Everyone agrees it takes 3 years to fully grade a draft class. But that hasn't stopped us from judging before, I even issued snap-judgments on the 2011 draft without seeing them even in an NFL jersey.
With 1 out of 3 seasons down, these players are now 1/3rd of the way to reaching final judgment. In school you often have your first test at about 1/3rd of the way through the semester. So let's evaluate these players like we would if they were at that stage of a school year. Most times students that get an 'A' in that first test go on to have similar grades the rest of the way. Other times students with good grades coast the rest of the year and end up with a negative grade. Still other kids need a wake-up after the first test comes back with a low grade and work hard to become good students by the end of the term.
In that spirit I offer my grades on the 2011 draft class after their first season in the NFL.
Post-Draft Grade: A
2011 Grade: A+
Description: What hasn't been said about Tyron Smith already? The guy combined freakish genetics for the position with an amazingly quick ability to pick up the technical skills required of being a tackle. He's a guy who is so talented the sky is the limit and the work ethic to reach for the stars. The NFC East now has the best collection of pass rushers of any division in the NFL with Orakpo, Trent Cole, and a little guy named Jason Pierre-Paul. Tyron Smith is on a trajectory to be the Great Wall that holds back the barbarian hordes from Cowboys quarterbacks for the next decade. A+ draft pick by the war room.
The PTA Meeting: Tyron is an excellent student. It's clear he's quicker than the rest of his class and studies hard. The teachers think we need to give him more of a challenge so we'd like to invite him to attend Left Tackle High's Gifted and Talented program next year.
Post Draft Grade: C-
2011 Grade: D
Description: Bruce Carter was an absolute failure in 2011. An athletic linebacker with questionable heart and instincts he was already a risky pick heading into the NFL draft. Then the risk-meter got turned up to 11 when the speed linebacker shredded his ACL. He fell down most teams' draft boards everywhere except in Dallas. The Cowboys have talked about how their medical staff is so good they're able to out-smart everyone and know when an ACL tear is going to heal fast. The only people Valley Ranch out-smarteted was themselves as Bruce Carter was unable to put a helmet on until half-way through the season. When he did he was unable to beat out a geriatric Keith Brooking whose side-line-to-sideline speed has turned into center-to-guard speed. Rob Ryan even prefered an undrafted safety playing at his inside linebacker spot to the supposed 1st-round-quality Bruce Carter. With players like Stefen Wisnewski (C), Ben Ijalana (G), Brooks Reed (OLB), and Da'Quan Bowers (DE) still on the board, the Bruce Carter selection still baffles observers. The pick even baffles the man who made it, Jerry himself, when Jerry said in an interview to NFL network that calling Bruce Carter a starter would be "presumptuous."
The PTA Meeting: How do I break the news to you, Brucey is a little... slow. He doesn't play with the other kids and believes 1 + 1 = cat. The principal recommends giving him a "special education" next school year.
Post Draft Grade: F
2011 Grade: B+
Description: Entering the draft DeMarco Murray was thought of as a small, fast scat-back that could only run to the edges. At Oklahoma fans derided his between-the-tackles play as "running into the butts of his O-linemen." But that speed combined with good hands and route-running made draftnicks think he would be an effective 3rd down back in the NFL. Such a pigeon-hole couldn't have been more wrong. DeMarco Murray blew open the doors of the Cowboys offense with a violent between-the-tackles running style in 2011. His highlight reel is full of runs where he gained yards after multiple contacts. He displayed a vision he did not in college by finding holes right as they appeared. More impressive was his accomplishing these feats behind one of the weaker O-lines. At the end oft he season he ranked second amongst all running backs drafted int he last 2 years in rushing yards. This amazing breakout performance was tempered by a warning label he carried on draft day, "fragile". Murray fractured his right ankle in December and was placed no IR. It remains to be seen if his amazing yardage total was due to facing bad defenses and if he can remain healthy, but the skills he displayed leave no doubt he has the ability to be a starter in the NFL.
PTA Meeting: Little DeMarco has been a bright light to the classroom. When we gave him the chance to take the lead role in the school play he took everyone's breath away. The only problem is the little issue of absenteeism. If we can see him in class every day next year he's got a bright future.
Post Draft Grade: B+
2011 Grade: F
Description: Given the chance to start in training camp he was quickly beaten out by a 7th round supplemental pick. During the season he was inactive for every game. The Cowboys signed Daniel "Who?" Loeper and even made him active before giving Arkin an outside chance to see the field. The company line that "he's a small school guy so of course he can't start until he has a 'full off-season'" contradicts the fact that the Cowboys inserted Arkin into the starting line-up in training camp. Something is fishy in Denmark and it's Arkin that smells.
PTA Meeting: I'm not Davey's teacher anymore, you're going to need to go across the hall to the remedial education center.
Post Draft Grade: A-
2011 Grade: B-
Description: Josh Thomas flashed some skills in training camp. The Cowboys tried to sneak him onto the practice roster because they have a stupid GM. Turns out those other 31 teams in the NFL like to add talent when they can and the Panthers quickly signed him. The reason Cowboys fans have to watch Stephen McGee throw incompletions is because Jerry tried the same trick with Matt Moore. So when you have to see Alan Ball next year, remember how Jerry let Josh Thomas slip away.
PTA Meeting: Family moved to South Carolina
Post Draft Grade: B
Description: You throw things against the wall and see if they stick in the 6th round. Harris looked like he might have some slot receiver skills. He looked slow during kick return duty and never saw the field as a WR. You try things in the 6th round, sometimes they work, 90% of the time they don't.
PTA Meeting: Dwayne is an average student. If you tell him he can be anything, an Astronaut, a President, you're lying to him. Let's just try to get him a GED and a stable job, shall we?
Post Draft Grade: A
2011 Grade: F
Description: And now we come to the Chap-ass. Remember Henry Hynoski blowing Sean Lee out of the hole for Ahmad Bradshaw this year? Yeah, Jerry passed over that guy to draft this Chap-ass. So when we watch Hynoski steamroll Cowboys linebackers for the next 10 years and Sean Chapas is managing a Taco Bell we can all reminisce about this pick
PTA Meeting: Teacher just stares at the parents in anger
Post Draft Grade: B
2011 Grade: B+
Description: Nagy was bad in 2011 as a guard. So why give him a B+? He showed some skills to get inserted into the starting lineup even if he was over-matched physically. I hate to use the cliche'd "give him a full off-season" but when you are talking about a guy that missed most of 2010 due to injury and the 2011 off-season there is reason to believe he may not be as strong as he would be had he been in the weight room for 2 years instead of his couch. I strongly doubt he will ever become a starter, he got tossed around too much in the regular season for that. But he clearly has some skills and a competitive mindset. An offseason of physical fitness and work with the new positional coach and I believe Bill Nagy could he a solid backup in the NFL. Combine that with his versatility to play either guard or center and you have a guy that could be a quite valuable piece of the team. Fans tend to ignore backups but injuries happen and you need someone on the team that can step in and let the machine move forward. Nagy is on track to be that utility player on the Dallas O-line and that's a great deal for the 3rd to last pick in the NFL draft.
PTA Meeting: Billy gets made fun of for being a big-boned kid by his classmates but that doesn't get him down. He works real hard at his studies and turns in good test grades. Billy just needs to keep working real hard and he can be a good kid.