I was thinking about the DT spot and how I've heard some draft experts and fans say that Aaron Donald is probably the better DT but that Timmy Jernigan is a close second and that really, a team couldn't go wrong with either guy. It reminded me of the 1997 when Dallas desperately needed a TE to replace Jay Novacek. Everyone knew Dallas would probably take a TE that year. That year there were two consensus first round TE's, Tony Gonzalez and David LaFleur. Some people thought Gonzalez (6-5, 247) was the better player because he was so athletic for the position, and there were some who felt like LaFleur was a better all around TE because of his size (6-7, 272) and blocking ability. LaFleur had monster size, very long arms, was strong and could move pretty good for a guy his size. He was talented but really nothing about him was extraordinary. He was a big, strong guy who could run and catch. Gonzalez on the other hand was a rare athletic specimen for a TE who was considered a little small for the position. His speed and movement were more like a WR than a TE and he had terrific hands. I hadn't seen an athlete like him at the TE position in a long time, if ever. In my opinion at the time, there was no contest between the two. I absolutely loved Gonzalez and badly wanted him to be drafted by Dallas. I was lukewarm on LaFleur, and really wanted a superior athlete like Gonzalez replacing Novacek, not a lumbering behemoth like David. I kept hearing over and over that both were first round players and that both would be effective but for different reasons. To me however... it wasn't even close. I thought Gonzalez would be a match-up nightmare and would give defensive coordinators fits, while I thought LaFleur would block well and be able to sneak out and catch a few passes. Well, as the draft got closer and the players went through the combine and their pro-days, Gonzales really started climbing up in the first round in everyone's mock draft. He was just such a crazy good athlete Tony became pretty much the consensus top TE and LaFleur the 2nd best TE. Guys like Kiper, etc. would say you can't go wrong with either one and that David would really help a team with his size and blocking. To me though, I didn't want a big, huge blocker with long arms... I wanted the rare athlete who simply beat the defenders down the field. In short, I wanted another Novacek. I knew how important Jay was to our offense and I wanted a guy who could do the same sort of things for Aikman and Co. I saw Gonzalez and then everyone else. As far as I was concerned, it was take Tony in the first round or completely change course and draft another position. I felt like it would be well worth a pick of two in order to move up and get Gonzalez, because he was such an athlete and game changer. Dallas, who picked 22nd overall, didn't feel the same way and Kansas City, who traded up to the 13th spot, obviously did. They went up and got Gonzales and the rest is history. Tony became an immediate difference maker. A guy who teams just couldn't stop because they couldn't cover him because he could out run, and out jump the guys they had covering him. They couldn't catch Gonzalez. He simply was better than just about everyone else on the field with him. Dallas liked Gonzalez best too, but they felt like would be a good player too and that they could sit and take whichever guy made it to them. They looked at their grades and thought it wasn't that big of a deal if someone else took Gonzalez and they had to settle for LaFleur. Unfortunately, everyone also knows that LaFleur was a bust, primarily because his back was so bad that he had to quit playing. In the contest between Gonzales and LaFleur, it didn't really matter though because Tony was a huge playmaker and game changer. A sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer, and even with perfect health David simply was never in that class. He wasn't special in any real way except that he ran pretty fast for a guy who was that size. That's it. Looking back, as we all tend to do long after the drafts are over, it is pretty silly to think there ever was any question about which player was better... kind of like what happens when we now talk about the Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf debate. It really isn't that it was a blowout in the favor of Gonzalez... it's that the two of them don't even belong in the same conversation at all. Dallas didn't think there was that big of a difference between the two, but the difference was a massive gulf that should have been as evident to the team as it was to an amateur draftnik who spent most of his time studying organic chemistry instead of football prospects. Had Dallas traded away their three third rounders to move up into the first for Tony, they would have missed out on Steve Scifres, Kenny Wheaton, and Dexter Coakley. So, really, instead of having Coakley and LaFleur they would have ended up with Tony Gonzalez. So now, here we are in 2014 and I feel pretty much the same way about the Donald/Jernigan debate as I did about the Gonzalez/LaFleur debate. I think that Donald is a rare physical specimen that will cause offensive coordinators to have recurrent nightmares. His burst off the ball is so exceptional - so extraordinary - that he has the ability to beat guards by such a wide margin that some OL aren't even out of their stance before Aaron is by them and into the backfield. His lateral movement and change of direction in combination with his strength and explosiveness is unlike just about anyone else we've seen. Atkins, Sapp, Glover... there is a very short list of DT's that put up numbers that are even close to the figures that Donald turned in. The point is that he is a rare, rare player. What Donald is so good at... is simply very, very difficult for any OL to deal with. What Donald did at the combine is simply in rarefied air. Just like Gonzalez, Aaron is physically just that much better than everyone else. And he had the same cherry on top that Gonzalez did coming out of Cal: insane college production. He has the college tape to more than back up his phenomenal numbers at the combine. Jernigan is a nice player. I like his demeanor, he's strong, he is quick for his size, and runs pretty good, much like LaFleur did back in '97. The whole package that Jernigan brings to the defensive line is a good one... but it isn't exceptional. There are plenty of DT's with his strength and his size. There are a lot of guys who get off the ball more quickly than Jernigan does (and that is a big deal in Marinelli's defense). He just isn't special. He is a really nice player who would probably be a terrific 1-tech DT for Marinelli. The problem is, there are a lot of guys who would be just about as good as Jernigan at Marinelli's 1-tech spot. Just like in 1997, when a lot of fans said they liked Gonzalez better but LaFleur was just about as good - there are now people saying they like Donald the most at DT but that Jernigan would be ok if Donald is gone. Just like '97 when people said you couldn't go wrong with either TE - draft experts are now saying the same things about the two DT's. I also feel the same way I did about the 1997 draft. I want Dallas to draft Donald and if he is gone, I'd go in a completely different direction in the first round. I don't want Jernigan or any other DT in round 1, because, despite what may be written around the internet about how close they are to Donald, they aren't. Not in the defense we run. I think Donald would be such a game changer in Dallas that I hope the team will be proactive and jump up a few spots if they feel like somebody is going to take Donald first. In this deep draft, I would hate to trade any picks away... and I certainly wouldn't do too much... but I sincerely hope they don't let such a perfect 3-tech as Donald is get taken just before we pick. I don't want to settle again like we did in 1997. I would rather it be us who takes the reigns and goes a gets a guy who is ideal for Dallas. It would have been well worth it to have made a small jump up for Max Unger in 2009, and worth it for an even bigger jump up to snag Gonzalez in 1997. If they think he will make it to #16, then fine... wait. But they better be damn sure if they like Donald as much as I think they do, because you don't want to be stuck holding another LaFleur.