Of the nine draft picks, Hitchens’ selection, 119th overall, was the most questionable. Some draft experts had Hitchens as a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
The Cowboys saw more value there in the 6-foot, 240-pounder.
“When everybody grades him on our staff and we go through the things that are important to play the position, and the guys hits all the checkmarks we have in the fourth round as far as our grades, we feel comfortable where we are getting him,” said Will McClay, the Cowboys’ assistant director of player personnel. “Out [of] the [Mel] Kipers and those people outside our organization don’t know what we are putting him into and what we are doing. The value is in-house and we feel like we got the right value.”
The Cowboys will now find out what type of player they have in Hitchens. Of course, things could change over the course of the summer. DeVonte Holloman, Justin Durant or free agents currently on the street could replace Lee at middle linebacker.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said it’s too early in the process to give anyone the starting gig.
“It goes faster now,” Marinelli said. “I think the installation and all those things picking up, it’s now speed is faster. Everything is another notch, it’s faster.”
One of the biggest losses to the defense is Lee and his replacement might be a rookie, who many thought should have been drafted later.
Can Hitchens do it?
“I gotta get in the playbook,” he said. “I still got to get my alignments down. They’re not here to hold my hand and walk me through this stuff, so I got to take a lot of this on my own and learn the playbook.”