“We had long discussions about, ‘If the corners go, what are we going to do here,'” Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said Monday. “And it was here that we spent a lot of time on Micah – not to mention a few other players that we could be really comfortable with if the two corners went. Which, of course, happened.”
Added Vice President of Play Staff Will McClay Saturday night: “Micah Parsons was there when the corners were back, was a great thing that we all looked at each other and said ‘There’s a difference-maker.̵
However, the first round is only one aspect of a draft. Over the weekend, the Cowboys seemed to be walking the tight rope between “shortage” and “need.” The coming years will prove how well they went that line, but it was something they seemed to recognize they had to do.
Nowhere was it more apparent than during an unpredictable day 2, when the front office made three choices that threw outsiders into a loop.
After securing their coveted second-round cornerback, the front office turned to the defensive line with its 75th and 84th picks, choosing UCLA defensive tackle Osa Odighizua and Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston.
The final choice of the night, overall No. 99, was perhaps the most interesting of the entire draft. With the selection of Nahshan Wright, the Cowboys landed a 6’4 cornerback, which they clearly coveted – but which was not on the radar of many fans or analysts.
“I think it was long overdue that the board fell right and that we were able to pick the defensive guys,” said Stephen Jones.
However, this was the most interesting part of the whole process. Saturday night, after day 3, had seen them draft coveted linebacker prospect Jabril Cox – in addition to five others – Cowboys owner / general manager Jerry Jones once again mentioned the balancing act.
“It was really interesting that I saw that Wright was a little high. But you keep going down the road and Cox is a little low,” he said. “It’s average when you sit there and stay with your table.”
It’s a reality in the NFL draft that is rarely recognized. Teams regularly make decisions outside the parameters of grades – whether it is positional value, scheme adaptation or direct need. Still, it is fascinating to hear the front office explain the thought process.
To hear it from Jones, the Cowboys had several options they felt good about during the midterm elections. Regardless of the individual characters, they felt good about getting away from this draft with most.
“We had six or seven players who, when we chose Wright, that we discussed whether we should pick that player or pick that player,” he said. “What ended up happening is that we finally got four of the six that we were talking about at the time.”
The end result is a draft class with eight of 11 picks coming on the defensive side of the ball – an obvious attempt to upgrade a unit that was among the worst in the NFL last year. And while Parsons and Joseph may be the only beginners pushing for a starting job, it’s clear the Cowboys have roles in mind for many of them.
From the outsider’s perspective, the method felt less obvious in 2021 than it did a year ago. But the bottom line is the same from the outside of the war room as it is from the inside: If the Cowboys are right in their evaluations, it works fine.