Trading up to take
Darren McFadden is tempting, but the Cowboys have more pressing needs to
address in the draft
MAYBE, AT age 65,
Jerry Jones is growing up. Once, the impetuous Cowboys owner would have
packaged draft choices to leap into the top of the first round and take the
player of his dreams, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. But these days he
sounds like a changed man. "Six or seven years ago the wow factor with
McFadden might have gotten to me," said Jones, an Arkansas alum, at the NFL
meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. "It's just so obvious to me what we need to do
with our first-round picks. These picks are currency, and this is a now draft
for us. I can't afford to get caught up in what would be a luxury pick because
[ McFadden] is a Razorback."
Dallas is the only
team with two first-round selections on April 26, Nos. 22 (acquired last year
from Cleveland when the Browns moved up to get Brady Quinn) and 28. Given
Jones's history of bold moves and the team's recent release of running back
Julius Jones, speculation was rife that Dallas would trade up to get McFadden.
But Jones told SI it's highly unlikely he'll do that, because of the monstrous
guaranteed money McFadden would command (about $23 million for the fourth pick,
which is about where he's expected to go) and because of the multiple holes in
the Cowboys' offense. Jones more likely would use the two picks to draft a
lesser back in a rich crop of them (maybe McFadden's Arkansas understudy, Felix
Jones) and a receiver to pair with Terrell Owens. Don't be shocked, though, to
see Jones dangle one of the choices for a veteran wideout—possibly the Bengals'
Chad Johnson or the Lions' Roy Williams—who could start on opening day rather
than select a rookie who'd take a while to learn the pro game.
Dallas is intent
on helping quarterback Tony Romo early and often in this draft. "What can
we do to make Tony the best he can be?" Jones said. "Since Troy
[Aikman] left, I don't think we've had the chance in any one draft to help
build around the quarterback the way we can here."
It might seem
strange, the second-highest scoring team in the NFL so desperate to beef up its
attack. But 2007 was a tale of two seasons for the Cowboys. During their 12--1
start they put up 32.5 points per game; in their 1--3 finish they averaged
12.3. It eats at Jones that with a berth in the NFC title game on the line,
Dallas gained 115 yards and scored three points in the second half of a 21--17
loss to the Giants. That's what makes this a now draft for Jones, who can't
afford to rely on aging and injured wideout Terry Glenn, 33, or the
mistake-prone Patrick Crayton to take the pressure off Owens. Nor can they
leave the full rushing load to Marion Barber, a battering ram whose season high
in carries over his first three years is 204.
thinking. The backup to Barber will run the ball about 150 times. If the
Cowboys were to deal up to get McFadden, they'd be paying him LaDainian
Tomlinson money for Chester Taylor production. Then the only way they could get
the receiver they need would be to trade next season's No. 1 pick for a
veteran. In short: Using their first-round choices now on two good bodies is
better than drafting one superior one who'd be underused and overpaid.
Sounds easy. Now
all Jones has to do in the next three weeks is find a back he likes—and a G.M.
willing to trade him a Pro Bowl wideout.
ONLY AT SI.COM
Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback.