Yesterday answered one big question about the 2011 draft--namely, was a third round draft pick worth spending on a speed running back? For all of those fans who couldn't predict that Felix would get hurt, or who couldn't predict that Choice would be a poor second choice, or who couldn't predict that having a decent running game is worth a third-round draft pick--well, that's why you aren't paid money for this.
That makes me want to take another look at the rest of the draft. Obviously, we haven't seen anything yet from Bruce Carter. Yet one name makes me think he will be worth the draft pick--Sean Lee. Sean Lee is a great reminder that a rookie who doesn't contribute a lot may make a push for defensive player of the year in a year or two. He is a great reminder that speed, vision, and intelligence are some of the most important aspects of the game. Nobody I know is betting against Carter now that we've seen Lee's break-out.
I think that everyone knew Smith would be a great lineman and an improvement over Colombo. The question (as I saw it) was whether that was worth a top-10 draft pick. The jury may still be out on that, but I have to wonder whether Free's struggles this year put that question into context. This summer, will Smith make a push for left tackle, and will Free then dominate on the right? While we don't know yet, having that extra strength, at such a young age, is clearly an asset that makes me more hopeful about our future.
This brings me to my real question about the draft--why so many late-round draft picks on questionable players who didn't even make the team? How normal is this compared to other teams? But this question is offset by an equally interesting question--is any other team building as well as the Cowboys from undrafted players? We now have a decent RB, a better-than-decent FB, an actually-good kicker, a strong #3 WR, and a couple of serviceable bodies on the offensive line--all of whom we picked up with no draft and no trade. Is this a direct result of letting our drafted FB and WR go, painful as that may be, and follow the best talent available?
All of these are signs of a good organization. My final question is: where do we go from here? This team is now the team we hoped it would be--competitive against good teams, dominating against bad teams. I expect us to lose a couple we should win, and be right on the cusp when it comes to the playoffs--though obviously I hope we go all the way, I doubt that is happening this year. Still, with all of these improvements, what's the one long-term move that we should be looking at?