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Donald and Jernigan Reminds Me of 1997 Draft with Gonzalez and LaFleur

Discussion in 'Draft Zone' started by AsthmaField, Mar 8, 2014.

  1. AsthmaField

    AsthmaField Outta bounds

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    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.
    DoctorChicken, egn22, BAT and 4 others like this.
  2. TonyRomo17

    TonyRomo17 Well-Known Member

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    theey wont pick jernigan in the first round, stephen jones has already said they dont consider a 1teach valuable in the first
  3. jnday

    jnday Well-Known Member

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    I understand your thoughts on this. The biggest question that I have seen raised about Donald is his size. I understand why some scouts think that he will be a pass rushing DT only. The guards that he face in the pros are going to be much faster , stronger and bigger than any guard that he has ever faced. With him being a small DT, he could wear out easily. He is a great athlete for his size, but I understand the concerns about him and it makes him far from a sure thing. He is not as popular everywhere as he is on this board. Considering that, I would gamble and take him, but who knows what the Cowboys are thinking.
    AmishCowboy and Bcrav4 like this.
  4. joseephuss

    joseephuss Well-Known Member

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    Dallas was never in a position to draft Tony Gonzalez and never were going to be in position. KC was already drafting several picks ahead of Dallas in the first round that year before they traded with the Oilers to get up to the 13th pick. Dallas would not have been able to match what KC had to offer. Gonzalez was never a viable option for Dallas. Perhaps the Cowboys could have thrown away several high round picks, but that would not have gotten them anywhere. They would have Gonzales and then no picks to get players to go along with him. As is, Gonzalez never won a playoff game. It would not have been different in Dallas if they had to use multiple high round picks in order to obtain him. There is no reason to mourn not drafting Tony Gonzalez since it was never a realistic option.

    I do agree that the comparison of Gonzalez and Lafleur was a poor one. I never saw Lafleur as a good choice of a player. He wasn't first round material. I didn't like the pick. Rooted for him and hoped I was wrong at the time.
    Duane and texbumthelife like this.
  5. Hardline

    Hardline Well-Known Member

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    LaFleur was an Aikman pick.
  6. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    Aikman gave the OK because Aikman knew they had no shot of getting Tony.
    SilverStarCowboy likes this.
  7. CowboysLegend365

    CowboysLegend365 Active Member

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    Good argument as to why drafting BPA > Need
  8. CowboysYanksLakers

    CowboysYanksLakers Well-Known Member

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    Aaron Donald remains my guy... I just know what a dominant 3 technique can do in this 4-3.
  9. AbeBeta

    AbeBeta Well-Known Member

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    We did like Gonzo. But Jerry said the cost as too high. That wasn't a miss on evaluation.

    Despite what hindsight geniuses in this thread say - he was a consensus 1st rounder
  10. JoeyBoy718

    JoeyBoy718 Well-Known Member

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    Do you think Donald as a rookie will be better than Hatcher was last season? Because even with one of the greatest 3-tech performances in franchise history, we were still one of the worst defenses of all time.
    texbumthelife likes this.
  11. Bcrav4

    Bcrav4 Member

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    I agree. Size is definitely important at the next level. We don't know how Geno/Donald will hold up over the long term.
  12. jnday

    jnday Well-Known Member

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    For every Geno, there have been dozens that failed due to size. Nobody can do anything more than guess how Donald will do.
    Bcrav4 likes this.
  13. bodi

    bodi Active Member

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    not even the same

    keep on selling us your guy any way you can

    I still would take Hagerman - Jerrigan over this guy any day of the week
  14. AsthmaField

    AsthmaField Outta bounds

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    Like who you want man. For all I care you can Like a 7th round punter better.

    I'm just saying that I feel the same way about Donald/Jernigan as I did about Gonzalez/LaFleur.

    Your argument is compelling though.
  15. xwalker

    xwalker Well-Known Member

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    It seems like an irrelevant argument to use LeFleur as a comparison to another player. Nobody knows how he would have developed if not for the back problems.

    Does Jernigan have back problems? If Donald has an unrecoverable back injury in training camp, somebody in 15 years will be saying "see, I told you that Jernigan was the better pick back in 2014".
    visionary likes this.
  16. SilverStarCowboy

    SilverStarCowboy The Actualist

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    Yeah there was noway Dallas was going to get Tony Gonzo in that Draft.

    While it is easy to see the relevance in your thread, TIMMAH J is still a solid choice if Donald isn't there..... over Nix, Tuitt or even Hagemen for a 4/3 DT.
  17. manster4ever

    manster4ever Active Member

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    good post....I'm not a huge Donald fan due to the fact he's smaller. Sure, he's athletic but I worry about him standing up to the pounding game in and game out. But these things are pure conjecture. He might be a 10 year all pro that makes the HOF.
  18. CowboysLaw87

    CowboysLaw87 Active Member

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    I can't speak as to the similarities between Donald/Jernigan and Gonzalez/LaFleur... mostly because the '98 draft was the first I remember following (I was 11 at the time).

    I will say that agree or disagree, that was a pretty damn well-thought out OP. More of an article than a thread post. I appreciate your viewpoint AsthmaField.

    Let me ask you this... What would you be willing to give up to ensure Donald in a trade up? You acknowledged you'd make a small move. Would you jump to STL's spot at #13 (leaping Chicago) if they demanded our #3?
    BAT likes this.
  19. AsthmaField

    AsthmaField Outta bounds

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    If the Cowboys think as highly of Donald as I think they will, and if they think that he's as ideal for their 3-tech spot as I do, then I wouldn't mind giving up as much as a 3rd to move up in front of Chicago... and that is IF they are pretty sure Chicago might take him.

    I wouldn't give up a second, but a third I would probably do.

    I know a lot of people will say, no way, we shouldn't do it, but if you're asking what I would do, then yes, I would. I have seen too many times when there is a sure fire star within range and we end up staying put and getting a first and a third round pick where neither is a good player.

    Going back to 2009, they loved Max Unger and wanted him. Had they moved up a few spots and got the guy they really wanted, we would at least have 1 guy from that draft still on the roster... and he would be a solid starter for us. So what we wouldn't have had Williams (LB) and Brewster (OG).

    Anyway, I know it will be unpopular, but I probably would for a guy that is so perfect at a position that is our biggest need. A position that is probably the most important to have a star at in this kind of defense. He has rare physical traits that happen to be exactly what our defensive coaches are looking for, and he has mental traits that our head coach and GM look for.
    BAT likes this.
  20. CowboysLaw87

    CowboysLaw87 Active Member

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    Fair enough. I think giving up the #3 is rich for me. I might do it for our #4, especially if we pull a couple compensatory picks in a couple weeks. I also don't completely discount the possibility of making a meaningful move in FA to address DT, so I want to reserve final judgment to see what we're really looking at come draft day.
    AmishCowboy likes this.

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