IRVING, Texas — Jerry Jones flubbed the initial explanation of a first-round draft move that puzzled analysts and angered fans.
The Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager made it sound better a day later, when the team’s draft performance got stronger reviews.
Now the question is whether Wisconsin center Travis Frederick will play a big part in giving quarterback Tony Romo an “extra half second” — part of Jones’ rationale for trading down and grabbing a lineman not really considered a first-rounder.
If Frederick fails, Jones will add to an already substantial list of bad drafts that help explain why the Cowboys have a .500 record and one playoff win since 1996.
“We needed and were going to get us a foundation for our offensive line,” Jones said. “We were concerned with going with another pick at another position there and still staying in play to get the ‘last of the Mohicans’ that can do this for us, and that was Frederick.
“Romo called and said, ‘Thank you for my extra half second.’ That is going to mean more to us than anything I can say.”
Pundits didn’t have a huge problem with the pick. They questioned why the Cowboys felt like they had to take him at No. 31 — even Frederick said he considered himself a second-rounder — and why San Francisco didn’t have to give up something more than a third-round pick to jump 13 spots.
Draft value charts that the Cowboys helped invent were suddenly being used against them, with executive vice president Stephen Jones flatly rejecting as “not accurate” assertions that Dallas got fleeced by an old rival in the 49ers, who were coming off a Super Bowl trip, no less.
The Cowboys also got hammered for not taking Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd when he slid all the way to No. 18 after some projected him as high as the top five. Dallas is switching to the 4-3 defense and figures to need more options in the front seven.
But Dallas projected Floyd as more of a nose tackle, and the Cowboys already have an expensive one in Jay Ratliff. Besides, they see the defensive line as a position of strength with eighth-year veteran Jason Hatcher and a pair of young players they consider promising in Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford.
The Cowboys coveted offensive guards Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina and Chance Warmack of Alabama, but both went in the top 10.
“It’s never going to be popular when you move down,” Stephen Jones said. “To me, you don’t play for the hoopla. You’ve got to manage your draft, and we felt like the best decision for us when certain players were off the board was to go down and do the right thing and pick up a pick, which we needed, and take a player that fits for what we need in the first round.”
The key to the Dallas argument could end up being the player they got with San Francisco’s third-round pick — Baylor receiver Terrance Williams at No. 74. Williams was a first-team All-American who led the nation with 1,832 receiving yards and had 12 touchdowns.
When he was a junior, Williams was the No. 2 target for Robert Griffin III and finished with 957 yards and 11 scores. The Dallas coaching staff knows him well because he played for Baylor coach Art Briles, whose daughter is a member of the Cowboys’ public relations staff.
“It is a real debate as to what is more valuable, two players or one player,” Stephen Jones said. “When you make the trade, is the guy we pick at 31 and the player we pick at 74 when it is all said and done, is it a better deal than what we would have picked at 18.”
Jerry Jones would argue “yes” after the Williams pick, which was the first time Dallas got generally positive reviews after raising a few more eyebrows by taking a tight end in the second round at No. 47 overall — San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar.
It was the third time since Jason Witten, the third most prolific tight end in NFL history, joined the Cowboys a decade ago that they’ve taken a tight end in the second round, and Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett didn’t last long in Dallas.
Dallas wrapped up Friday night and started Saturday by selecting defensive backs. Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox was the 80th overall pick in the third round, and the Cowboys’ first choice on Saturday was William & Mary cornerback B.W. Webb with the 114th pick in the fourth round.
Webb had eight interceptions as a freshman but just three his final three seasons, including none as a senior.
“I made a big splash my first two years and I guess (opponents) really didn’t want those problems later on,” said Webb, who started a school-record 48 games.
Dallas got a potential backup to DeMarco Murray by taking running back Joseph Randle from Oklahoma State in the fifth round, 151st overall.
The Cowboys wrapped up the draft with their first choice in the defensive front seven as they prepare for a switch to the 4-3. South Carolina linebacker DeVonte Holloman, who also has experience at safety, went 185th overall in the sixth round.
Dallas traded its seventh-round pick to Miami for center Ryan Cook last year.
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