Last year about this time, I chastised the Cowboys front office (namely Jerry and Cisky) for such a horrible job of using their draft picks to get value and find talented understudy players for the offensive line, defensive line and secondary. I ridiculed their foolish and feeble responses about “drafting for special teams” and wanting to “wash out” the bottom of the roster when asked about their strategy. I was angry about passing on will Beatty and Loadholt last year. I loved Sammie Lee Hill, Dorell Scott and Vaughn Martin, but Dallas thought otherwise. I really liked Mike Wallace and Brandon Tate, but obviously Jerry and Cisky didn’t. Even without a #1 last year, I really POUNDED on the Dallas brass for what I called a largely “wasted draft class”.
You can breathe easy, because this year, I am not going to do that.
I think Dallas made some shrewd moves in this draft. I also think they went over the falls on a couple of choices. To get a true view of how things went…and maybe should have went, let’s break this down pick-by-pick.
Dez Bryant: moving up to get Bryant was risky…but I LOVE RISKY! The draft shouldn’t be about always taking the guy everyone thinks you’re supposed to take. Jimmy Johnson made a living off of taking players no one thought he would take. Sure, you don’t want to be the Raiders or Bengals, but you don’t want to be robotic about judging character, skill and passion for this game, either. Clearly, this move will define the draft for Dallas as time goes on. But out of the gate, I love this pick.
Alternatives: had Dallas stayed at #27, Jared Odrick, Devin McCourty and Kyle Wilson were there. I would have been fine with Odrick since I am not a fan of our DE’s, but I applaud the move Dallas made to go up.
Grade: A+ but only because this is a boom or bust move. Dallas should be doing the same things with their O-line. Remember when people derided the Bigg signing?
Sean Lee: This one ticked me off a lot at the time, and while I’ve calmed down a bit, this was where I thought Dallas lost out on what could have been a tremendous draft. Don’t get me wrong. I like Sean Lee. He is a high character guy with good tackling skills and, when healthy (which is another story altogether), fits the Wade 3-4 ILB spot nicely. But here’s my gripe; he’s been a durability concern with his knee at a position that wasn’t worth taking THAT risk at in THIS slot. They also gave up too much to get up there. In hindsight, I saw a lot of options with what we gave away to move up here. Now, Lee may stop the revolving door of thirty-something’s playing next to Bradie James. Lord knows I want Barbie gone and Jason Williams (from last year’s wasted draft) obviously isn’t instilling confidence in the coaches. But this was not the right pick at the right time.
Grade: D+ and although this guy could turn out to be a ten-year starter, ILB isn’t a position that will prove to be the reason we do (or don’t) progress further in the playoffs in future years. Talent and depth issues at OL, DL and Safety have and will continue to plague this team in big games and there were good options up there for Dallas at this spot.
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah: AOA is supposedly going to play a “redshirt” season while Dallas attempts to take the very athletic DB from a very small school and coach him up to be a free safety. Okay, this may turn out to be a good long term plan, but they just passed up on Burnett and unless Wade is truly comfortable with Alan Ball trying to help out on Desean Jackson and Mario Manningham, Dallas is in real trouble. Think about this – how many times did you see Wade and Campo yelling at each other last year when the center fielder was out of position? Well, that was with a wily veteran back there and if Ball starts, those sideline displays will become the new ‘Real Coaches of the Dallas Cowboys’ reality TV series. But wait, here’s the thing…if Dallas can bring in a vet to help play a one or two-year stopgap, then I think this could turn out to be a very good pick. In fact, this could turn out better than when the Jags picked Rashean Mathis. The more I think about it, the more I love this pick.
Alternatives: Jason Fox, Reshad Jones and Cam Thomas all still available when Dallas picked…as stated, I really like AOA’s athleticism, but he may turn out to be productive only after Dallas’ window with this core group of players has started to close.
Grade: A- which is contingent upon the fact that I think Dallas will sign a vet and AOA could become something special in time.
Sam Young: Really? In the aftermath of a playoff run where Dallas’ Offensive line again proved to be the weak link on a team trying to make a statement to the rest of the NFC, THIS was the best they could come up with? This guy was inconsistent at best during his career and got beaten like a rented mule by guys who will never play in the NFL. In his defense, he had questionable coaching, but this guy was a huge disappointment at Notre Dame. I know people will want to say “whoever you liked wasn’t high on their board” or “they must know better than you”. Possibly, but remember, I’m the guy that said “WHISKY TANGO FOXTROT” when Jason Williams was picked ahead of Will Beatty last year when people said the same thing. One year later, Beatty has a bright future with the G-men and Williams is seeing his replacement being drafted in this year’s second round. Maybe they don’t know better. How badly does that mess with your mind?
Alternatives: Kyle Calloway (mainly because I like the way Iowa linemen approach the game…nasty), but come on, it’s the 6th round. You can’t expect much at this point. I question the strategy here, more than the pick itself. Young may have been selected just to appease the fans.
Grade: C+ and the plus is for picking SOMEONE that plays a position along the OL.
Jamar Wall: This was the biggest head-scratcher for me…not because I have anything against wall, but more because he, unlike AOA, hasn’t displayed the athleticism to make the transition from the heavy zone schemes he played in college.
Alternatives: with J’Marcus Webb, George Selvie and Selvish Capers still on the board, it’s hard to make sense of a guy who is a better fit for Tampa’s or Indy’s back half schemes. Heck, if CB was a target spot, why not take Syd’Quan Thompson? At least he looks like a press cover corner.
Grade: D for dumbfounded.
Sean Lissemore: At this point in the draft, you’re generally talking about camp bodies. These are the coffee grounds of the NFL draft. Can you imagine, back in the day, when the draft went to for 5 and 6 more rounds? And with pick number 1,473, the Saint Louis Cardinals select…Joe Momma from P.U. Okay, on to Lissemore, on a roster as talented as the one Dallas sports, it’s hard to believe that Lissemore would supplant a Jason Hatcher or a Stephen Bowen. But then again, the NFL is all about injuries.
Grade: See Alternatives!
Overall, Dallas gets a solid B from me. The Bryant and AOA picks were awe-inspiring. The Lee and Wall picks just didn’t add up to me. Strategically, it’s unthinkable to me that Dallas wouldn’t look to create a young talent base along the O-line. Look at draft history to see who teams pick and whether they turn out to start for that team or not. Dallas has struggled to find starters from its draft classes since Tuna’s last draft. Bryant looks like a lock to start at some point (nobody will sit still for a player wearing #88 on the bench!) and then who knows about AOA’s ability to move to safety and Lee’s durability? The rest of the group is pedestrian. Nonetheless, even if you dump the 1st pick for comparison’s sake, this is a better draft, pick for pick, than the 2009 version and hopefully, it portends more good things to come for the OL and DB’s as camp cuts start to mount.