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The 1st-Round Cowboys? Off The Board. Off The Chart. Off Their Rockers

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1268572 Mike Fisher
 Mike Fisher is an award-winning newspaper journalist, the author of...
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Jacob Pedersen #48 of the Wisconsin Badgers gets a hug from teammate Travis Frederick #72 after scoring a touchdown against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Soldier Field on September 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Wisconsin defeated Northern Illinois 49-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jacob Pedersen of the Wisconsin Badgers gets a hug from teammate Travis Frederick  after scoring a touchdown. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – The Dallas Cowboys went off the board. They went off the chart. And they went off their rockers.

The Cowboys’ Round 1 selection of offensive lineman Travis Frederick of Wisconsin isn’t the issue. Dallas needed to upgrade its offensive line. The team views Frederick as a second-round value and it moved back from 18 to 31 (two slots ahead of the second round) to tab him. He’s smart and strong and can play center or guard.

“What is the very best thing we can do for this team?’’ owner Jerry Jones said in the near-midnight press conference following the Monday launching of the NFL Draft. “Buy (quarterback Tony) Romo a half-a-second.’’

Argue about Frederick if you wish (and if you wish to pretend that you are a connoisseur of interior-line play); it might take 12 months or 12 years to truly evaluate his selection.

But the path to get to him? Off the board. Off the chart. Off their rockers.

The double-pronged error began when Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd experienced a precipitous fall from the top of the draft. Most viewed him as a top-10 talent. I am told the Cowboys not only had a first-round grade on Shariff but also entered the day with him ranked in the top seven on their board.

Then, miraculously, he dropped … dropped into Dallas’ waiting lap at No. 18.

It was a no-brainer. An upfield, high-motor 3-technique defensive tackle, the key to the new 4-3 defense being installed by assistant Monte Kiffin.

But 15 months of study that made Floyd a worthy selection was undone in 15 minutes.

I’m told the Cowboys reviewed Floyd’s work and recalculated their own thoughts … considered the fact that Floyd only had 4.5 sacks in his college career … and committed the cardinal draft-day sin of shuffling their board.

“In our system, we probably would put a premium on quick-twitch potential 3-technique,’’ Jones said. “We view (Floyd) as not that …’’

That might end up being correct (though Minnesota, which plays the exact same scheme as Dallas, disagrees. The Vikings were elated to get Floyd at No. 23). But the “view’’ of Floyd changed at the last minute.

Going into the draft, coach Jason Garrett pledged that Dallas would stay “pure’’ to its board.

This went “unpure.’’

Then came the second error.

Sitting at No. 18, the Cowboys had two more first-round-graded players to choose from: Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Rather than stick with the board there, Dallas pulled out the Trade Value Chart to engineer a trade with San Francisco that I reported on Monday was a distinct possibility:

Dallas should be able to trade down from 18 and pick up the 49ers’ selections at either Nos. 31 or 34 and No. 61 (which is a late second-rounder).

The 49ers agreed to a trade featuring No. 31 but including only No. 74 (a third-rounder). Simply put – and with all due respect to vice president Stephen Jones’ claims that it is an equitable exchange according to the team’s Trade Value Chart – it is not a balanced deal.

Dallas lost that trade.

Jerry noted that the Cowboys “invented’’ the chart, and don’t scoff. It’s true. In the early 1990’s, Jerry partner Mike McCoy did the math to create it and passed it along to coach Jimmy Johnson, who history now credits as the creator. I know this because I was there. I know the chart because I was there.

I know Dallas went off the chart.

Again, the 6-4, 320-pound Frederick might walk right into Valley Ranch and start at either guard or center. So when it comes to the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Cowboys can still manage to get to the finish line (title contention). But the so-far path to the finish line?

Off the board. Off the chart. Off their rockers.

And maybe off into the ditch.

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