After a few days to digest this year's class and find out more and more about each player that the Cowboys took I find myself having a different take on this year's draft class than most. I actually think there's a lot there to like. Most draft pundits have been giving the Cowboys a grade around the B- range for the draft. I strongly disagree. This was a very good draft class and I like all the picks. The draft signifies a positive change of direction for the team, and lots of change will be coming next year. I'll start pick by pick.
1.) Tyron Smith OT USC. - Great pick, while at the time I wanted Nick Fairley because I had images of him ripping Eli Manning to the ground, I'm happy with the pick of Tyron Smith. The team needed a new RT badly, and it seems like the days of big fat hunks of crap playing tackle are waeing. Quick, fast athletic tackles seem to be the future of the position. Tyron Smith has huge upside and he'll be a game one starter, whenever that game one is.
2.) Bruce Carter LB UNC - At first I was a bit skeptical of this pick. Especially with players like Ijalana, Moffitt, Rackley, Paea, and Brandon Harris on the board. However, the more I think about this pick the more I like it. The current ILBs need some help. Keith Brooking was done being a useful player after that drumming against the Vikings in the playoffs, Bradie James is the "Parcells 34 ILB" big, slow, not great against the pass...huge hitter in the run game. The days of those guys being the common 34 ILBs are also getting over. Bruce Carter is a quick pass rusher, excels in pass coverage, and very underrated against the run. I can see a Sean Lee with more upside here in this pick. The one concern is his health, but football's a violent game. Things happen, players get hurt. It's a part of the sport. If he stays healthy, no more getting torched over the middle or getting gashed up the gut six or seven times a game.
3.) DeMarco Murray RB Oklahoma - Again, at first I was a bit skeptical...but quickly fell in love with the pick. Many people say that RB isn't a need, I couldn't disagree more. Barber is cooked, Choice is mediocre, and Felix is injury prone and streaky. Furthermore, even if Felix gets it together, it's still a two back league. Murray is an excellent blocker and great at catching balls out of the backfield. He had an extremely productive career at Oklahoma and he's a pretty safe bet at running back. I know the argument "there were other running backs in the later rounds that they could have taken." While some of this argument holds true, the only other one I really liked was Roy Helu, but not all rookie RBs are created equally. Some are great, some are crap, it's important for them to get a guy that they could be reasonably comfortable with and fairly sure that he will contribute at a very underrated position of need. The knock on him was that he was banged up at Oklahoma. Guess what, he was a feature back...those guys get hurt, it's part of the job. He has great measurables and great character. Very underrated pick.
4.) David Akrin OG Missouri State - This pick I'm less enthused with as the others, but that's not to say that this was a bad pick. He played quite a bit at Missouri State, he grades out as average across the board in terms of measurables, but possesses great character, plays hard, and started 44 games in college. He's a fourth round pick, so the bar is pretty low here. This team needs back up guards in a bad way. Koiser and Bigg may be on the way out, but I think if rotated and kept fresh that they could still maintain some degree of effectiveness. I think Akrin is a great candidate to be that guy.
5.) Josh Thomas CB Buffalo - Average size, 4.4 speed, fluid hips...small school guy. Perhaps if he went to a bigger school he'd be a second round pick. Everything I hear about this guy is that he's a hard worker and will do what needs to be done to make the team. Again, as I stated before the bar isn't very high at this point.
6.) Dwayne Harris WR East Carolina - I like this pick. Roy Williams won't be around forever and Sam Hurd will get too expensive some time soon. The team's going to need another third WR. This guy profiles as a solid slot receiver, that can be a Brandon Stokely-esque player. Typical slot/3rd WR on the roster. I know some people are barking that the WR wasn't a need, but it's the sixth round. They found a player that they liked and dropped. The passing game is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the game, so a good third WR seems to be somewhat of a necessity for competing teams. I'm okay with the pick.
7.) Shawn Chapas FB Georgia - Ahh the search for the lead blocking FB. I don't think FB is a very important position, but it's a seventh round pick. I would have rather taken an upside laden project type player, but Chapas seems like he can at least start in some capacity for the team.
7a.) Bill Nagy C Wisconsin - The interior line needs some help, Gurode won't be there forever. This guy may not make the team, but he was picked in the mid 200s. The bar's extremely low for these type of players. If he develops into a back up, consider this pick a success.
Overall, I'd say they found four players in the first four picks that will see significant playing time in the upcoming season, whenever it starts. That's a pretty good draft in my book. I would have liked them to take Huston, Ijalana, or maybe Brandon Harris in the second round...but Carter's starting to grow on me. Of course there's going to be people who dislike some of the picks, but this team had quite a bit of turnover in the past offseason. While Jason Garrett is still the offensive coordinator, the fact that he's now the head coach likely means that he'll have more control of the offense and the team's offensive philosophy. The offense will likely look a little bit different next season, and I think some of the picks will be a part of it. Same goes for the defense, Rob Ryan is quite the different DC than Wade Phillips was. It seems that Wade was the master at getting the least from his players and coming up with poor schemes against the opponents. Hopefully Rob's different, it's becoming clear that he's moving away from the James/Brooking type of ILB and perhaps re-scheming the LBs a bit. I think Carter can be huge in the second round. He also might like a few of the players that underperformed last season more than most people, and like some other players that Wade didn't work in more than Wade did. Overall, the War Room looked to be well run and it seemed like the team had a well thought out strategy that they executed during the draft. There's going to be some deadwood that will get cut at the end of the year. Barber, Brooking, and Colombo are all but gone. Bradie may be on the way out and hopefully Ball and Igor will be cut as soon as there's a CBA.
Another piece of the puzzle that's obscured is free agency. Huff and Asomugha are free agents and it's a possibility that their ties to Rob Ryan bring them to Big D. One or both of them will basically fix the secondary problems, there's other free agents available that could change the outlook on this year's draft class.