FRISCO, Texas – What a fitting bookend to a draft weekend.
On Thursday night one of the Cowboys' greatest-ever players, DeMarcus Ware, co-hosted the team's live draft party, providing commentary on the pick of CeeDee Lamb.
A mere 48 hours later, having compiled one of the most popular groups in this year's draft, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones had some high praise when he was asked for a comparison.
"I was pretty tickled when that DeMarcus Ware was at the top of our board with that draft," Jones said.
That's a pretty bold statement for a variety of reasons. The Cowboys' 2005 NFL Draft class is one of their best in recent memory.
Ware was a four-time All-Pro in Dallas, holds the franchise's sack record and will assuredly be a Pro Football Hall of Famer in the near future. But the Cowboys also found a Pro Bowl running back in Marion Barber, and their seventh-round pick – defensive tackle Jay Ratliff – turned into a four-time Pro Bowler and an anchor for the Cowboys' 3-4 defense.
"I think we had an inkling there that we didn't know that Ratliff was going to be what he was, but we had a pretty good feeling about that draft," Jones added.
There's a pretty obvious difference here. Not only did the Cowboys pick No. 11 overall in 2005, but they held a second first-round pick as a result of a trade with the Buffalo Bills during the previous year. They used the first pick to draft their pass rusher, Ware, and at pick No. 20 they selected an eight-year starter in Marcus Spears.
"That one is going to be an all-time tough draft to beat right there," said Stephen Jones. "As Jerry said, we had two ones. We had an early one."
That's quite a comparison, given the contrasting situations. This past weekend, the Cowboys held just one first-round pick – located in the back half of the first round. And yet, with that pick they managed to snag Lamb -- a player that many consider the best overall receiver in this draft class.
"As far as picking the last part of the draft and moving right on down, this one will be a hard one to beat in terms of resources versus how you feel about it," Stephen Jones said.
The good luck only seemed to continue. Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs was a name that was linked to the Cowboys as a first-round possibility, and the Cowboys managed to find him sitting around at pick No. 51.
"To have Diggs there, candidly, was a surprise to us," Stephen Jones said. "That's something that at the end of the day to get a player like that with that type of quality in the second round, you feel good about it."
To hear it from the Cowboys, they debated drafting Neville Gallimore with that second-round pick. They ultimately selected Diggs because of the importance of the cornerback position and the depth of the draft class – but it ultimately didn't matter, as Gallimore fell to them in the third.
"Seriously, this is really one of the best," Jerry Jones said. "You just have to look at what's up there, and you can figure it out."
Value feels likely to be the theme of this draft class. The Cowboys liked Tyler Biadasz enough to trade back into the fourth round to draft him, and most draft analysts had a third-round grade on Bradlee Anae – who the Cowboys found with the last pick of the fifth round.
Stephen Jones even said Sunday that the Cowboys had reached agreements with seven undrafted players who had draft-worthy grades on their board.
"I don't want to put unrealistic expectations on these guys, but there's so much to love as far as what they bring to the table," said head coach Mike McCarthy.
Obviously, there's some tempering of expectations that needs to be done. Some of the best draft classes in history were unknowns at the time they were put together. Every organization in the NFL feels great about its decisions on draft weekend.
"Obviously, it has to play itself out," Stephen Jones said. "You never know how a draft is until two, three, four, five years down the road."
Still, if this 2020 group comes close to delivering what 2005 did – a Hall of Famer and two other Pro Bowlers – the Cowboys' excitement is plenty understandable.