They say hindsight is 20/20. But they never say anything about foresight. What a bunch of wussies "they" are.
Fear not, fellow Cowboys faithful, because I am back with another post-draft re-do. A tell-all about how I would have played the cards given how the draft ACTUALLY went. You'll notice that all of the players I pick here were available at the slots that I picked them in so there's no goofyness about potential trades that were unlikely. I also didn't include potential signees in Free Agency or undrafted Free agents because the draft needs to be viewed on its own merits.
So, first things first, I want to be clear that I subscribe to the philosophy that when you have a glaring (and I do mean glaring) weakness in the trenches, you have to make a forceful and concerted effort to improve in that area, even if it means reaching a bit. I believe that you cannot survive with sub-par O-line play no matter how good your skill players are. The same is true for the D-line and the guys behind them. Winning all starts up front in my book. It's anything but glamorous, but the outcomes of building out from the lines are usually positive.
Now, about this whole "right kind of guy" stuff? Pffffft. I'm not going to pick a guy like Kenrick Ellis who approaches drug tests like Ricky Williams, or the next Rae Carruth, if I can avoid it, but let's be honest, some of the guys who were centerpieces in the Dallas dynasty were guys who probably would not qualify as the "right kind of guy" with the current regime. We'll leave that for a future rant. First and foremost, I only look at guys who can help us win. Once I have that short list, I look to see if they're a dumpster fire off of the field (a la Pacman Jones) or in the locker room (as in the case of T.O.). If they pass those two litmus tests, the next thing I look at is the "Jimmy test" aka DID THEY SHOW THEY COULD DO IT IN COLLEGE? If so, they then get rated according to their physical ability, intelligence and aggressiveness (most of you know how I feel about this part of the player's DNA). That's how you make it onto the 5Blings board (yeah, and screw you, Cisky...watch and learn!).
As it pertains to this iteration of the Dallas Cowboys, our Achilles heel, going back to 2007 and our epic playoff fail against the Giants and seemingly ever since, has been our offensive line. It lacks nastiness, smarts and cohesiveness. Call me crazy, but in my world, Dallas has to fix that problem once and for all.
In round 1, I would not have hesitated to trade down and acquire Jacksonville's 2nd round pick as I see some interior linemen likely to be there when #49 comes up. Pick #9 for #16 and #49. Done deal.
With pick #16, I take the draft's most NFL-ready offensive lineman in OT Anthony Castonzo. Castonzo is smart, tough, and while more athletically limited than Tyron Smith, he has tremendous experience stoning some of the best pass rushers in the FBS, good feet and enough length to man the blind side and allow Doug Free to flip back to Right Tackle, where he played admirably in 2009. ‘Nuff said.
With pick #40, I'd have no choice but to take FS Rahim Moore to come in and hold down one of the safety spots. The plan would be to sign a veteran to man the other spot or, if nothing good materialized there (people often forget that you're no more likely to land the player you want in Free agency than you are in the draft) and Rob Ryan was comfortable with it, let AOA play the other spot. While Moore is no Troy Polamalu, he's a huge upgrade over anything Dallas has on the roster. When BTB'ers like to say that it was a poor safety class, let's not forget that there was probably no safety in the entire NFL that was worse than Alan Ball last year and Sensabaugh may have been a close 2nd.
Using my freshly acquired pick #49 from Jacksonville, the O-line transformation continues and I take OL Ben Ijalana. This guy, while playing OT at Villanova, was a horse and showed outstanding technique after having kicked inside at the Senior Bowl. Big and strong with good feet and 36-inch arms, Ijalana is the Anti-Kosier and reminds me of Ben Grubbs in how he plays. Sold!
At #71, the bounty that is OL William Rackley is sitting there for me to take. Is it really possible that I could come out of this draft with a starting OT and two potential starting OG's? Indeed. Rackley is another guy who has experience playing on the edge, dominating small school competition while at Lehigh, but should make a smooth transition to Guard and be a fixture there for some time.
At #110, I can't pass up WR Edmund Gates from Abilene Christian. This guy wanted to play hoops and just wasn't good enough. He went out for football and, in his first practice, ran like Wally West (one of my favorites) and proceeded to catch everything in sight. He looks like a cross between Mike Wallace and Eddie Royal. Dallas has enough of these 6'3" 215-pound WR's and has needed a smaller, shiftier edge receiver who can force opposing safeties to backpedal and can run them out of the play. He's my guy.
At #143, I look at SS Ahmad Black and while I doubt he'll be the next Bob Sanders, I think he could be a terror on specials and, after all, this is the 5th round. Alan Ball is a cornerback and trying to force him to play safety is just unfair. Black is a heady player and, despite his size, can contribute in dime packages early. Who knows? Maybe he is a Sanders clone. Either way, Moore, Black and AOA are a decent young trio that Rob Ryan can work with.
At #176, I like David Carter as a developmental 5-technique. He has not been coached well but he's stout at the point of attack and has some nice movement for a guy his size. He won't make people forget Cam Jordan, but he will certainly make people forget Marcus Spears...not that it will be that hard to accomplish.
At #220 and # 252, I'm fine with both Chapas and Nagy. The likelihood of getting gems here is never high, but both of these guys are distinct possibilities. I don't know if Garrett likes Gronk or not, but I do. I think Nagy has a much better pedigree than guys like Phil Costa and he's going to look like Stephen Hawking compared to Andre Gurode.
In the end, we get
OT - Anthony Castonzo
FS - Rahim Moore
OG - Ben Ijalana
OG - Will Rackley
WR - Edmund Gates
SS - Ahmad Black
DE - David Carter
FB - Shaun Chapas
OL - Bill Nagy
Now, did we fill every need? No.
Did we completely overhaul the O-line? Hardly.
Did we get 9 potential starters? Not likely.
Did we come up with players who have a higher likelihood to provide an upgrade at key positions of weakness on the O-line? I think so.
And there you have it. We won't know how good or bad these predictions might be for a few years, but here's your chance to step into the wayback machine and change 2011's draft into one that makes you...happy.
Have fun. And GO COWBOYS!!!