FRISCO, Texas– With apologies to Dean Roy Fisher, sports editors Gary Clark and John Rawlings, the very guys who taught me the do's and don'ts of journalism at the University of Missouri, yes, I'm going to break one of the cardinal rules drummed into us at an early age.
Do not start a story with a question. You are supposed to answer questions not ask them.
So here goes:
What would be so wrong if the Dallas Cowboys use next Thursday's 28th pick in the NFL Draft, no matter if they stay put, move up or even move out of the first round for multiple picks, on a cornerback?
That's right, a cornerback.
What, no Jerry Jones War Daddy?
Would you be mad? Would you pull your hair out?
Let's look at the possibility of going with a cornerback high from a couple of angles.
First, the percentages are not with you finding a *War Daddy *of a defensive end at 28. By then, those dudes are gone. And doesn't matter if the 27 teams ahead of the Cowboys don't really need one, they will grab every one of those talented pass rushers as fast as they can.
Guarantee you if there were 10 Myles Garretts available, every darn one of them would be gone by pick 20. Maybe 15. These guys don't grow on trees, and as documented last Friday, the Cowboys know all about that.
That's why over the past couple of years you have seen the desperate Cowboys trying to land one: Gambling on the socially polarizing Greg Hardy in 2015. Gambling a third-round pick in 2014 to move from the 15th pick in the second round to the No. 2 spot for defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, having been previously suspended during his college days at Boise State. Gambling against their better judgment in 2015 by selecting Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory in the second round despite his long history of marijuana use that struck him down last year and is doing so again for the upcoming 2017 season.
They were seduced by the innate talent of these guys, skills you can't teach and rarely develop. As Bill Parcells was wont to say, you just don't go down to the corner Texaco and get you one.
Then this angle: While the Cowboys absolutely need to improve their ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks, like move their modest sack totals from the low to mid-30s – they went from 31 in 2015 to 36 last year – into the 40s, something they haven't accomplished since 2011, they at least have several defensive end candidates with potential to possibly do so.
Not saying these guys are slam dunks, but at least they have candidates: Lawrence, David Irving, Benson Mayowa, Tyrone Crawford – depending on where the Cowboys decide to utilize his versatile skills up front – and the wild-card Charles Tapper, whose back problems landed him on IR for all of last season. Telling you, watch out for him.
But at cornerback, when I gander at the Cowboys' official 67-man roster after adding sixth-year veteran safety Robert Blanton on Thursday, all I see are these names: Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Nolan Carroll, Leon McFadden, guys who actually played last year, along with first-year guys Sammy Seamster, Jeremiah McKinnon and Duke Thomas. Those top four guys' total starts over the past two years comes to 44 of a possible 64, and more than half of those belong to Carroll, who started 27 games the past two seasons with Philadelphia – exactly half of the 54 over his seven-year career.
That means the other three guys have totaled just 19 starts over the past two years, 10 for Scandrick, all last year, and nine for 2016 sixth-round pick Anthony Brown, five of those coming as the nickel back. That's it.
Oh, and there is this little thing called interceptions. That foursome accounted for three picks last year, one each for Scandrick, Brown and Carroll.
Also consider that Scandrick has turned 30, and coming off his torn ACL that caused him to miss the entire 2015 season, was still not at his previous best. Are you convinced he has two, three good years left in him? Carroll, on a three-year deal structured as a one-year deal, is 30. Brown, the surprising rookie, is only in his second season but with much expected of him. McFadden has been in the league four seasons with four different teams, but owns only two starts, both in his rookie year.
After that … uh, uh …
Now doesn't that all leave your stomach tied in double-knots?
Should make those of the guys over yonder in the brand-spanking-new War Room do somersaults.
As we know, you need three starting corners since opponents play so much nickel these days, and at least four good ones to survive a season. Take last year. Scandrick, coming back from the torn ACL, only played on nickel downs the first two games, then missed the next four with bad hamstrings. Good thing Morris Claiborne and Brown were around to fill out the top three with Mr. Sturdy Brandon Carr. Then when Claiborne went down for the final nine games, Scandrick had returned and Brown became the third guy.
So now heading into the draft, in some form or fashion, the Cowboys top three corners are Scandrick, Brown and Carroll, and darn good thing Brown proved capable of playing outside and in the slot. But if one guy gets hurt, who is up next? And if you don't add at least one high-quality corner in the draft to make four, what happens next year if Carroll proves to be no more than experienced caulking. Then here you go again, facing the same problem.[embeddedad0]
And just like the edge rushing defensive ends, there seems to be a bundle of corners worthy of first- and second-round picks.
Now, we can drive ourselves crazy relying on any number of these so-called draft experts' Top 100 boards, which I find rather sketchy unless that is your fulltime job. And as far as mock drafts go, by now we should be on their Mock 7.0s, right?
So let's just check in with one Top 100. This one I'm looking at has two corners listed in the top 27, Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore and Alabama's Marlon Humphrey. After that he has seven corners listed in the next 23, including the likes of LSU's Tre'Davious White, Ohio State's Gareon Conley, Washington's Kevin King, UCLA's Fabian Moreau and Florida's Teez Tabor. And be aware of USC's Adoree Jackson, listed at No. 67, a mighty fine athlete who is a tad short (5-10) for my taste. (Sorry I have bad memories of Cowboys' 1987 second-round pick Ron Francis, all of 5-9, who could cover all day but just couldn't make a play on the ball.)
Well, fasten your seatbelts. The wait soon will be over. Just six days away. And even at that, probably plan on waiting another two and a half to three hours after the 7 p.m. start to the draft for the Cowboys to spring into action, unless of course they get antsy and trade up for someone they just have to have.
Or if someone wants to get back into the first round for a quarterback late, like maybe Cleveland, the Cowboys might have the opportunity to drop back, picking up extra picks, and likely still have a player or four they wouldn't mind drafting.
Got to remain nimble on your feet at 28, even if you just might be quietly standing on a corner.