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.