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Dallas Cowboys: While the Cowboys have proven to be capable of finding talent, they need to learn how to play the draft game



Give the Cowboys this much: They're so confident about what they do in the draft these days, they don't care what outsiders think. Take a safety early in one of the deepest drafts ever at the position? Safeties? Who needs safeties? The cowboys will just line up traffic cones in the secondary.

The first guy they draft came from the bench last fall and had issues with not one but two staffs at UCF? No sweat. Rod Marinelli bonded with Trysten Hill immediately. Father and son, practically.

And in Rod we trust, right? [LookwejustknowhowJerryJonesgraduatedovertheweekendDon'tputtoomuchstockintheB-minusfromyourstrulyanywayHillmaytrytobethenextAaronDonaldHe'sgotaniceskillsetBigexplosiveandplayshardandwhateverHill'sproblemswithScottFrost'sstaffandthenJoshHeupel'smaybetheoldtunnelratscareshimstraight

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And if Hill turns out as good as, say, Travis Frederick, then the cowboys can justify taking him earlier than he'd been projected. Just as they did with Frederick.

The thing about the draft, though, is that it's not always about finding good players. You've got to know how to play it, too.

Maybe you remember the 2013 draft. The Cowboys traded down to the 31st pick of the first round, then took Frederick out of Wisconsin. Mike Mayock, then working for the NFL Network, said he had a third-round grade on Frederick. Panic in the streets. Then the Cowboys doubled down by taking the immortal Gavin Escobar with the 47th pick overall.

Frederick's play ever since just justified a first-round selection, but there are more ways to judge the pick than Frederick's performance.

What if Mayock's projection was the actual consensus? What if the cowboys had been waiting until the 47th pick to take Frederick? They wanted a tight end, too. They could have had Zach Erz, who went to the Eagles at 35.

If the cows had played it right, maybe they could have had Frederick and Ertz, and Jason Witten would be working Monday nights

Maybe the Cowboys felt Frederick wouldn't drop and they wanted to make sure they got their center. Even if they'd gambled and lost, [?] Here's another funny thing about drafts: Not only does it take years to know how teams did, we don't go back and re-grade. But I remember giving the Cowboys a D after they took Quincy Carter in the second round of the 2001 draft. Wasn't just because he was on the outs at Georgia or that he only completed 49.7 percent of his last season in Athens or there were all kinds of questions about his character.

They got a D because they jumped Quincy two rounds ahead of where he'd been projected.

Of course, it's possible that someone else would have wanted Quincy. That's how it goes with quarterbacks. They're usually picked before they're ripe. Consider the Giants' selection of Duke's Daniel Jones with the sixth pick. Now, I like Daniel Jones. Love the fact that he played for David Cutcliffe, who also molded the Manning boys. That connection may have a little too much on the Giants' Dave Gettleman, in fact, because Jones was not considered a top 10 pick. Several mock drafts didn't have him going in the first round at all. Had the Giants taken to their 17th pick, they could have used the sixth on Houston's Ed Oliver, and the surer bet in the defensive line than Clemson's Dexter Lawrence, whom they took at 17.

Gettleman argues that you can ' t get "cute" with picks. If you really like a guy, he says, take him when you have a chance.

Occasionally that approach has merit. But as a policy, it doesn't make much sense. You have a draft board for a reason. If one of the players you like disappears before you get a shot at him, move on to the next guy on your list.

And if you're smart enough to envision the qualities of a player that others may not, well, good for you. It's like flipping houses. Say the Cowboys had taken Juan Thornhill, the safety out of Virginia, with the 58th pick and waited on Hill. They are reportedly just such a scenario. Had they done so, they couldn't have been able to take Connor McGovern, the Penn State guard, in the third. Then again, they reportedly had McGovern higher than Hill on their board. Maybe Hill would have been available in the fourth. His record with coaching staff might have justified it, especially if you think there could be a carryover.

If they say in the draft evaluation process, we'll see. At least the Cowboys had a built-in win going into the draft. Amari Cooper was more than worth the first-round pick they gave to the Raiders. Dave Gettleman could have used a quiet thing to quiet a new York crowd, which wasn't as Daniel Jones.

"In three years," Gettleman told reporters, "we'll find out how crazy I am . "Chances are we are not able to find him at all. As for Jerry, he'll still be in the room.

Twitter: @KSherringtonDMN

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