Frisco -- Boise St. linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had been linked to the Cowboys for weeks, so it was no surprise when they made him the 19th selection in the first round.
The Cowboys say Vander Esch was the highest rated player on their board when the picked him. The brain trust inside The Star believes he can be a playmaker along the lines of former Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, as well as former Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain.
"This guy's got a very low floor and high ceiling," said Cowboys executive vice-president Stephen Jones. "He could be a 10-year starter. When you get that in the latter part of the first round that's a mouthful."
The Cowboys said they didn't even consider moving up to take Florida St. safety Derwin James, who was picked by the Chargers with the 17th pick.
"We were not tempted to move up," said Cowboys Jerry Jones.
The journey for Vander Esch has been remarkable. The Idaho native played 8-man football in high school, where he also starred on the basketball team.
He went from walk-on at Boise St. to 2017 Mountain West defensive player of the year, making the most of his only year as a starter. Vander Esch becomes the 4th defensive player the Cowboys have drafted from Boise St in recent years.
"There's something about that program that grows them the right way," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.
The Cowboys are convinced Vander Esch, who was a sideline-to-sideline player in college, has the right physical tools and instincts to help create turnovers.
And Garett made sure to point out their first-round pick is "the right kind of guy."
"He came up the hard way," said Garrett, " and ended up being the best player in the program."