IRVING, Texas –The Cowboys finished the first day of the draft with one first-round pick, the same amount of picks they began the day with. It just wasn't the position or player anyone expected.
A trade with the 49ers sent the Cowboys' 18th pick to San Francisco for the 31st overall pick and the 74th overall pick. Even Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, whom the Cowboys got in the first round after the trade, admitted he wasn't expecting his name to be called in the waning minutes of the first day's coverage.
"I was a little surprised," Frederick said. "I thought that I was probably going to fit somewhere in the second round, but Dallas had showed a lot of interest in me throughout the process, and I knew that they definitely needed a little bit of help inside and they were looking to upgrade that, and I think I'm going to fit in pretty well down there."
Head coach Jason Garrett said the offensive line was an area of need and the addition of Frederick begins an effort for the Cowboys to bolster their running game. Many believed the Cowboys could have gotten more than a third round pick by moving back 13 spots in the first round, especially considering that the Rams would go on to trade their 22nd pick for the 30th pick, a third rounder and a sixth rounder.
However, the Cowboys' front office would argue that they won the trade by adding the 74th overall pick in the third round. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys got a better return based on their chart, though charts can vary from team to team.
"We've got the one we work off of and update," Jones said. "I would say that the ones we have, for the most part, we either won or hit right on it. This was also a draft where moving back, usually the ones that were moving back were not getting near what we should have had, and we felt like we got right on it."
Frederick became the first center selected by the Cowboys in the first round since Robert Shaw in 1979. In a wacky day in which six offensive linement went in the first 11 picks, Frederick was the ninth offensive lineman selected in the first round.
Guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, along with the top three tackles on the board, were all gone in the first 10 picks.
"The whole thing started up at the front of the draft," Garrett said. "You had the two tackles go, the third tackle goes at four, the guard goes at seven, hasn't happened in however many years, the next guard goes. So I think five of the first 10 picks were offensive linemen, which is unprecedented, two guards go in the top 10, unprecedented, so that's what you get."
That's not to say Garrett felt like he settled on Frederick. He said after looking at the players available to the Cowboys with the 18th pick and who they might be able to get by moving to No. 31, the front office felt positive about the move down.
"We feel like adding that additional pick will really help our football team," Garrett said. "You want cornerstone pieces. We have it in Tyron (Smith), we feel like Travis Frederick can be one of those same kind of guys you can build your team around."
The Cowboys don't know at this point whether Frederick will play guard or center, though he has experience at both spots. The engineering major who graduated in three years has all the intelligence and football acumen the Cowboys could ask for in an offensive lineman making a transition to the NFL. The only question is how that pick and the upcoming third round pick will translate compared to what they could have had at No. 18.
The Cowboys passed on what many draft experts considered the top defensive lineman in Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, but owner/general manager Jerry Jones didn't see the talented defender as the right fit at the spot.
"We feel like, first of all, defensive line's a position of strength for us, one," Jerry Jones said. "No. 2, in our system, we probably would put a premium on a quick twitch potential three-technique. We view (Floyd) as not that. "
The players the Cowboys valued most with the 18th pick weren't there, though they had 19 first-round grades on players. Instead, they opted to bolster the offensive line with a pick with some position flexibility. Now, they'll have three picks on Day 3 of the draft at Nos. 47, 74 and 80.
"We accomplished one of our goals that we'd hoped to in the first round, and that is really improve where we are with our protection, where we are in the middle with our base, where we are getting pushed back in the middle," Jerry Jones said. "We felt better about our tackles than we do generally in the middle, so this player fit us like a glove and we had him graded right for this pick."