romo.

It was the rest of the Dallas draft that left a hollow feeling.

They got the pass rusher they didn’t just desire but had to have after letting DeMarcus Ware go to Denver when they drafted Demarcus Lawrence. But was there any talk at all about Lawrence being a first-rounder before the Cowboys traded their second- and third-round picks to move up to the 34th spot (second pick of the second round) to grab the Boise State pass rusher?

If they were “stealing” a player who had slid out of the first round, maybe that would have been worth the sacrifice. This third round was considered especially strong, and remember that the Cowboys got Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams there a year ago. This time they got nothing, giving the rival Redskins an extra pick. It’s a dangerous way to do business.

In the fourth round, the Cowboys took a linebacker they mostly regard as a fill-in for when Sean Lee gets hurt. Maybe that’s responsible. Maybe it’s just cutting your losses on the heavy investment on the frequently injured star linebacker. But if they really hoped to create competition for weakside linebacker Bruce Carter, it didn’t happen.

The hopes of picking a safety before the seventh round or a quarterback anywhere were dashed.

It may turn out that the Cowboys had a safe, solid draft in 2014. For that to happen, they will have had to hit on more picks than is customary for any NFL team, let alone one operating out of Valley Ranch.

I really think they could have used that fourth day as much as me.


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