A scene from the Cowboys' war room after the pick of Deuce Vaughn, with his father Chris hugging Jerry Jones. A scene from the Cowboys’ war room after the pick of Deuce Vaughn, with his father Chris hugging Jerry Jones.

Say what you will about Jerry Jones. The man understands the power of publicity, be it good or bad. There’s a reason why the Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable sports franchise in the world. It has little to do with championship success since the Cowboys haven’t been to a Super Bowl since the Clinton Administration.

It’s not surprising that America’s Team is featured prominently in the Roku Original Documentary NFL Draft: The Pick Is In. Jones’ Cowboys rescue this feature, which is a collaboration between Roku, NFL Films, and Skydance Sports. It aims to give viewers an exclusive inside look at the 2023 NFL draft in Kansas City. It had camera crews embedded in the war rooms of the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cowboys throughout the three-day event.

The catch here with these types of documentaries is that they promise all access but what they deliver is the illusion of access. You see only what the participants want you to see. That’s what happens when you give up a degree of creative control. We know this because one of the people in The Pick Is In, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, has already said that he reviewed the documentary before it aired.

The draft has become an immense made-for-TV event. In modern-day sports, drafts aren’t really necessary. Leagues tell fans that they’re the key to competitive balance. But drafts exist primarily to control player costs. The public doesn’t care. Folks love it. Just look at the TV ratings, which continue to skyrocket. The challenge for The Pick Is In is that it has been several months since the draft. The drama is over, so this documentary needed to offer something new.

Instead, we mostly get a recap of storylines we already know. And most of the inside access comes across as guarded and sanitized. However, the one franchise most comfortable with letting you understand how the sausage is made is the Cowboys. They provide the best moments in The Pick Is In.

Perhaps this is the ego of Jones, who has never met a camera or microphone he didn’t like. Jones is the most famous owner in American sports and arguably the most powerful one in the NFL. Jones, 80, is the only league owner with his own weekly radio show and always makes himself available for interviews after every Cowboys game.

No wonder he seemed completely comfortable talking on camera about draft strategy in the Dallas war room. Jones, who also serves as the team president and general manager, loves to remind everyone that he’s in charge. Jones makes for good content and he’s quite aware of that.

In The Pick Is In, we learn that there was considerable internal debate over whether the team should select Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith or Syracuse offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron. The documentary also reveals the surprise team that was trying to trade for the Cowboys’ 26th overall selection. (Dallas wound up taking Smith).

NFL teams often use the cliché “We got the guy we wanted all along.” Here is proof that things aren’t as certain as viewers are often led to believe. You wish that the Jaguars, Colts, and Panthers would have been as open as the Cowboys. They probably were scared off by having their opinions public and didn’t want to risk the potential embarrassment of being wrong.

Jones doesn’t mind risks. That’s one of the many reasons he’s the Cowboys’ best brand ambassador.

The Cowboys also provide The Pick Is In‘s most emotional scene. We all know the heartwarming story about Dallas drafting undersized running back Deuce Vaughn, son of Dallas scout Chris Vaughn, in the sixth round. The documentary adds behind-the-scenes footage, including a nervously pacing Chris Vaughn leaving the war room to have a phone conversation with his despondent child who was upset that he hadn’t been taken yet in the draft.

Authentic moments we haven’t seen before are the key to any effective documentary. The Pick Is In has some. It just needed more.

The Pick Is In is streaming now on Roku.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.