The Dallas Cowboys already are the most popular team in the NFL. Can you imagine the circus if the Cowboys had taken Johnny Manziel in the draft? They didn't, addressing a need on the offensive line. Dallas is +260 on NFL odds to win the NFC East.
Jerry Jones Controls Himself
Leading into the draft you heard reports that Cowboys' owner/general manager Jerry Jones was totally enamored by Manziel. And why not? Jones is a marketing genius and Manziel would only improve the Cowboys' brand around the nation. That has been the major rap on Jones the GM: He doesn't make decisions sometimes that are best for the team on the field but perhaps his portfolio.
Maybe Jones is mellowing in his old age. Manziel surprisingly did slip to Dallas' No. 16 slot, and the team did have him as the highest-rated player on the board. Dallas already has a franchise quarterback in Tony Romo. However, he's also 34 years old and coming off major back surgery. Couldn't Manziel have backed up Romo for two years and then taken over? Apparently not.
Jones admitted it would have been too much of a media "explosion" to have Manziel in Dallas. The Cowboys owner added that Manziel should start immediately in the NFL -- Browns owner Jimmy Haslam apparently disagrees -- and that he didn't believe Manziel was the type of guy to have the patience to sit for a few seasons like Aaron Rodgers did in Green Bay behind Brett Favre.
So instead the Cowboys decided to protect Romo, whom they not too long ago guaranteed nearly $50 million on an extension. Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin wasn't expected to be there at No. 16 so the Cowboys jumped. Actually, Dallas was on the phone with Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and told the Buckeye they were taking him. One problem: the Pittsburgh Steelers were still on the clock at No. 15 and nabbed Shazier.
Martin is able to play guard or tackle. For now the Cowboys will start him off at guard. He could easily beat out Mackenzy Bernadeau for the starting spot on the right side. Eventually Martin is expected to move to right tackle to replace veteran Doug Free. The Cowboys don't need a left tackle because they have Pro Bowler Tyron Smith there. They also took a center in the first round last year in Travis Frederick. That pick was panned, but he was a very solid player as a rookie. Martin is actually older than Smith and Frederick.
Jones is finally learning to take substance over style which could mean good things for our NFL picks. As recently as 2011, Dallas was forced to start a seventh-round pick (Bill Nagy) at left guard and an undrafted player at center (Phil Costa). Now the Cowboys have three young building blocks up there in Smith, Frederick and Martin.
DeMarcus Ware Replacement?
The Cowboys were forced to cut one of the best pass-rushers in franchise history this offseason in linebacker/end DeMarcus Ware, and they may have found his replacement in Boise State end Demarcus Lawrence in Round 2. One DeMarcus for another, sans the big M. Dallas sent its second- and third-round picks to rival Washington to move up 13 spots in the round to grab him. The Cowboys thought they needed to make the deal because Atlanta was going to take Lawrence with the No. 37 overall pick.
Dallas had to have defensive help and really had no pass-rusher after losing Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. Even with them, the Cowboys had only 34 sacks in 2013. The Cowboys allowed six quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards, including four games of more than 400 yards. in seven games they allowed more than 30 points, including one of 50-plus. In two seasons at Boise State, the 6-3, 251-pound Lawrence recorded 20 sacks and 34 tackles for losses. He was suspended twice for violating team rules.
Lawrence and Martin filled two huge needs. However, Dallas didn't much address cornerback and safety in the draft, two other positions of need. At some point the team also has to consider a long-term replacement for Romo considering his age and back troubles.
Full List of Draft Picks
Zack Martin, offensive tackle, Notre Dame (Round 1, No. 16 overall); Demarcus Lawrence, outside linebacker, Boise State (2, No. 34); Anthony Hitchens, outside linebacker, Iowa (4, No. 119); Devin Street, wide receiver, Pittsburgh (5, No. 146); Ben Gardner, defensive end, Stanford (7, No. 231); Will Smith, inside linebacker, Texas Tech (7, No. 238); Ahmad Dixon, safety, Baylor (7, No. 248); Ken Bishop, defensive tackle, Northern Illinois (7, No. 251); Terrance Mitchell, cornerback, Oregon (7, No. 254.).
NFL free picks: The Cowboys' losses this offseason still outweigh their gains. They won't win the division but at least aren't likely to finish 8-8 for a record fourth straight season.