Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why I think the Cowboys picked Travis Frederick in the First round and how it affected the rest of the draft...

News reports from the Dallas papers filled in much of the story behind the Dallas Cowboys' selection of Wisconsin C/G Travis Frederick in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, and I think I have been able to fill in some of the last remaining holes.  What emerges seems like a story worth telling....

After blowing the signing of Tony Romo and missing out on most of the 2013 free agent pool, Jerry Jones needed an offensive lineman to sell a distrusting fan base.

In a nutshell, that was the biggest part of it.  But the devil is in the details.

You have to understand the situation.  Dallas Fans were furious because DT Sharriff Floyd was on the board when Dallas's turn came up at 1(18) and Dallas passed.  Dallas had two huge trouble areas entering the draft --- a DT and interior offensive linemen.

Dallas's scouting department appeared to a man to be enraged over Jerry Jones passing on a talent in Floyd ranked between #6 and #8 on the draft board the scouting department assembled.

Jones has said he asked new Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin if the team needed to draft Floyd and Kiffen said the team was OK on the DL.

With that in mind, Mr. Jones began looking at offensive linemen.

There are reports that he had his eyes on OL Justin Pugh who went early at 1(19) to the Giants.  It is also very possible that Dallas also had OL Kyle Long in their sights.  They brought him in for a workout. He went next at 1(20) to Chicago.  Both players were considered end of first round, start of second round talents.

Dallas went from having a pick they could use to take what their scouting department considered to be a top 6-8 player, to having all of their first round grade starting offensive linemen off the board.  The scouting department was livid.  From their perspective, GMs should trust their draft board.  When they don't, disasters like this occur.

Jerry Jones simply could not face his fan base with a first round Safety or LB after blowing Floyd, Pugh, and Long.  Jones could not just draft the best player available at 30 knowing that it might mean he would not land a starting caliber player on either line in this draft.

There was only one more player Dallas's scouting department considered a first year starter on a pro offensive line --- Travis Frederick.

Frederick was a player some teams loved and others hated.  He is aggressive, strong, and well coached.  He was a very accomplished collegiate player, but his final year was not as good as previous years as his teammates were not as good as in prior years.

In question among the scouts was his athleticism.  Most teams felt he simply lacked the mobility and  athleticism to start in the NFL.  Dallas's scouting department and a few others disagreed.  Dallas actually sent OL coach Bill Callahan, a coach widely considered to have a great eye for OL talent, up to personally work Frederick out.

Most teams looked at Frederick as a gamble to take in the third or fourth round.  The teams that thought he had the athleticism to start --- like Dallas --- thought that if a team fell in love with him, Fredrick could go off the board early in the second round.  (Dallas actually had him ranked around 25-27 on their draftable players  board. Given the run on OL that saw Pugh and Long go about 10 picks earlier than Jones thought, Jones likely felt he had to take Fredrick at 30 to get him at all --- and to appease an angry fan base.)

To state it more bluntly, the teams that thought he was athletic enough saw him as a first year starter, a career-long solid starter, and likely a 10+ year vet. That player is worth a late #1 or early #2.  The teams that felt he lacked the athleticism to handle NFL defenders considered him a player that would likely be picked as a gamble in the fourth round.  Prior to the draft, the latter camp's opinion was considered much more likely.

I like the Frederick pick instead of Floyd for a few reasons. First a number of scouting reports on Floyd mention that for a top player who is capable of being quite disruptive, Floyd spent a lot of time on his back. To me, that is a concern at DT.

Secondly, a number of teams found a reason to pass on Floyd, not just Dallas.  That suggests he has flaws that the pre-draft reports may have discounted too much.

Thirdly, Floyd does not appear to generate many sacks.  Some may call that nit picking as he is clearly disruptive, but to me I think you do better with top DTs who have the burst at the end and the hand strength to complete a sack.  To me personally, you have to have that if I am going to burn a first on you.

Fourth, the bust rate of top DT prospects is quite a bit higher than the bust rate on OLs.

Finally, I think it makes a lot of sense to listen to your coaching staff.  You could have the best prospect in the world, but if your coaching staff won't play him, why bother drafting him?

It may piss off the scouting department, but a balance between the scouting department's and the coaching department's opinions should mean you get a talented prospect that the coaching staff will play.

Dallas under jones has drafted a number of well considered prospects who the coaches had no interest in playing.  Bravo to Mr. Jones for trying to address that.

Frederick was given the thumbs up by both groups.

From what I have seen I think Fredrick does have the athleticism to be an above average NFL starter, but there is no denying that the pick that wasn't made seems to have driven the pick that was.

And there were more implications from passing on Floyd.  As the news of anger in the scouting department broke, it appears Jones may have tightly followed his board in the second round to appease his scouting department.  Gavin Escobar was ranked in that 26-28 range on the Cowboys board, but he screams of being yet another Cowboys' 2nd round TE prospect likely to become a starter at his next NFL stop.

Escobar is physically weak and that makes him a very poor blocker.  He needs a good 2 years of weight room work to fix that. While it is very reasonable to think he may be Jason Witten's replacement down the road, it seems pretty debateable that this was a guy the coaches of a team with holes in the starting lineup wanted in the second round.

The NFL is not big on developing prospects over 3+ years.

Then in the third round the Cowboys took Baylor WR Terrance Williams at 3(74) and Georgia Southern S JJ Wilcox.  After the Wilcox pick the Dallas coaches were euphoric, voicing great relief that Wilcox, the guy they wanted, was still there.

I found that curious at the time.  If they liked Wilcox so much, why not take him at 74?  Wilcox was considered a raw 4th round prospect, but on draft day the media was reporting that a number of teams thought highly of him.  It is possible other teams could have also thought of taking him in the third round.

It is very possible that Jones took Williams --- a WR some had with a first round grade --- first, so that anyone who would evaluate the trade down would have to say Dallas got an early second round talent and a first round talent back in that trade, rather than an early second round talent and a fourth round talent.

It is also very possible that the pick was again made to appease the Cowboys' scouting department, who likewise had Williams with Escobar in that 26-28 range.

It is certainly interesting to think of how a guy Monte Kiffin didn't want may have driven the course of this draft..

1 comment:

  1. I was listening to Dallas 105.3 FM today (2/20/14) at 12:01 PM and they were playing back comments by Steven Jones that confirm most of this. The Scouting department had Floyd ranked that high, but the belief of the coaching staff is that they can land a 1 technique (4-3 NT) in the later rounds. The younger Jones said that while it was possible Floyd could possibly merit as much as a first round grade for the Kiffin scheme, Jerry listened to his coaching staff who wanted didn't want the guy at that spot.