IRVING, Texas – If you've found yourself wondering what the Cowboys might have done with their No. 78 pick in last weekend's NFL draft, team executive vice president Stephen Jones provided the answer on Tuesday.
Jones fielded questions from Cowboys season ticket holders during a one-hour conference call on Tuesday, including one about the thought process in trading up 13 spots to draft defensive end Demarcus Lawrence No. 34 overall.
The Cowboys dealt their second-round pick, No. 47 overall, and the 78th pick to Washington to move up for Lawrence. The Redskins used those picks on a pass-rusher in Trent Murphy and a guard in Spencer Long.
Coincidentally, that's precisely what Dallas would have done if not for the trade – opting for Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy and LSU guard Trai Turner. Ealy and Turner wound up as teammates with Carolina, taken No. 60 and No. 92, respectively.
Had things played out differently, Jones said they might have been teammates in Dallas, with the Cowboys taking them over other notable names like Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, Oregon State defense end Scott Crichton and others.
"I would say that Ealy was probably our next pick. Sometimes what you read isn't always true, in terms of the Jernigans of the world and people like that – we really didn't have him in that mix. We really felt like we needed some help at the right end after losing DeMarcus (Ware)."
Cowboys executives said after the draft that they valued Lawrence as the next-best right end behind only No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and No. 9 overall pick Anthony Barr. There was some hope that Barr would fall to Dallas at No. 16, but he was eventually snatched up by Minnesota. Jones said his staff didn't see Ealy as a right end prospect, though they would have tried him at the position.
"We felt like on our roster we had left end prospects, we had nose prospects, we had under-tackle – what we call the three-technique – prospects. But really, at the end of the day, we felt that Demarcus Lawrence was a much better right end, whereas Ealy might be more of a left end, under-tackle," he said. "We were going to try him there if he ultimately became our player, but we felt like there was quite a bit of difference, especially with our coach, Rod Marinelli. We felt like Demarcus really had the juice, if you will, to give us something coming off the right end in a pass rush situation." [embedded_ad]
Faced with picking at No. 78 overall, the Cowboys surely would have surprised some fans and draft analysts had they taken Turner. The coaching staff was clearly high on the LSU product, as offensive line coach Bill Callahan worked him out at Turner's Pro Day.
"We gave up, probably, what would have been a starting-type player … we probably would have ended up, believe it or not, picking another guard there. There was a guard where we were going to pick there, Trai Turner from LSU, that we liked a lot," Jones said.
Turner might have given the Cowboys two new starters on their offensive line between Turner and first-round pick Zack Martin. Assuming Turner could win a starting position, it would have given the Cowboys four starting linemen aged 23 or younger.
"We would have fixed that up for a long time to come, but we really felt like where we needed it the most – and it was a sacrifice – was to step up and go ahead and take Demarcus," Jones said.
It's the nature of the draft that picks look much different in hindsight, and Jones acknowledged that he'll have an eye on how Ealy and Turner pan out. But he reiterated that he felt the Cowboys made the right call.
"We'll probably spend a lot of time – because you like to learn from history – are we going to be better off with Demarcus Lawrence, which we think we will," he said. "Or would we have been better off with Ealy and a guy like Trai Turner as a guard for us."