Cowboys: Drafting 1st Round Corner Could Be Suicide


The Dallas Cowboys will have several much-discussed needs once the season ends, but cornerback should not be an option in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me three times, and I’m just an idiot.

Will Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones prove this once and for all in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft?

We shall see.

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I’ve already seen one mock draft that’s already made the call that the Cowboys will draft a cornerback in the first round of the NFL draft for the second straight year.

History more than suggests that this would be a horrible decision.

The idea that the Cowboys should draft another cornerback in the first round of a player selection meeting is almost equivalent to offseason suicide.

Let me explain why this is.

To start with, the Cowboys have drafted first-round corners three times since 2008. One guy is already gone, another is on the way and the most recent is about to finish up a solid rookie season. Further, if we go all the way back to the 2000 NFL draft, we see that the Cowboys spent three of their first four selections in a five-pick gathering only to come away with – well, nothing.

In fact, you can find very few instances in which the Cowboys had great drafts following a first-round cornerback selection.

Takeaway the shrewd acquisition of Terrence Newman in 2003 and Kevin Smith in 1992, there’s really no first-round cornerbacks this franchise has ever taken that panned out as expected. I’ll even include Hall of Fame corner Mel Renfro in 1964, a second round selection that happened to be chosen 17th overall – that’s a first-round talent by today’s draft standards and positioning.

Fair enough.

But what exactly has Dallas gotten out of 2012 mega-reach Morris Claiborne? How about 2008 washout Mike Jenkins? What about Rod Smith in 1982, a guy who was gone two years later?

The reasons for this cornerback futility are many, but going back into a different era is meaningless and cosmetic.

What matters is today’s NFL game and how cornerbacks have been the second-most marginalized position on either side of the ball, trailing only running back. While their importance is still high, corners are very seldom able to shut down today’s elite wide receivers. This is a physical problem, more than anything, but there’s also a legislative issue concern NFL rules as well.

Show me a rookie, in any given year, that’s going to step in and cover the likes of Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones or Brandon Marshall.

You probably can’t do that.

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These days, receivers have gotten too big, too strong and too fast to put so many eggs in one basket. Further, the idea that a rookie is going to step in and make a big difference is just not realistic. Unless a given cornerback stands above 6’2” and runs a sub-4.30 40-yard dash, I’m not very interested in relying on a rookie cornerback to do very much.

I suppose my biggest problem with the Cowboys taking a cornerback in the first – or even second – round isn’t so much the history, but rather the nature of this position to begin with. Cornerbacks simply don’t touch the football enough to command so much attention in a draft. It might be one thing if we’re taking about free agency and a talent like Deion Sanders. The acquisition of ‘Prime Time’ back in 1995 was move that easily elevated a fading Dallas dynasty in the 1990s to a king, once again.

The 2015 Dallas Cowboys are not in that gene pool.

I do agree that the Cowboys aren’t nearly as bad as their record indicates heading into Week 16 of a dreadful ’15 campaign, but there are far greater urgencies for this team than another potential bust cornerback. If safety was valued higher, I’d rather take a shot on a free safety candidate to seriously challenge J.J. Wilcox for his starting position. This assumes that this year’s first round pick, Byron Jones, stays at corner for his sophomore season.

It’s no secret that the Cowboys have to be addressing the quarterback position right away – no, Kellen Moore is not an heir to Tony Romo. The future at quarterback is definitely a priority over any cornerback right now.

The defensive line is in limited supply of defensive tackles along the interior. This is a good part of the roster, but its impact in games could be quite a bit better as well. Bolstering this part of the deep end is easily more important than a cornerback in the first round.

You could certainly argue that a top-flight linebacker to join the likes of Sean Lee and Rolando McClain would be a wiser direction with which to approach Dallas’ first-overall selection next April. As good as both of these players are, how reliable are they? That’s a huge question – and there’s no guarantee that McClain is even on the roster next season.

I’m fully aware that the Cowboys need upgrades at cornerback. The Cowboys tried to do this during the offseason with additions like Jones and veteran Corey White in free agency. Even the draft selection of Terrance Mitchell, who just logged his first interception of the season against the New York Jets – also his first NFL game – was made with the idea of eventual replacements for Brandon Carr and his albatross of a contract, and also Claiborne, who’s likely to be playing elsewhere next season.

I do agree that the Cowboys aren’t nearly as bad as their record indicates heading into Week 16 of a dreadful ’15 campaign, but there are far greater urgencies for this team than another potential bust cornerback.

Ask yourself this question: Why was Newman released following the 2011 season, yet he’s still playing football to this day?

I get that there were financial considerations behind Newman’s release, but just after there was owner Jones blowing lots of resources in acquiring Carr, then a free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs, and Claiborne, a player selected with the 6th-overall pick after Dallas traded up to get him.

Successful football teams are generally built from the inside out, not the other way around.

I get that the ideal philosophy in the draft should be simply taking the best player available.

However, if you’ve just drafted a franchise quarterback within the last two seasons, for example, and with the sixth-overall selection in the first round your draft board offers another franchise passer as the best player available, you’re obviously going to try to trade down or simply pick another player.

Regardless of what the Cowboys might think of a prospect like 5’11” and sub-200 pound Vernon Hargreaves III of Florida, you have to pass on this player that’s not even known to be physical at the college level.

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The smart choice is doing what Dallas did back in the early 1990s – stockpile the Russell Marylands, Chad Hennings and Leon Lett types before worrying about how you can improve your defense with more players that don’t often touch the football.

Yes, replace the corners, but do that later in the draft and in FA after positions of greater importance are upgraded.