FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys addressed several needs with their nine draft picks over the past three days, but they also found plenty of value according to their own draft board.
Let's look at Saturday specifically. The Cowboys got calls about trading up at various points but never changed their draft slot in any round, keeping all six picks between rounds 4-6.
They had a fourth-round grade or better on five of the six selections. Tight end Jake Ferguson, offensive tackle Matt Waletzko, cornerback DaRon Bland, linebacker Damone Clark and linebacker Devin Harper had fourth-round grades. Clark had a third-round grade and was drafted with the 33rd pick in the fifth round, No. 176 overall.
The only exception was defensive tackle John Ridgeway, who had a fifth-round grade and was selected in the fifth round.
"We just worked through it and made good decisions," chief operating officer Stephen Jones said.
Damone Clark's Status
If not for spinal fusion surgery in March to repair a herniated disk, Clark probably would have been drafted closer to the Cowboys' third-round grade on him.
Instead, he fell to the fifth round. But the Cowboys believe the former LSU star linebacker has a chance to play this season after roughly six months of rehab.
"I think we've got a good feel for what we're looking at with him," Stephen Jones said. "He's definitely going to be at a minimum a PUP (Physically Unable to Perform list) guy (to start training camp). He'll miss six months from his time of surgery.
"This guy is one hell of a football player when he's healthy and we think he'll be healthy in time to maybe even to really help us this year at some point."
No Vet Needed?
Two of the Cowboys' nine draft picks went to players with offensive tackle experience: first-round pick Tyler Smith, who will start off at left guard and left tackle, and fifth-round pick Matt Waletzko, who can play either tackle spot.
The Cowboys also spent a fourth-round pick last year on offensive tackle Josh Ball, who was on injured reserve the entire season.
With those additions, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones indicated that the team won't look to sign a veteran as a backup swing tackle candidate.
Schultz's Impact On Ferguson
Fourth-round tight end Jake Ferguson is now teammates with Cowboys starter Dalton Schultz, who posted career highs in every major receiving category in his fourth NFL season.
While playing at Wisconsin, Ferguson said he looked at Schultz's film for tips on playing the position at a higher level.
"Him being that sort of all-around tight end was one of the things I wanted to do, especially as a younger tight end, and build my game up in that sense," Ferguson said. "Just be the guy who not only can be in the trenches blocking, but also go make plays out in the pass game."
Fifth-round pick John Ridgeway is the first Arkansas player drafted by the Cowboys since running back Felix Jones in 2008. More significant than the college connection, Cowboys owner/GM and Arkansas alumnus Jerry Jones said adding the 321-pound defensive tackle represents a philosophical shift toward more interior line size against opposing running backs.
The Cowboys also drafted 327-pound defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna last year to help stop the run.
"This is a real statement in my mind with (defensive coordinator) Dan (Quinn) and (head coach) Mike (McCarthy) as to how we are going to address the run game when we get into the playoffs, which we are sure to have," Jones said. "Mike was sitting there all day going, 'Playoffs, playoffs. Remember the playoffs.' That really is not only a great pick, but he is also a hell of a competitor."
Ridgeway had 141 tackles (12 for loss) in 42 games at Arkansas and Illinois State.
"I like to run to the ball and just be in the play," he said. "They're going to see the hardest working D-lineman on the field every time. That's the plan."