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Picking RB, Injured LB & No Trades Highlight Unusual Draft Weekend

IRVING, Texas – Anything that occurs for 28 straight years usually has some consistency to go along with it.

However, with the 2016 NFL Draft now in the books, it might go down as one of the more unique three-day events the Cowboys have had since Jerry Jones bought this franchise in 1989.

Jones and his staff just completed their 28th NFL Draft, and while the jury will be out for a while on just how good this new crop of players will be, we did see a few rarities from start to finish.

For starters, the Cowboys didn't make any trades in these seven rounds, something that has occurred just one other time (2011) since the 1989 draft. Now, it's not to say the Cowboys didn't try to move around as Jones admitted losing sleep over not paying enough to get back into the first round and select Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, who went to the Broncos.

But to enter the draft with nine picks and take them all at the original spots is not common for this team, who likes to deal.

By taking Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 pick in the draft, he becomes the second running back taken in the first round since Emmitt Smith and just the second in franchise history in the Top 5 along with Tony Dorsett, who went second overall in 1977.

With Dorsett and Smith, that's elite company for Elliott to be associated with but clearly, that's the expectations the Cowboys have for him, even admitting he was the No. 1 rated player on their draft board.

Not far behind Elliott was Jaylon Smith, the Notre Dame linebacker who suffered a devastating knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State – ironically enough the injury occurred on a play he was trying to tackle Elliott.

But Smith, who won the 2015 Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker, underwent knee surgery on Jan. 7 to repair a torn ACL and LCL. One thing that raised the Cowboys' comfort level in making the pick was their knowledge of the injury. The surgery was performed by Dr. Dan Cooper, who has been one of the Cowboys' medical doctors on the sidelines for years.

Smith is not expected to play this year, but the Cowboys felt like his upside was too good to pass, even with a high-second round pick.

Another highlight in the draft was the selection of Dak Prescott, who becomes the first quarterback taken by the Cowboys since 2009. The former Mississippi State standout scored 111 touchdowns in his four years for the Bulldogs, including 41 on the ground.

One of the bigger surprises of the draft was the Cowboys' final pick. Baylor's Rico Gathers is big, he's strong, and plays with an attitude and mean streak. The problem is, he's shown of that on the basketball court. The Baylor power forward hasn't played football since he was 13 but he's trying to make the transition to tight end, just like Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas have successfully done.

From top to bottom, here's a quick comment on what the Cowboys' brass said about each of the team's nine picks.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (4th overall)

Jason Garrett: We think he is somewhat unique for a back coming out of college in this day and age. He is an inside runner. He can run in between the tackles. He can capture the edge. He's an outstanding receiver. He's an outstanding blocker. He's a sturdy guy. They handed him the ball a lot. He made a big impact on Ohio State's success over the last couple of years. He's an outstanding person – character as a guy, great football character. We feel like he fits in with a lot of the guys we drafted here in recent years. There is just a lot to like about him.

Stephen Jones: We sat there, liked what we had with Ezekiel [Elliott]. We actually had an offer on the pick that was interesting to us, but decided it wasn't worth the risk to move out of that pick. We're really convinced that at the end of the day, this was the guy that did the most all the way around our football team."

Jerry Jones: We don't necessarily subscribe to the fact that this is a pure offensive pick. We think this could add 10-12 plays to the game each week on the offensive side of the ball. That was one of the things that impressed me about the player. I don't feel we lacked a punch in our running game; [Darren] McFadden is very much in the picture, so is [Alfred] Morris and so is [Lance] Dunbar if he can get well. This gives us a real unique strength at that position, and we obviously thought it was our best pick.

*Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame (34th overall) *

Jerry Jones: We're not buying bonds here. This isn't risk-free. When we've got a player that we think can be a cornerstone defensive player ... to get a player like that not be able to live with the nerve firing, that's a risk ... that you don't even know about. It's certainly within our tolerance level of risk-taking.

Stephen Jones: "I just think at the end of the day, we had him at the top of our board with a medical tag on him. We got a good feel for it; obviously Dr. [Dan] Cooper was the surgeon. He has operated on a lot of our players and had a great feel for it. In our opinion, he would have been a top-five pick probably in this draft. We think he is going to be a great football player. He may not play this year, which we accept. What he ultimately is going to be is certainly worth the investment of a second round pick."

Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska (67th overall)

Jason Garrett: Obviously you need good rushers at each of the spots. Sometimes the defensive ends get credit for being the marquee pressure players, but really good defensive lines have pressure coming from everywhere. We feel like he can come in here and compete for one of those interior tackle spots and we see him as a three-technique and we see him as someone who can help our football team."


Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma (101st overall)

Jerry Jones: the thing that impressed me the most was he played that high competition. His speed is a little different. Really, as far as his technique, he will be in a different situation here. But that size, that speed, it was impressive. I was glad he was there."

Jason Garrett: He plays the right way, he seems like an outstanding character guy. [Defensive Ends Coach] Leon Lett went up there and spent some time with him, and we really feel like he has a chance to be a good football player for us. Excited that he was there at the top of the fourth for us."

Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (135th overall)

Jason Garrett: If you ask a lot of people there; coaches, players, he is just one of those guys that they feel has such great intangible qualities. A great leader; positively impacts everybody there; has played big in big games and has done a lot of really good things on the field. Physically, he is big; he is strong. He can throw it; he can run. He is a very experienced player. Again, he is developmental from the standpoint that he is young and he has to learn how we want to do things, but there are a lot of tools there and a lot of great character qualities that you love."

Anthony Brown, CB, Purdue (189th overall)

Jason Garrett:[Brown] is someone who really can run. He's got a lot of ability. We feel like he has a big upside and can really compete for a roster spot right away and certainly for a role. Hopefully at some point in his career, he has the ability to be a starter at that position.

Kavon Frazier, S, C. Michigan (212th overall)

Jason Garrett:Frazier] is a very active guy, just a really good football player. You see him do a lot of different things. He is kind of a playmaking guy down around the line of scrimmage. You see him as a guy who might be a little further along than some of the other developmental guys and might be able to come in and compete right away.

Darius Jackson, RB, E. Michigan (216th overall)

Jason Garrett: Jackson has a lot of ability. He runs fast, he jumps high. He was a productive player, but you feel like hopefully with coaching or some experience he can turn into something you really like."

Rico Gathers, TE, Baylor (217th overall)

Jerry Jones: Clearly he is determined to do this, and so we just felt at the bottom of our draft, this was a worthwhile opportunity for us to take a shot at somebody. It seems like he has some really good traits as an athlete. His style as a basketball player is one that was very physical; prolific rebounder. We felt like that could translate. Clearly he is a developmental player, but if he turns into something, it might be something we really like."

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