Our continuing series looking at the Top 10 Biggest Draft Successes Of The Jerry Jones Era rolls on with #7. The guidelines - Must have been drafted during Jerry Jones' era (1989 - present), and generally needs to be a player chosen in the 3rd round or later. Anybody above that was expected to succeed. It's not a list of the best players, but a list of the best value to the team, based on contributions and when they were drafted. Also, certain intangibles can be thrown into the mix.
7. Doug Free (2007, 4th round, #122, T, Northern Illinois)
Okay, I'll admit that our next pick for Draft Successes is based on a little knowledge, and a whole lot of faith. Doug Free has been on the Cowboys since 2007, but only saw significant playing time for the first time in 2010. That's a really thin amount of evidence to be calling him a success. But, this list is for fun, so we thought we'd throw some unique stuff into the mix.
So why does Free qualify?
Because he was drafted in the 4th round and has the potential to be our starting left tackle for years to come. If that turns out to be the case, the Cowboys got a steal. No need for me to remind you guys about the value NFL franchises place on left tackle, it's one of the few true premium positions on an NFL roster. They're so important, and so hard to find. If the Cowboys nabbed one in Free for the price of a 4th round pick, break out the band and let's throw a party.
There's a lot of work to be done between now and that party. Free stepped in for the released Flozell Adams and turned in a solid year. Given the problems Dallas had along the line last year, Free was the least of our worries. He still has things to improve on, but last year most knowledgeable Cowboys fans spent very little time complaining about Doug Free. At the beginning of the year, it was the big worry. By the end of the year, Free was the one guy we didn't complain about.
There's talk about someday shifting him to right tackle if the Cowboys pick up a guy who could take over on the left side. At this point, I'm not convinced that should happen. Free's first year of extended play at left tackle showed me enough to say give him another year. If he nails it in 2011, then why would you move him in the future? If a guy is doing the job, let him do the job. Free has always been something of an athletic freak for such a big guy. He has great feet and has speed to get downfield for blocks, or get outside on pitches and screens. The knock has been his leg strength, his ability to take on the bull-rushers and to drive the defensive player in the run game. We'll keep watching for that.
Last year was a revelation as we watched Free handle the left tackle spot with consistency and quality for Dallas. A few more years of that, and we may have to move him up on the list.
OCC: A probable franchise left tackle in the fourth round? His next contract will be a clear indicator of just how much of a success the Cowboys consider Free
rabblerousr: Anytime you can get a top-flite LT without investing a first round pick, you've done good work.
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