NFL GM: Cowboys are ‘Super Bowl-caliber team’ with Stephen Jones

“Bottom line, without getting into it a lot, Stephen has absolute, tremendous influence on these decisions that are ultimately made in this organization and everything we do,” the elder Jones said. “It would be madness for two people to work as hard as [Stephen and coach Jason Garrett] do, not to … be influenced by what they are telling you.”

In the NFL, teams with legitimate franchise quarterbacks are always in the playoff conversation. Romo provides that for the Cowboys. But those teams that are perennial playoff contenders also have roster depth — it’s as close to insurance against injuries as you’re going to get.

That’s where Stephen comes in, and why the rest of the league has apparently taken notice.

The 2016 NFL Draft was one of the craziest drafts in recent memory, thanks to a tumble by Laremy Tunsil sparked by a video of him smoking marijuana using a gas-mask bong. (Say it out loud, seriously.)

It nearly got even crazier, with the Giants and Jets coming close to a Big Apple blockbuster trade in the middle of the first round.

According to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, the Jets were eager to try and draft Tunsil and, when he started falling, rang up the Giants to make a move from No. 20 up to No. 10.

The Giants had just lost out on their top targets, Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd (taken by the Titans and Bears, respectively, both who traded up to get them) and weren’t interested in Tunsil.

The Jets wanted Tunsil and were willing to spend on moving up. But not spend big. More from Myers:

The Jets offered just one pick, their second-rounder, to flip spots. It was easy to say no. If they had also offered their fourth, the Giants would have been tempted. The second-round choice was not enough to drop 10 spots.
According to the Jimmy Johnson Trade Value Chart, the difference between the two picks (Nos. 10 and 20) is 450 points. The Jets’ second-round pick, No. 51, is worth 390 points. So we’re not talking a massive difference here.

According to Myers, the Giants were worried Eli Apple, the next player on their board, wouldn’t be available at No. 20.

Many of these players have been done no favors by organizations and some have been dogged by injuries. Some might be ready to finally cash in on potential while facing the prospect of not having their fifth-year options executed. A few might just be late bloomers, which is not uncommon.

With that in mind, here are three players from that star-crossed 2013 first round who I believe we have yet to see the best from:

OL Jonathan Cooper, No. 7 overall, Patriots: It wasn’t happening for Cooper in Arizona. He wasn’t developing or really even playing — starting only 11 games in three years — so things looked bleak. But sometimes a change of scenery can work wonders and Bill Belichick, of all people, wanted Cooper for a reason. The Pats don’t get their hands on too many prospects drafted this high, and they’ve mostly been making due with try-hard guys on their offensive line.

This is a unique specimen in an area of particular import, and I generally don’t bet against the Pats. They parted with a pretty accomplished player in Chandler Jones to get Cooper, and if he can be a competent guard it would be a major step forward. With his fifth-year option not activated, he should have plenty of motivation to accelerate his progress.

CB D.J. Hayden, No. 12 overall, Raiders: He came in very raw, missing significant time in college because of a vein injury that nearly killed him. He’s continued to have bad luck as a pro and if some would call him a doomed pick, well, I wouldn’t entirely blame them. It’s been a struggle, but he’s overcome bigger problems.

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