FRISCO, Texas — Just 2 days prior to the 2022 NFL draft, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and head coach Mike McCarthy held a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
If fans who tuned in for just parts of the 45-plus-minute discussion obtained contrasting messages, forgive them: The standard draft-week filibustering remained in full blast.
But through the choose and versus unconventionality and the voices with both issue and motivation about this draft class’s readily available skill, the Cowboys shed some light on how they see their existing lineup and what that may imply for their 9 draft choices, starting with the 24th general choice Thursday night. Here are U.S.A. TODAY Sports’ 5 crucial takeaways from the session:
NFL DRAFT RANKINGS: Who are leading 50 potential customers in 2022 class?
DRAFT ORDER: Where every group will make choices over 7 rounds
RECOMMENDATIONS: What should Cowboys do to make the most of choices?
MORE: Five gamers who could fall out of NFL draft’s preliminary
Where is wildcatter Jerry?
The Cowboys owner, who works as basic supervisor also, asserted that winning in a league of parity needs imagination.
“We will be unconventional if we think it will help our team,” Jones stated.
Yet later on, as he preached responsibility’s everlasting value, the 79-year-old weighed in on where his viewpoints have actually moved considering that his 1989 purchase of the Cowboys.
“There’s probably less risk-taking in me today than it probably was around 30-something years ago,” he stated.
Upon initially listen, the 2 state of minds appear incongruent. But Jones discussed even more that he’s less most likely to pay leading dollar or draft premium for gamers whose schedule and instant preparedness he can’t depend on. Jones mentioned that schedule issue in protecting why the Cowboys lost pass rush Randy Gregory to the Broncos in complimentary company, and he reasoned 2021 second-round cornerback Kelvin Joseph’s history of warnings by stating “we thought he was one of the top, talent-wise,” adding that Joseph “got docked” on off-field issues. Jones stressed that novices need to be all set to contribute on a group strapped by payments like quarterback Dak Prescott’s $40 million-per-year typical rate, hoping the Cowboys will discover effect very first- and second-rounders like 2020 choices CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs, along with 2021 first-round linebacker Micah Parsons.
“We need those players to play immediately,” Jones stated. “Maybe a little more conservative about (drafting) players on the come that have some developing to do, need to get some strength – because I feel like we need to use them now.”
Cowboys’ leading positions of requirement in draft
Fans, scouts and even active lineup members have actually voiced the requirement for the Cowboys to update at crucial positions. Receiver, offending line and pass rush perhaps leading the list, tight end a middle- to late-round possibility while cornerback ended up being a more possible relocation after cops connected Joseph to the scene of a deadly shooting. The Cowboys consider this a deep draft at receiver, which might assure them they require not invest their 24th tease a pass catcher if an elite gamer isn’t there. McCarthy stated offending line flexibility and positional versatility are valued much more extremely with the NFL’s growth to 17 regular-season video games.
And yet, the Cowboys insist their lineup will allow them to truthfully think about the very best gamers readily available. They won’t say aloud how dire a receiver pick is despite trading four-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper to the Browns and knowing that re-signed Michael Gallup is expected to miss two to three games completing ACL tear recovery. The Cowboys did not concede Tuesday that their offensive line was a weak link in 2021 even before they cut starting right tackle La’el Collins and allowed starting left guard Connor Williams to sign with the Dolphins in free agency. And certainly, they did not confirm the hurt of losing Gregory, instead sticking to their party line that the combination of re-signing Dorance Armstrong and adding Dante Fowler Jr. will offer superior benefit to Gregory’s solo availability and ability.
The Cowboys dismissed any notion of positional urgency.
“I don’t think we have any ‘musts’ going into the draft,” Stephen Jones said. “Obviously you’d like to look up nine picks later and hope that you really helped yourself across the board in terms of not only improving yourself with front-line players but also depth and things of that nature. (But) I wouldn’t say we have any ‘musts.’”
