With the 31st pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys take (drum roll)…Travis Frederick, Wisconsin.
Huh? 31st pick? Who?
Jerry Jones warned his Dallas Cowboys fan base. If he moved in any direction in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, it would be backwards.
He was as good as his word as he traded the 18th pick in the 2013 NFL draft to a much better team than his, the San Francisco 49ers, last year’s NFC Super Bowl representative. Sitting at number 31, Jones and his brain trust (I use that phrase cautiously and reluctantly) selected the lumberjack-looking center out of Wisconcin, Travis Frederick.
Certainly, the Cowboys needed to address the interior line. They needed someone tough and tough-minded protecting Romo from the thing that gives him the most trouble, a pass rush right up the middle. They needed someone to help open a gap in the defense wide enough for DeMarco Murray to slip through. (The Cowboys were 31st in rushing yards last season.)
No one is arguing the notion of taking a lineman. But no one had Frederick slipping into the first round, either. The fact is Jones could have almost certainly taken him late in the second round. Chris Burke of SI.com agrees that Frederick is a good pick, but a strange choice in the first round:
If the Dallas Cowboys’ main goal from Round 1 was to find a little grit for the interior of their disappointing offensive line, then they succeeded in Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick at 31.
But the Cowboys also sat at No. 18 originally, with both Justin Pugh and Kyle Long (picks Nos. 19 and 20, respectively) there for the taking. Dallas instead opted to dump that pick to Atlanta for the 31st and 74th picks — a move that might work out if the Cowboys score at No. 74 — but, for the moment, the pick stands as a bit of a head-scratcher.
Here’s another one for you, too: Could the Cowboys have waited until Round 2 or 3 to get Frederick? He is a powerful and competitive center, but no one had him carrying a Round 1 grade into Thursday night.
Frederick may prove to be a player for the Cowboys. But if either Pugh or Long (the younger son of Howie Long) proves to be a Pro Bowl caliber difference-maker and Frederick doesn’t, Jones will have one more piece of evidence that as a football man he makes a fine politician/promoter/stadium builder/oil man.
Do past failures predict present missteps?
Picking up an extra third round pick is no comfort to Cowboys fans when they consider that the 2009 draft, Jones squandered 12 picks. Not one of the 2009 picks remains on the roster. Three years after they were selected, they are all gone. That kind of draft failure results in multiple mediocre seasons and a gutted team.
Allow me to give you another thing to consider. Here are the Cowboys OL picks in the 21st century:
- 2000 – None selected
- C Matt Lehr, 5th round
- T Char-ron Dorsey, 7th round
- G/C Andre Gurode, 2nd round
- C Tyson Walter, 6th round
- C Al Johnson, 2nd round
- G Justin Bates, 7th round
- T Jacob Rogers, 2nd round
- G Stephen Peterman, 3rd round
- T Rob Petitti, 6th round
- T Pat McQuistan, 7th round
- C E.J. Whitley, 7th round
- T James Marten, 3rd round
- T Doug Free, 4th round
- 2008 – None selected
- T Robert Brewster, 3rd round
- T Sam Young, 6th round
- T Tyron Smith, 1st round (9th overall)
- 2012 – None selected
So, what do we have?
- From 2000–2006, The Cowboys selected 11 offensive linemen. One of them, Andre Gurode, made a significant contribution to the team. Two of them, Jacob Rogers and Stephen Petermin, were taken in the 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively in the same year. They were both expected to become fixtures on the offensive line. Neither could play at the NFL level.
- From 2007–2012, disturbingly, only five offensive linemen were chosen. Two of them remain on the team (for now). Doug Free is the current right tackle, but after getting a huge contract, he had a miserable year in 2012 and ended up in a rotation at the position. Tyron Smith, the highest of any of the above picks, looks to be a player.
- Three times in 13 years, Jones did not select a single lineman in the draft. Conventional football wisdom says you win the game in the trenches. If the line cannot protect the quarterback and open lanes for the running game, the offense is in trouble. But nearl 25% of the time, Jones ignored the line on draft day. Disturbing.
- Of the 13 linemen picked, two managed to stay on the team for five years or more. Doug Free has been with the Cowboys for five years now. Andre Gurode, the only Pro Bowler in the bunch, was a staple on the line for 10 years. Gurode was selected to five Pro Bowls.
If recent history has any bearing on the present, it does not make anyone feel better to see Jerry Jones reaching for a player at the bottom of the first round, after trading down and letting two projected first rounders go to other teams.
That said, Travis Frederick was a mauler on a Wisconsin team that ran the ball very well. He is supposed to have a high football IQ. Here is a look at his 2013 draft profile:
The big concern seems to be that he can be taken advantage of by the quicker interior linemen. He should hold up well against the bull rushing road graders.
Here is hoping Jones and his band of merry scouts and coaches finally hit on another lineman.
If Frederick turns out to be another Andre Gurode, job well done. If he is closer to Al Johnson, epic fail once again.
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