Dallas Cowboys first-round selection Travis Frederick
In trading down from the 18th selection to the 31st spot with San Francisco on Thursday night, Dallas was still in great position to start the draft with a bang.
Instead, the Cowboys began with somewhat of a thud—or at least it seems that way to a huge fanbase with low patience.
Travis Frederick of Wisconsin is widely regarded as the top center prospect available in this year's draft class. In picking up an additional third-round selection via the trade with the 49ers, at least it can be said that Dallas grabbed a top-rated player at a given position—and certainly the prospect with the longest beard!
Frederick expected to be a second-round pick, and he could have possibly been had in the third round as well.
Frederick was not well served at the scouting combine in February or at Wisconsin's pro day just days later. His 40-yard dash in Indianapolis was just under 5.6 seconds and his 21 reps on the bench press didn't exactly illustrate the kind of strength that scouts like to see in a highly rated offensive line prospect.
But those statistical factors don't bother me at all. Offensive linemen almost never look sharp in many of the drills scheduled at the combine. Top-rated tackles may open some eyes in certain areas but Frederick doesn't even play that position.
My only issue with this pick is when it came, but not so much the fact that it did.
Phil Costa, possibly out of a starting job at center at this point, was only able to start a few games last season due to multiple injuries, primarily his back. Prior to 2012, Costa always looked lost as the Dallas offensive line struggled in just about every area it could.
How much of an upgrade is Frederick over Costa?
Well, that's anybody's guess and it will take at least a couple of seasons in order to get the answer.
On the bright side of this questionable pick is the fact that Frederick comes from a Wisconsin program that has been producing some high quality offensive linemen over the last decade-plus. But that fact matters less than what Frederick was a part of while he was with the Badgers.
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is a well-known name by the Cowboys and a prospect that could still end up in Dallas, as early as Friday night. It's not like Dallas isn't in the market for a running back to either backup or eventually replace DeMarco Murray.
If you like Ball as a prospect, it's good to know about the guys who blocked for him—Frederick obviously being one of them.
Ball rushed for 202 yards and three scores in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium, a 70-31 victory that propelled Wisconsin to the 2013 Rose Bowl against Stanford.
But Ball wasn't the only ball carrier to have a huge day. In fact, he wasn't even the leading rusher or scorer against the Cornhuskers.
Running back Melvin Gordon tallied 216 yards rushing on just nine carries (24.0 AVG) with a single touchdown. James White carried 15 times for 109 yards on the ground and a ridiculous four touchdowns.
Well, there's some serious blocking going on to reach numbers like that. Nebraska may not be the elite program it has been in the past, but it's certainly no pushover either.
Which offensive line position should Dallas have addressed with first selection?
If you believe in the fact that center is the quarterback of the offensive line, then Frederick, a former team captain with the Badgers, should be a solid selection. Frederick was also an academic standout at Wisconsin.
And if you believe that Dallas needs to get better running the ball, and quickly, then Frederick also fits a major area of need.
But again, Frederick could have been had later than the second-to-last pick of Round 1 on Thursday night.
Jones has stated that leaving highly ranked defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd on the board when trading with San Francisco was an indication that Dallas thinks the defensive line is already well-manned. SportsDayDFW.com staff writer David Moore was told the following by Jones after selecting Frederick:
We feel like first of all, defensive line is a position of strength for us. No. 2, in our system, we probably would put a premium on a quick twitch potential three technique. We view him (Floyd) as not that, but someone who is capable of getting there.
I feel that the actual truth is there's a number of quality interior defensive linemen still available in this draft and the Cowboys aren't messing around when it comes to the offensive line—it's about time, even if the selection order seems out of whack.
A couple of names to watch for moving forward: Florida State right tackle Menelik Watson and Arkansas-Pine Bluff left tackle Terron Armstead.
If the offensive line renovation isn't complete, and I can't see how tackle is settled at all with Doug Free's status completely up in the air, either of those two linemen could all but complete the overhaul prior to Rounds 4-7 beginning Saturday.
Dallas is off to a rather slow start, but there's still time and talent left to make this draft a very significant part of future success.
And for those crying over Warmack or Cooper not being selected, remember that Frederick also started at guard in 2011, a season that ended with Wisconsin earning another trip to the Rose Bowl to take on Oregon. So perhaps you did get that guard after all.