Trading up to takeDarren McFadden is tempting, but the Cowboys have more pressing needs toaddress in the draft
MAYBE, AT age 65,Jerry Jones is growing up. Once, the impetuous Cowboys owner would havepackaged draft choices to leap into the top of the first round and take theplayer of his dreams, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. But these days hesounds like a changed man. "Six or seven years ago the wow factor withMcFadden might have gotten to me," said Jones, an Arkansas alum, at the NFLmeetings in Palm Beach, Fla. "It's just so obvious to me what we need to dowith our first-round picks. These picks are currency, and this is a now draftfor us. I can't afford to get caught up in what would be a luxury pick because[McFadden] is a Razorback."
Dallas is the onlyteam with two first-round selections on April 26, Nos. 22 (acquired last yearfrom Cleveland when the Browns moved up to get Brady Quinn) and 28. GivenJones's history of bold moves and the team's recent release of running backJulius Jones, speculation was rife that Dallas would trade up to get McFadden.But Jones told SI it's highly unlikely he'll do that, because of the monstrousguaranteed money McFadden would command (about $23 million for the fourth pick,which is about where he's expected to go) and because of the multiple holes inthe Cowboys' offense. Jones more likely would use the two picks to draft alesser back in a rich crop of them (maybe McFadden's Arkansas understudy, FelixJones) and a receiver to pair with Terrell Owens. Don't be shocked, though, tosee Jones dangle one of the choices for a veteran wideout—possibly the Bengals'Chad Johnson or the Lions' Roy Williams—who could start on opening day ratherthan select a rookie who'd take a while to learn the pro game.
Dallas is intenton helping quarterback Tony Romo early and often in this draft. "What canwe do to make Tony the best he can be?" Jones said. "Since Troy[Aikman] left, I don't think we've had the chance in any one draft to helpbuild around the quarterback the way we can here."
It might seemstrange, the second-highest scoring team in the NFL so desperate to beef up itsattack. But 2007 was a tale of two seasons for the Cowboys. During their 12--1start they put up 32.5 points per game; in their 1--3 finish they averaged12.3. It eats at Jones that with a berth in the NFC title game on the line,Dallas gained 115 yards and scored three points in the second half of a 21--17loss to the Giants. That's what makes this a now draft for Jones, who can'tafford to rely on aging and injured wideout Terry Glenn, 33, or themistake-prone Patrick Crayton to take the pressure off Owens. Nor can theyleave the full rushing load to Marion Barber, a battering ram whose season highin carries over his first three years is 204.
Here's Jones'sthinking. The backup to Barber will run the ball about 150 times. If theCowboys were to deal up to get McFadden, they'd be paying him LaDainianTomlinson money for Chester Taylor production. Then the only way they could getthe receiver they need would be to trade next season's No. 1 pick for aveteran. In short: Using their first-round choices now on two good bodies isbetter than drafting one superior one who'd be underused and overpaid.
Sounds easy. Nowall Jones has to do in the next three weeks is find a back he likes—and a G.M.willing to trade him a Pro Bowl wideout.
ONLY AT SI.COMPeter King's Monday Morning Quarterback.
1 Teams hoping to draft Louisville's Brian Brohm earlyin the second round should rethink their plans. Two teams with late first-roundpicks want to make Brohm (right) the second QB taken, after Boston College'sMatt Ryan.
2 Defensive end Justin Smith averaged only 6.2 sacks inseven seasons with Cincinnati, and his six-year, $45 million deal with the49ers raised eyebrows. But Niners coach Mike Nolan plans to move Smith aroundto create matchup problems. "They'll have to find him on every snap,"Nolan says.
3 Brett Favre hasn't filed his retirement papers, butit's strictly a clerical thing. He is not in any way considering playingagain.
PETER READ MILLER (ROMO)
A WIDE NET To land receiving help for Romo (9), Dallas could make a bid for the Bengals' Johnson (inset).
FRANK VICTORES/US PRESSWIRE (JOHNSON)
[See caption above]
KEVIN C. COX/GETTY IMAGES (BROHM)