New chapter for NFL draft after COVID-19 restrictions
The NFL has eliminated the strict COVID-19 protocols that shifted the evaluation and draft process in McCarthy’s first two drafts as Cowboys head coach. Now, scouts, front-office members and coaches are meeting all together in person to simulate draft scenarios. The scouting combine and its in-person interviews returned, as did pro days and the Cowboys’ Dallas Day hosting local prospects for a group workout for the first time since 2019. And yet, the Cowboys are still availing themselves of virtual resources, be it players tuning in for virtually for offseason meetings to allow for 100% combined player attendance or Zooming with draft prospects when further information was sought. McCarthy believes the process has allowed the team to understand not just player talent but also player fit with scheme and coaching vision better than in previous years.
“Fit is a big part of a lot of our conversations,” McCarthy said. “It makes us stronger as a group, the decision-making process is tighter. This is year three. Year one, we were virtual. Last year was more holistic. And this is really the first full year that we’ve had as a staff. Our scouts are in-house, so this has clearly been the best process of my time here because of the interaction, whether it’s on the road, getting out and seeing these players in their pro days and also interacting with your scouts on the road. Just so much more collaboration, interaction, and I think with that it definitely it improves your decision-making process.”
Who will make the decisions?
Jerry Jones addressed both seriously and in jest who will ultimately make decisions and how when the clock begins to tick. Jones emphasized how he has the final say but incorporates input from multiple personnel and coaching colleagues before pulling the trigger. Stephen Jones argued Tuesday that Jerry Jones’ dual role as owner and general manager gives the team an advantage should they decide to eschew an obvious selection or otherwise move aggressively.
“Having Jerry as the owner and general manager, we can make quick decisions, can make hard decisions quickly,” Stephen Jones said. “So I think that gives us an advantage in terms of if we decide to do something that’s on the real aggressive side, then we can do it.”
Trading the 10th overall pick to the division-rival Eagles last year, and selecting Parsons at 12 was one example of that strategic wheeling and dealing. At the time, questions abounded about why the Cowboys eschewed their needs for depth at a seemingly solid roster position, and all the more so selecting a player 16 months removed from his last college performance. The result: Parsons dominated from both coverage linebacker and pass-rusher packages, riding a 13-sack, 84-tackle, three-forced-fumble campaign to unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
“We had no idea Micah Parsons was going to be there,” Jerry Jones said. “We all had our eye on corners. The bad thing would have been to have not been flexible or willing do something that you really hadn’t gone to bed the night before thinking (possible). Flexibility, we have it here.”
Jerry Jones jested about how much better that pick fared than the Cowboys’ 2017 first-round selection of Taco Charlton, whom Dallas cut after two years. Charlton has since been signed by the Dolphins, Chiefs and Steelers, averaging two starts per year.
“There is a lot of talk in this business about who makes the call,” Jerry Jones quipped. “Taco was Stephen’s call. Parsons was my call.”
Would the Cowboys consider a trade and why?
Jerry Jones said last week he would consider trading up. He reinforced Tuesday his willingness to entertain deals up and down while indicating his philosophy emphasizes discussing said moves more than acting on wild schemes.
“There is nothing dangerous about thinking crazy things,” Jerry Jones said. “What is dangerous is when you get out there and make a decision.”
The Cowboys do not seek to emulate the defending Super Bowl champion Rams’ blueprint of mortgaging draft picks in bold trades for veterans. Dallas instead doubled down on its belief the team build its roster through the draft. Fans may look at the postseason sputters, and 26-year championship drought, as indications that Dallas’ front office is falling short. But the Cowboys have drafted 16 Pro Bowlers since 2019, the most in the NFL through that span (the Chiefs and Vikings rank second at 15 each). Between the rookie class that looms, expectations Prescott plays his healthiest season in three years and continued reliance on defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s knack for maximizing talent, Jerry Jones says he believes his team can be as talented as last year’s 12-5, NFC East champion group that lost in the wild-card round.
“I think we can very easily be where we were last year talent-wise or be able to play at that kind of talent level,” Jones said. “I’m not willing to concede at all that by the time we get to the playoffs this coming year that we will not be every bit the group that we had going into the playoffs in 2015.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys: 5 takeaways from team’s pre-NFL draft press conference