When reading about the Dallas Cowboys, I usually head over to the San Antonio Express-News to read what America's team beat writer, Tom Orsborn, has to say. He recently filed an article talking about how Dallas' approach in the draft this year was different.
They chose to focus on character.
Makes sense, doesn't it?
Last year, Dallas took a chance and traded for Adam "Don't Call Me Pacman" Jones to shore up their secondary. Jones, who had been banned from the NFL due to off-the-field indiscretions, ended up being a bust, as he got into more problems and was later cut by Dallas. (Best wishes, Adam Jones, on making wise decisions in your life).
The same rang true for Tank Johnson. Brought in by Dallas after his less-than-amicable split with the Chicago Bears, Tank "tanked" in Big D and was let go.
Then there's Terrell Owens, a gifted wide receiver with all the physical tools you'd could ask for. And while he has no criminal records and his neighbors talk about how nice a guy he is, he did seem to have large insecurity issues, dropped passes, an ego, dropped passes, and was cut.
The Buffalo Bills signed Owens to a one-year contract, which pretty much says it all: "Terrell, we'll give you a job, but only a one-year deal so you can convince us why you deserve a multi-year contract."
In other words, once T.O. receives lots of guaranteed Dead Presidents, then he'll start whining about not getting enough passes in Buffalo, the weather, Buffalo wings, whether the team should move to Toronto, and so forth.
So, Orsborn wrote in a May 1 Express-News article that this class of Cowboys draftees gets high marks for character: few, if any, off-the-field problems. They're hard workers and, best of all, there are literally no worries they'll ever appear on The Jerry Springer Show to be confronted by a jilted ex-girlfriend or, for whatever reason, a deranged Nazi Eskimo Satan worshiper. No worries that they'll be served by a Friend of the Court for child support.
That's refreshing, and I hope the character breeds leadership. That was something that seemed to be in short supply for the Cowboys last year. You need a defensive player to tell his teammates that their performance in a game is unacceptable, and you need an assertive leader on offense (hint, hint, paging Tony Romo) to sometimes tell receivers to shut up and catch the ball.*
Admittedly, I was less than impressed with this draft. Only one wide receiver taken, and he's a long shot to make the team.
Dallas chose to trade out of the first round and take their chances in the later rounds. Yes, there have been notable first round busts over the years, like Jeff George, Tony Mandarich**, Tim Couch, and Aundray Bruce. But for every Tom Brady taken in the sixth round, there are plenty more sixth rounders who perform like they were taken, well, in the sixth round.
That being said, only time will tell. NFL drafts are notorious crap shoots.
* For all the griping he did last season about not getting enough passes thrown his way, over the past two seasons, Owens actually had more passes thrown his way than Jason Witten. Guess who caught more? You guessed it—Witten.
** While Mandarich was a notorious bust in the NFL, he now has his own photography business. About a year ago, I e-mailed him and wished him luck on this venture, and he was kind enough to write back and thank me.