FRISCO, Texas – For Will McClay and the Cowboys' front office, the draft plan was clear: they needed to replace a number of defensive linemen and defensive backs who made major contributions to the roster and then earned sizable contracts elsewhere in free agency.
The Cowboys went heavy on defense in last week's draft, spending seven of nine picks on that side of the ball.
"We have some young guys that have to come in and earn their stripes like those other guys did," McClay said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. "But I think we're versatile, we're younger, hopefully we're faster. We're a different team than we were last year."
McClay, the Cowboys' senior director of college/pro personnel, discussed some of the team's thinking with regard to its top draft choices.
The Cowboys had other pass-rushing and coverage options at No. 28 overall, but they chose Michigan's Taco Charlton because he's a ready-made fit for defensive end in their 4-3 scheme, having played that exact spot in college.
"I think going after Taco in the first round gives us a defensive end that we feel like has upside, that's athletic but can also be multiple," McClay said. "He played right end, left end, can play inside, can mismatch guys on the inside. He had four different positions at Michigan. The right kind of kid. He's got size, he's got length – that helps us there.
"When you go down from there, the pass rushers that fit our scheme, it started to diminish a little bit and you had to kind of compromise who we are as a defense. It fell the right way there, and then there were some quality corners that we felt like could help us improve and they fell that way."
The next pick was Colorado defensive back Chidobe Awuzie, who played everything from corner to safety to outside linebacker in college.
"First of all, he's got length. He's a smart player, he's an instinctive player, he's a physical player," McClay said. "I think the key with him is that he's a versatile player, so we can play him in the nickel, we can play him outside, we can play him at safety, and part this deal in the NFL now is you have to have versatile players because injuries happen, things happen and you want to have people who fit within your scheme and are instinctive enough and smart enough to be able to play at a high level no matter where their spot is.
"I know we don't want to cross-train guys too much, but playing in the back end, it gives him the ability to do a lot of things, which adds to the versatility of our defense."