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On Day 3, Cowboys know plenty of work remains

FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys had one of their best drafts in recent memories in 2016 not because they drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick, although that didn’t hurt.

The draft is considered one of the best because they selected Dak Prescott in the fourth round and Anthony Brown in the sixth round, in addition to Maliek Collins in the third round.

It will be considered even better if Charles Tapper -- who was selected in the fourth round before Prescott, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016 -- can develop into a top pass-rusher after missing his rookie season because of a back injury. The Cowboys could also see sixth-rounders Kavon Frazier, a safety, and Rico Gathers, a tight end, turn into meaningful contributors in 2017.

Day 3 of the NFL draft is where the work begins on filling in spots on the roster. A successful franchise builds through the draft and allows the team to have a functional middle class in salary-cap terms.

“A large amount of the work we do is going to get done [Saturday],” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “The one thing we’ll do is get in in the morning, reset it and look at it with fresh eyes. The concentration and intensity level in Rounds 4-7 and in college free agency is really important for us. We’ve done a good job.”

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the plan is to stick with their four selections and not make any trades.

Since 2012, the Cowboys have had 26 Day 3 selections and 11 remain on the roster. Kyle Wilber (fourth round) and tight end James Hanna (sixth round) remain from 2012 and are valuable special-teams contributors and role players on defense and offense. Anthony Hitchens (fourth round, 2014) has been a starting linebacker for much of his three seasons. Linebacker Damien Wilson, a fourth-rounder in 2015, moved into a starting role last season. Geoff Swaim (seventh round, 2015) was the No. 2 tight end to Jason Witten a year ago before suffering a pectoral injury. Linebacker Mark Nzeocha (seventh round, 2015) has been a special-teamer in his first two years.

From 2009-11, the Cowboys saw just four of 19 Day 3 selections start more than two games in their time in Dallas.

The Cowboys enter this year's Day 3 with four picks. They select at No. 133 in the fourth round, No. 211 in the sixth round and Nos. 228 and 246 in the seventh round.

Will they find another Brown or Hanna or Wilson?

If they do, then the prospects of the 2017 draft becoming a good one improve greatly.