Just weeks after the cap-strapped Dallas Cowboys were forced to part ways with a famous pass-rusher named DeMarcus, they made a gutsy move to replace him with a new Demarcus early in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft.
And the pressure is officially on Demarcus Lawrence to replace DeMarcus Ware, because the Cowboys—who are already without a sixth-round pick—traded away their second- and third-round selections in order to move up 13 spots to draft the Boise State product Friday night.
Nobody can challenge the decision to go with Lawrence. Sure, Missouri's Kony Ealy was also on the board, but it's not as though this pick was viewed as a reach. The problem is that there's a chance the Cowboys could have kept their third-round pick and had Lawrence, Ealy or another quality pass-rushing prospect (Scott Crichton or Jeremiah Attaochu, for example) in the No. 47 spot.
Ealy, Crichton and Attaochu were all available 13 picks later.
Trading up is dangerous because it indicates you've fallen in love with a guy. Rose-colored glasses usually do more harm than good in the crapshoot that is the NFL draft, and that's especially the case when you're low on picks and have a poor reputation for drafting in the middle rounds.
I understand why Lawrence appealed to the Cowboys. He's an athletic sack-machine who is about the same size Ware was coming out of Troy (two inches shorter and one pound lighter). Based on his development over only two years as a starter at Boise State, his ceiling is also exceptionally high, and he offers scheme versatility in case the 'Boys one day go back to the 3-4.
But second-round mock drafts at CBS and Optimum Scouting had Lawrence falling to the Cowboys in the No. 47 spot. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had him dropping all the way down to Indianapolis in the No. 59 spot. Dallas loved him enough, though, that the front office didn't want to risk it, which shouldn't have been surprising based on this hint early Friday from Jeff Sullivan of DallasCowboys.com:
Cowboys really want Boise State DE Demarcus Lawrence in the second. Could move up. Can't fathom pick not being a defensive linemen.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) May 9, 2014
Ordinarily, in the sports world, aggression is applauded. Here, that's up for debate. If Lawrence delivers, Jerry Jones and Co. will look brilliant, but that doesn't mean it was the logical move. A lot of smart people grouped Lawrence in with Ealy, Crichton and Attaochu.
|Prospect||Matt Miller projection||2013 sack total|
|Kyle Van Noy||52nd||13.0*|
Bleacher Report (2012 stats due to 2013 injury)
According to the draft trade value chart, the deal with Washington that landed Dallas the No. 34 overall selection was fair, but there's a reason why good teams like the Seahawks and Patriots always seem to be moving back, not forward.
This was a risk the Cowboys might not have had to take.