Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys stayed true to their franchises swagger by swinging for the fences with their two first picks in the 2016 NFL Draft.
While expectations had them shoring up gaps on defense and addressing the Tony Romo back-up/future quarterback situation, Jerry Jones and Co. decided to make a splash and snag running back Ezekiel Elliot of Ohio State fourth overall. With the 34th pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith who will miss the entire 2016 season rehabbing an ACL and MCL injury.
As the 2016 season plays out, quarterback Tony Romo will become one year older and Jaylon Smith will not be able to contribute in any way whatsoever. Which makes their second pick somewhat peculiar.
Prior to the injury, Smith was regarded as the number one player coming out of college, and while no one knows what Smith will look like if or when he returns to the field, out of all 32 teams in the NFL, the Cowboys had inside information on the Notre Dame linebacker because their team doctor was the one who performed Jaylon’s surgery – point Jerry Jones.
While the Jaylon pick is an interesting tale, the big story out of Big D remains running back Ezekiel Elliott. He’s got the biblical name and the heroic talent, but will the former Buckeye live up to his billing and be worth the price of admission Jerry Jones paid for him?
Jones had this to say about Elliot to Fox Sports.
“We think we’ve got a chance to have a foundation player.”
Think we‘ve got a chance? Either Jerry is getting soft in his old age by front-loading a statement with a political way out, or he really just isn’t sure he indeed found a “foundation player” in Ezekiel Elliott – let the Emmitt Smith comparisons begin.
If Jones was looking for a foundation piece (a la Emmitt Smith) to complete the trifecta of quarterback, receiver, and running back that made Jones’ Cowboys a dynasty in the early nineties with Aikman, Irving and Smith – this current cast of Romo, Bryant and Elliot have Texas-sized shoes to fill.
The biggest problem with comparing the two trios is that Elliott hasn’t played a down yet, and Emmitt was arguably the most talented part of the Cowboys dynasty. At this point, the only thing that we can say links the two is that both their first names start with the letter “E.”
We all know 88 club member Dez Bryant will hold up his end of the bargain in 2016. As for the QB, Tony’s Romo’s broken collarbones seem like the cracks in the “foundation” that Jones still hasn’t found a way to seal.
Getting back to Romo, all eyes are on Jerry Jones when it comes to drafting or trading for a quarterback before the season begins. The franchise cannot accept another 4-12 season, especially given the fact that they were first in their division with Romo and last without him. By his own admission, Jones came close to drafting Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, but the Broncos beat him to the punch. If Jones would have been able to lasso two of the most dynamic players in the draft on day one in Elliott and Lynch, praise would have replaced criticism and the Cowboys would definitely be on a more solid “foundation” looking forward to 2016.
It’s been said that Elliot and the run game are going to be so good (like it was when DeMarco Murray was toting the rock) that their porous defense will see limited time on the field. Addressing the defense by improving the offense plays to the old saying: the best defense is a good offense. Contrarily, the Super Bowl 50 winning Denver Bronco’s would argue that defense wins championships; lining up both rosters, it seems like the Broncos have the winning argument at the moment.
At best, the Cowboys are a dark horse to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next February. At the very least, if Romo stays healthy they should be able to take the NFC East. The neigboring Redskins seem a year away from being a true contender. The Giants are a mess outside of the Manning-Beckham Jr. connection, and the Eagles are still trying to learn how to fly again after Chip Kelly traumatized their franchise.
While Elliot is a nice piece and perhaps the best player in the 2016 Draft, the difference between wins and losses still rests on the embattled shoulders of their aging signal caller. Without Romo or a capable backup, the chances of Dallas making a significant run at a title are highly unlikely. If the Cowboys charismatic owner and general manager enters the season without acquiring a backup quarterback, the Cowboys might be in line for another rough ride in 2016.
[Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]