After a disappointing 6-10 season, it was obvious that the Dallas Cowboys had more than a few holes to fill on their roster. Early mock drafts all but guaranteed that the Cowboys would pick Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. As the draft approached, Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt became the trendy pick for the Cowboys. In the weeks leading up to the draft, USC’s OT Tyron Smith was almost the unanimous choice for the Cowboys in numerous mock drafts.
When the Cowboys were on the clock with the No. 9 pick, all three players were still available. At that moment you would think that Jerry Jones, the coaches and the scouts would have been thrilled with their options (which also surprisingly included Auburn DE Nick Fairley). With Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert still on the board, it seemed that the Cowboys were in a position of power to trade down and still get a player that they coveted, or to pick any of the aforementioned players.
With holes on the defensive line, the secondary and the offensive line, the Cowboys really couldn’t go wrong picking any of these players.
So how did they blow a golden opportunity? By pulling out a last-minute victory in the meaningless final regular-season game against the Philadelphia Eagles!
Some may argue that the season-ending victory against the Eagles was a positive, but in retrospect it turns out that it may have been their biggest disappointment of the year.
While the victory gave the Cowboys a winning record for the second half of the season, any momentum that it could have possibly created is now gone. Even if the Cowboys had lost that game, Jason Garrett was still going to be the head coach, and he was still going to put together the same staff.
The meaningless victory over the Eagles dropped the Cowboys down from the No. 6 pick to the No. 9 pick in the draft. Three spots may not seem like a big deal, and most years it probably isn’t. However, this year is not like most years.
The Atlanta Falcons lost to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game after finishing the season with a 13-3 record, but they are not one player away from taking the next step towards NFC dominance. The Packers dominated the Falcons that day because Aaron Rodgers picked apart their defense, not because they didn’t have enough firepower to score points.
And yet, in what can only be described as a “Herschel Walker moment,” the Falcons inexplicably packaged their first, second and fourth round picks this year with their first and fourth round picks next year to move up in the draft to select Alabama WR Julio Jones.
Their trading partner? The Cleveland Browns, who happened to be picking sixth in the draft. If the Cowboys had just managed to lose one more game, Trader Jerry could have been the one fleecing the Falcons instead of Mike Holmgren.
Some will question Jones’ ability to draft, saying that he was better off picking at the No. 9 position and securing a “blue-chip” player. But that is nonsense!
Is Tyron Smith a “blue-chip” OT? Only time will tell.
The better question to consider is this: would you rather have Tyron Smith or Anthony Costanzo, an additional second and fourth round pick in this draft and an additional first and fourth round pick in next year’s draft?
Even Jones’ biggest detractors cannot argue that the Cowboys are better off ending last season on a winning note. That meaningless victory may very well be the difference between building a team to compete for a number of years and slowly replacing the broken parts of the Cowboys’ roster.
Unless Tyron Smith is the next Anthony Munoz and Anthony Costanzo is the next Tony Mandarich, the Cowboys will someday look back on the 2011 draft and wonder what might have been.