IRVING, Texas – Nothing could summarize the Cowboys' actions in the second and third rounds of this weekend's NFL draft than their own words.
The story is a perfect juxtaposition. With their first pick on Friday night, the Cowboys used their No. 60 overall pick on defensive end Randy Gregory – a mercurial player with first-round talent and a long list of off-field concerns.
"We're not naïve here – it's not by accident that we're the only ones who thought Gregory was a great pass rusher," said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones. "We're not naïve. Obviously, he fell for a reason, and we're aware of that. There's work to be done."
Roughly an hour after picking Gregory, they went the opposite way by selecting offensive tackle Chaz Green with the 91st pick – widely regarded as smart, safe and uneventful.
"We think he has the skill set to step up and be a starter for us," Jones said. "As you know, we feel strongly about the offensive line. We've had a lot of success going with the guys that we grade and vet, and not only was he the top offensive lineman on our board, but also the top player on our board."
The two picks were about as opposite as could be expected, and they both filled areas of drastic need for the Cowboys. In Gregory, they secured a 6-5, 235-pound sack artist with 17.5 sacks in two seasons – an admittedly risky pick that can improve their lackluster pass rush.
That pick also comes with a fair bit of baggage. Gregory grabbed NFL headlines earlier this spring when reports surfaced that he failed a test for marijuana at the NFL Combine. Coupled with several failed drug tests from his time at Nebraska, and it combined to push a player regarded as a top-10 talent into the latter stages of the second round.
"I know I made a mistake, I know there is only so much I can say – talk is cheap sometimes," Gregory said. "I really want to show these guys what I can do and I am really serious about what I say. I gave that staff my word plenty of times and I really feel like they believe me. I can't wait to show them."
Green doesn't carry any of the same risk as his new teammate, and he fills a trouble spot for the Cowboys after the departure of Jermey Parnell in free agency. With Doug Free coming off two separate injuries in 2014, Green will step in immediately as the team's swing tackle and primary backup.
"This is a team with such a legacy with offensive line players and that is something I understand," Green said. "I'm willing to bet that I have seen guys in the past that have come through there – Hall of Famers – and I don't want to be the guy to mess that up. I want to be the guy to keep that rolling and I'm just very fortunate and blessed that they see that in me."
Factored into the high-character, high-upside selection of Byron Jones on Thursday night, it plays into a larger narrative for the first half of this year's draft. Throughout these first three rounds of the draft, the Cowboys have searched for character at a good value. In the most noteworthy selection to date, Gregory, the overwhelming value of the player offset the trepidation of character concerns.
To that end, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones summed it up thusly.
"He really, really is a Tasmanian devil, but he does it with skill – not just with overachieving, but with skill. And that really is the unique thing about him," he said. "His skill level and his motor with it is certainly worth any risk we're involved with here."
That's the story so far – with four picks remaining. The Cowboys have addressed three positions of need, with minimal risk. The one outlier is Randy Gregory, and it's safe to say the risk is mitigated by a variety of factors.
"I think risk is a form of paying the price," Jerry Jones said. "Just like you could take a player too soon for where he ought to have been taken in the draft, or you can reach down there, it's the same difference."
Through three rounds of the draft, it's hard to argue that the price hasn't been fair.