Since Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989, the Cowboys have not drafted an offensive lineman in the first round. In fact, it's been 30 years -- since they took Missouri tackle Howard Richards with the 26th overall choice in 1981 -- that the Cowboys have selected an offensive lineman in the first round.
Jones conceded, though, that his philosophy has changed, and the Cowboys could use their first-round pick on an offensive lineman. Most mock drafts have the Cowboys selecting USC tackle Tyron Smith. Boston College's Anthony Castonzo and Colorado's Nate Solder also are tackles the Cowboys could consider if they move back. Florida offensive guard/center Mike Pouncey also could be a consideration, if the Cowboys traded down and the top offensive tackles were off the board.
"If in fact that's been a pattern, or for whatever reason has been a preference, that has changed," Jones said. "...I'm not reluctant to invest a first-round pick on an offensive lineman."
From 1998-2010, the Cowboys drafted 18 offensive linemen, including seven in rounds two and three. They missed on Jacob Rogers (second round, 2004), Solomon Page (second round, 1999), Stephen Peterman (third round, 2004) and James Marten (third round, 2007). They hit on Doug Free (fourth round, 2007).
"You always look for critical factors in the position," Tom Ciskowski, the Cowboys' director of college and pro scouting, said. "From year to year, that doesn't change. You just never know for sure what you're always getting in a player. Your contact at the school is very, very important.
"A lot of times players come in and the stage is just too big for them, and they tend to fall off a little bit. But I think you're always looking for the right type of intangible type guys. Is he smart? Is he tough? Does he love football? You want to have the prototype and the makeup that you're looking for in a player. If he has that, it gives you a good chance to be successful."
-- Charean Williams