I feel Jerry Jones' pain. Okay, maybe not his pain but I can empathize with him as he contemplates the end of the Tony Romo era in Dallas and prepares for the future.
It's not a perfect comparison, but when I was with the Cowboys, we used to take a quarterback in the draft almost every year. We always felt that we could never have enough of them on the team.
We would take fliers on guys who had a big negative that kept other teams from rating them high on their draft boards. Like with Roger Staubach, we took him in the 10th round knowing we might have to wait for his four-year Naval commitment to expire. Even with Don Meredith playing for us in his prime and Roger waiting in the wings, that didn't stop us from taking Craig Morton with the fifth overall pick in 1964.
We had an inkling Don wasn't in it for the long haul; that's why we used our first-round pick on Morton. As it turned out, Meredith wasn't in it for the long haul; he retired at age 31 after taking a lot of abuse from defenders on the field and fans off of it for not being able to get the Cowboys over the hump and win a league title. In 1969, the reins were handed over to Morton, who had mostly sat behind Meredith for his first four NFL seasons.
In a lot of ways, Jones is in a similar situation today. He's been telling people recently that he sees Romo being his starter for "the next four to five years," and he'd like to find a quarterback who can play the Aaron Rodgers to Romo's Brett Favre. In other words, one who can sit and get a "Harvard degree" by learning behind Romo for several years.
Jerry told me recently that he will unequivocally not take a quarterback at No. 4, where the Cowboys draft this year. I believe him. It makes sense if you think Romo will make a full recovery from offseason surgery, will be your starter for at least three more years, and your team has a window of opportunity that will remain open by filling more glaring needs with the top pick in the draft.
It's not only a smart move, but I believe it's the only move, as tempting as it might be if a player like Carson Wentz is still on the board when the Cowboys pick. If I were Jerry, I'd wait on my quarterback in the later rounds, develop him, and let him learn from Romo. It's a luxury Dallas can afford. And if there's concern that the player you're developing will leave in free agency after his rookie deal runs out before seeing meaningful time on the field, well, I'm pretty sure Jerry can afford that, too.
If that is in fact the Cowboys' plan, there are several quarterbacks in this draft they should consider. Here are five I like who have a wart or two that I believe are all remediable with time and the right development:
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Prescott has good size and a lot of talent, and he showed off his athleticism at the combine. He's coming from a system -- a Tebow-like offense -- that will require some re-tooling of him as a player. He can be had in the third round.
Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech: I'd take a stab at this guy. He was the No. 1 recruit in the country coming out of high school but injuries derailed him at Florida and he finished up at Louisiana Tech. He looked pretty good at the combine. For a big guy (6-foot-4, 234 pounds) he runs extremely well; he had the top speed of all the quarterbacks who ran at the combine (4.56-second 40). He has a pretty good arm and mobility. He has a chance to slip into the middle rounds (5-6) of Day 3 of the draft.
Brandon Allen, Arkansas: People are going to slide Allen down their draft boards because of his small hand size (8 3/4 inches) and light frame, along with other blemishes. But I really like him, and as a Dallas native, he might be a good fit for the Cowboys. He has an excellent attitude and came from a winning program in high school. He also greatly improved in his final year at Arkansas, where there were many offensive changes in his three years as a starter there. It shows he's coachable. As for the hand-size thing, it's difficult to ignore, as I pointed out on Twitter, but Romo, who has sub-nine-inch hands, has proven it can be done in an NFL city like Dallas.
Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky: He spent six years at WKU (two medical redshirt years) so he's older than a typical NFL draft prospect, but in the seasons he wasn't injured, he was prolific. In his junior and senior seasons with the Hilltoppers, Doughty passed for almost 10,000 yards and nearly 100 touchdowns (97). He doesn't have a strong arm, nor is he fast (5.22-second 40), but I keep coming back to him. It looks like he has something going for him. He might be worth a fifth-round pick to see what's there.
Kevin Hogan, Stanford: Hogan has a funky delivery and needs some work with mechanics and his feet, but he's smart and has been successful as a starter at Stanford. He might be the toughest quarterback in this draft. He'll get taken somewhere in the middle rounds (Rounds 5-6) of Day 3. On his side? He already knows what it's like to sit behind and eventually replace a legend (Andrew Luck).
I'll throw out one more name -- a wild card that isn't in this draft: Johnny Manziel. Jerry loved him two years ago, and rightfully so. But in the end, I think Jerry will meet a lot of resistance from people inside the Cowboys' building to take the troubled quarterback. I would be tempted but I'm not sure I'd have the appetite, no matter how low the cost, to bring in a talented project like Manziel and hope nothing goes wrong.