Seeing the Cowboys stop the draft slide of a player with character concerns is only slightly less surprising than, say, seeing the Bengals or the Raiders do the same.
Thus, it was the Cowboys — famous and infamous for owner Jerry Jones taking chances on questionable backgrounds — who took Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis in the third round of the NFL Draft Friday, 92nd overall.
Lewis was a first-team Sporting News All-American last season, but was downgraded somewhat because of his size (5-10, although that was no obstacle on a memorable leaping interception against Wisconsin). Under normal circumstances, he likely would have gone a round earlier.
But that was before he was charged with domestic violence against his girlfriend just six weeks ago in Ann Arbor. A July trial date was set earlier this month. The most recent draft profile on the NFL’s website projected Lewis in the sixth or seventh round — although that same profile never mentioned his arrest.
Acts and allegations of violence against women have been a running theme of the draft so far. The Raiders took Gareon Conley in the first round, despite an ongoing investigation into a rape accusation from last week. In the second round, the Bengals took running back Joe Mixon, whose punch that knocked a woman unconscious in 2014 trailed him throughout the pre-draft process.
Florida defensive lineman Caleb Brantley was still on the board through the end of the third round as well, after an incident with a woman at a bar earlier this month. Like Lewis, he ran the risk of falling into the bottom of the draft, if not out of it. The final four rounds take place Saturday.
But the Cowboys — with defense as a priority as they build on a surprising 13-3 season — caught Lewis long before he dropped too far down. They took his Michigan teammate, defensive end Taco Charlton, with their first-round pick.
In recent years, the Cowboys have taken Randy Gregory after a failed combine drug test sent him plunging down the draft board; traded for Rolando McClain after his drug issues had aborted his stays with two previous teams; and given Greg Hardy a one-year deal after he’d sat out nearly a full season following a domestic violence conviction that was later wiped out before a re-trial could take place.
The Cowboys took a cornerback, Chidobie Awuzie, in the second round, and reportedly are shopping incumbent Orlando Scandrick. Where Lewis fits in is hard to predict so early. He has a window to play. But he was not projected as an automatic starter, even before his legal issues. He was the 15th cornerback taken in a deep draft.
Regardless, Lewis got a chance, from a team with a history of handing them out — and he got it earlier than most had expected.