FRISCO, Texas – As we all know, variety is the spice of life.
The Dallas Cowboys, by the way, and let's all remember this part, too, when analyzing these guys with the 2017 season still like five months away, that's The Defending NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys, have somewhat amended this proverb over the past few days to . . . .
*Versatility *is the spice of an NFL roster.
That evidently is what those defending division champs were thinking as they navigated their way through the 2017 NFL Draft over the past few days.
Oh, and before we go any further, let's pause for just a second to remember the Cowboys had the 28th picks in six of the seven rounds, along with trading around to make a higher pick in the sixth and two additional ones in the seventh. They did not, and I repeat, they did not have the fourth pick in rounds as they did last year. That little 24-pick difference seems to have gotten lost on a lot of folks' perspective.
See, that's like the difference between standing in the batter's box facing a 3-1 count and a 0-and-2 count. The percentages of you hitting a home run on 0-and-2 are not as good as they are on 3-and-1. Agree?
So when it comes to percentages, hitting home runs picking 28th in each round are not as good as taking your cuts at No. 4. So what do you do? Do you swing for the fences at 28 and take chances or do you shorten your swing and try to hit a liner into the gaps for a double?
The Cowboys just reached out, didn't take any low-percentage chances hoping to knock one out of the park, and continued to line draft-day doubles into the gaps.
First DE Taco Charlton. Then CB Chidobe Awuzie. Then Jourdan Lewis. Again with Ryan Switzer, Xavier Woods and Marquez White.
Oh, and when analyzing this latest stash, remember the Cowboys in all likelihood will add two bonus picks to last year's collection of defensive additions that included starters Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown, along with Kavon Frazier. Those would be linebacker Jaylon Smith, whose knee nerve suddenly is improving on a regular basis, and defensive end Charles Tapper, two guys who spent last season on injured reserve.
What a two-year haul this could be.
All enhanced by the Cowboys valuing in this draft players with versatility, a trait that lessens the bust quotient because of having multi-positional flex. That is the common thread running through these past three days.
Take Taco, and I'm guessing we will remain on a first-name basis thanks to his mom and grandma nick-naming the eventual Vidauntae as he was inching closer to leaving his bedridden mother Tamara's womb prematurely while mom and daughter were lightly referring to his impending escape with the little Taco Bell jingle "Rushing To The Border," you know, for a Taco.
Well, Taco is not just a right, pass-rushing defensive end. He can play the left side, too, in the Cowboys' estimation if need be. At 6-6, the choicest 277 pounds you've ever seen, he can play inside at probably the three-technique or at either inside spot on the nickel. A variety of options.
Then there is Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado, already Chido. He can play right corner. He can play left corner. He has played safety, and in the Cowboys' estimation, either free or strong. That versatility increases his percentages of succeeding at this level over say, being pigeon-holed into solely a right corner.
Bring on Jourdan Lewis, Michigan, a cornerback. Either side. Inside, too. And no lack of confidence. When asked what round he would have been drafted if not for the misdemeanor domestic abuse charges he will face in a July trial when Lewis staunchly expects to be exonerated – the Cowboys think, so, too, most evidently – he did not hesitate to say, "First. I wholeheartedly think I could have been first. I think my talent is a first-round talent caliber guy, and I believe that wholeheartedly.
Let's not stop there. Ryan Switzer, North Carolina, labeled a wide receiver. But at just 5-8½, 181, the fourth-rounder, and in his estimation, "I'm the best (kick) returner in the draft, and Dallas knew that," there is a good chance he becomes their return guy for sure. Guy has chutzpah if you are going to get your mantra "Believe" tattooed to the *inside *of your lower lip. That's right, inside the mouth, Switzer saying he did so in high school so his mother would not know he got a tattoo. Guess mom never had to wash his mouth out with soap.
So how about this guy for a dual threat (pay attention Lucky Whitehead, this means you): The Cole Beasley starter kit was No. 2 pick Mitchell Trubisky's favorite receiver, catching 96 passes (second most in the ACC) for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. Yet at his size he matched an NCAA record with eight career return touchdowns, seven of those on punts. All meaning, if he can't break into the Cowboys' top four receiver group, sounds as if they believe he can at least handle the punt-return responsibilities the Cowboys have been piecing together for the past couple of years. Oh, and the tough little guy also was a running back in high school, so watch out for him on those jet sweeps.
Talk about versatility.
Now don't mean to continue beating a dead horse. But in the sixth round the Cowboys spent next year's fifth-rounder to grab the Jets' seventh pick to grab a real value pick, Xavier Woods, safety, Louisiana Tech, who many thought to be a third-fourth-round pick.
"Couldn't believe he was sitting there," says Cowboys secondary coach Joe Baker.
From the sound of things, Woods is a free, but tough enough to be strong, too. And guess what? He has played in the slot on the nickel. Might become the next Woody if he can do so.
And as for White, well, a cornerback from Florida State, team captain by the way, he can play both on the boundary and in the slot, and if the Cowboys put together a charity basketball team, he played guard for the Seminoles after the 2013 national championship game in the ACC and NIT tournaments.
When asked what he will bring to the Cowboys, White said, "Versatility; a guy that likes to play on the ball; force turnovers; playmaker. I can play all three defensive back positions – it is the back end, in the box and nickel corner."
As they say here inside the halls of The Star, the more jobs you can do . . . .
"Before if we lost a guy in the slot or outside we'd be a little bit stressed," Baker says. "Now we have a couple of different ways to go," even more so after adding veteran defensive backs Nolan Carroll and Robert Blanton and knowing Orlando Scandrick and Brown and can play outside and in the slot, too.
Same with Rod Marinelli, by adding Taco's versatility to that of Tyrone Crawford, David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence and most likely Tapper, too. So does Derek Dooley and Rich Bisaccia by adding Switzer, not only giving the Cowboys a slot-receiver alternative if Beasley gets hurt, but also a prime option in the return game. Gosh, imagine going five wide with Dez, TW, Witt, Beas and Switzer, nickname sure to come.
Yep, the Cowboys are a changin', and appears for the good.
The owner definitely thinks so.
When asked if the defending NFC East champs are a better team after this draft, Jerry Jones didn't hesitate. He didn't hem or haw about it.
"Yes . . . you're looking at me and I'll say it, and I haven't even heard from these guys right here," Jerry said looking side to side at COO Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett. "I believe that we are better, definitely, and I'm not hedging. But I definitely include the defense that we drafted last year. And I will tell you that we didn't strike out in free agency relatively to the secondary.
"So, yes, we are a better defense than when we ended the year and we've got a chance to really be better than where we are right now as the year goes along."
This versatility *spicing up the *defending NFC East champs' chances to become the first to defend their division crown since the Eagles last did so in 2003-2004, 13 years ago.