IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have known all spring they needed to improve the interior of their offensive line. On Thursday night, they addressed that by drafting Travis Frederick as their newest center.
Or is Frederick the future at guard? Or could he be both?
It's a question that might not get answered until training camp, and from listening to Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, that sounds like the exact reason for Dallas' decision to draft the Wisconsin product 31st overall.
"Because he has position flex, and has played a full season at either spot, we feel good about maybe plugging him in at either spot and having him compete with the guys we have on our roster," Garrett said. "We haven't made that determination right now, but we like having competition, and he'll certainly be in the mix."
Frederick joins a long list of Badgers in the NFL, and given the way Wisconsin runs the ball, it's not surprising a lot of those are offensive linemen. Cleveland Browns All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas is the obvious standout among those, but young Wisconsin alums like Chicago's Gabe Carimi, Seattle's John Moffitt and Atlanta's Peter Konz have impressed in recent seasons.
"They have a tremendous tradition there, and I think that having that tradition helps continue that tradition," Frederick said. "That tradition is one of the reasons why I chose to go to Wisconsin, just knowing that such great offensive linemen have come out of there and would probably or hopefully give me the opportunity, if I worked as hard as I could, to be in the situation that I'm in today. I'm excited to join that long line."
Garrett was quick to point out that the Cowboys graded Frederick on his individual ability and not his school's tradition. That said, the pedigree of a Badger background is something that couldn't hurt.
"You certainly try to go case-by-case and evaluate the player, but there's no question there's a tradition of offensive linemen coming out of Wisconsin," Garrett said. "There's a long-standing tradition, but there's also a recent tradition. And what that does is it allows you to talk to people who know these guys well, and compare them."
Though he's yet to play a professional down, Frederick certainly looks the part of a burly Midwestern steamroller. Weighing in at 6-3, 312 pounds, the mammoth former Badger sported an equally monstrous beard during much of his college career.
Frederick said the scruff likely won't be making the trip south, sadly.
"I think it's about time to cut that off and start anew," Frederick said.
With that new start begins the process of finding a place for the Sharon, Wisconsin, native to fit. At a school with an offensive line tradition as rich as Wisconsin's, it says something that Frederick became the first true freshman to start on the line when he opened the 2009 season as the No. 1 center. [embedded_ad]
Frederick started 11 games at left guard for the Badgers in 2011, before shifting inside to center in place of an injured Konz at the tail end of the season. Center is where he would remain for all of 2012, where he placed as a first-team All-American in two publications and was a media pick for first-team All-Big Ten.
All told, Frederick started in 31 of his 32 appearances for Wisconsin, with 13 of those coming at left guard and 18 coming at center. It gives plenty of credence to comments about the new acquisition's versatility.
"I do feel very comfortable at both positions, so I think that's what helps me out is being able to play both positions," Frederick said. "I'm sure that they have some sort of idea for me, but I'm looking forward to getting down there and just seeing where I fit in."