IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones was named the NFL’s Executive of the Year in 2014 following the Dallas Cowboys' surprising 12-4 regular-season finish, NFC East title and playoff victory.
Jones might be the front-runner to repeat as winner of the award in 2015.
The Cowboys had only one first-round pick in last week’s NFL draft, but they ended up with three first-round talents now that they have added offensive lineman La'el Collins as an undrafted free agent.
With the 27th pick in the first round, the Cowboys selected Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones, who is considered the best athlete in the draft. In the second round, the Cowboys picked Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, who was considered the best pass-rusher in the draft. On Thursday, they added Collins, considered one of the best linemen available.
There are risks involved with all three, especially with Gregory and Collins.
Byron Jones was viewed by some teams as a workout warrior following his record 12-foot, 3-inch broad jump at the NFL scouting combine.
Gregory fell to the 60th pick overall because of failed drug tests at Nebraska and a failed test at the NFL combine. Teams also were worried about other off-field issues.
Collins’ name was linked to an April 24 murder in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, involving an ex-girlfriend. While he has not been fully cleared, he has met with investigators and reportedly passed a polygraph test.
The Cowboys had Byron Jones and Gregory in for pre-draft visits. Before taking Gregory in the second round, Jerry Jones had two in-depth conversations with the player during the draft, sketching out how the team would attempt to help Gregory through his issues.
On Wednesday night, Jerry Jones hosted Collins, the player’s mother and his agent at Jones' Highland Park home. League rules prevented the Cowboys from visiting Collins at school or his home, so he traveled to the Dallas area.
Several teams were in play for Collins. Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan met with him earlier in the week, as did several former LSU teammates who now play for the Miami Dolphins.
The Cowboys, with Jerry Jones as the closer, won out.
Collins projects as a guard in the NFL, which would put him in competition with Ronald Leary at left guard. Over the past five years the Cowboys have rebuilt their offensive line with first-round picks Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
Collins is a first-round talent, if not a first-round pick.
In Byron Jones, the Cowboys believe they have a player who can start at cornerback, with the possibility of becoming a free safety down the road.
In Gregory, the Cowboys have a pass-rusher to team with Greg Hardy (who is appealing a 10-game suspension), Jeremy Mincey (last year’s leader in sacks) and DeMarcus Lawrence (their promising second-round pick from a year ago).
In Collins, the Cowboys have been able to strengthen an offensive line that was already considered the best in the NFL. Smith and Martin were All-Pro picks last season. Frederick was named to the Pro Bowl. Leary and right tackle Doug Free are more than serviceable.
Time will tell if these first-round talents will have first-round production, but the Cowboys felt the rewards were certainly worth the risks.
If they do pay off, the Cowboys have not only extended Tony Romo’s window of opportunity but set themselves up to be successful after Romo is done.