Cowboys Receive Positive Early Draft Grades From NFL Analysts

Grading a draft a mere hours after the last pick is submitted is generally frowned on by the more hardcore football fan who knows that drafts can't really be graded until three to four years after the fact. But like gawkers at the site of an accident, many people also find it hard not to look once such a grade is published.

If the review is good, you cling to it and hope that it will carry over onto the field when the season starts. If it is bad, you can simply shrug it off and say it doesn't matter anyway and post-draft grades are for the weak-of-mind.

Regardless, what the grades do is - to some extent - capture the general feeling about a draft immediately after it is over. If you were looking for recognizable names in the Cowboys draft, you were likely disappointed, but going by name recognition alone may not be the most prudent draft strategy.

The table below summarizes the initial grades that have been published so far by some NFL Analysts:

Sporting News NFL.com CBSSports FoxSports Rotoworld ESPN
Cowboys A+ A B+ B+ B C+
Eagles A
B- B B B+ A
Giants B+ B B+ B A C+
Redskins B B B- A- A- C+

After the break, read what the analysts had to say.

Vinny Iyer from the Sporting News writes that the Cowboys are an immediate winner:

What a coup: a shutdown corner, an ideal 3-4 end, an intriguing edge pass rusher and a potential starting safety. Rob Ryan can now get aggressive without getting burned.

Michael Lombardi said the Cowboys had the best draft in the division during the NFL Network's draft coverage:

I thought the Cowboys had the best draft [in the division]. I thought they really did a nice job getting the corner that they needed in Claiborne, and then adding the defensive lineman in the third round, Crawford. I think he’s a really good football player.

Remember, the Cowboys are just a missed field goal and a couple of situations away from keeping the Giants out of it.

Pete Prisco thinks the Cowboys had a pretty good draft overall:

Trading up to land corner Morris Claiborne was a great move for the Cowboys. They landed the best cover player in the draft with a sharp move up to get him.

It's hard to argue with moving up to get Claiborne, who gives the Cowboys their best cover player in years. They did give up a second-round pick to do it, but it made sense. I like third-round end Tyrone Crawford as well. Fourth-round pick Kyle Wilber has some pass-rush ability and could end up as a special-teams player.

Not much to quibble with here, other than not addressing the depth issues on the offensive line with any of their picks.

John Czarnecki of Foxsports liked the defense-focused draft:

This team blew five fourth-quarter leads last season as Rob Ryan's defense faltered time and again. So owner Jerry Jones made the bold move to trade up with the Rams in order to take LSU's Morris Claiborne, the draft's most complete cornerback. This was a bold move, and Claiborne has no character flaws.

They waited until the third round for their next pick. Ryan has to love the addition of Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford. ... Wake Forest outside linebacker Kyle Wilber also has pass-rush potential and, at worse, is a special-teams star. ... Eastern Washington's Matt Johnson will be given every chance to become a starting safety. The late-round find could be Oklahoma tight end James Hanna, who has a quick first step and possibly give Jason Witten a rest, since Witten isn't getting any younger.

Evan Silva from Rotoworld thinks the Cowboys had a solid draft:

Dallas' front office is unwilling to meet injury-prone, contract-year CB Mike Jenkins' financial demands, so it went to work on Thursday night. The Cowboys shipped off picks 14 and 45 to secure Claiborne, who will cover X receivers and perhaps even stalk opposing No. 1s in the Darrelle Revis "shadow" role. Dallas was otherwise quiet on the trade front, but picked up an athletic pass rusher in Wilber to go with one of this draft's more underrated defensive-line pocket pushers in Crawford. Coale was a fifth-round value and will compete right away in the slot, while Hanna is a height-weight-speed guy. McSurdy and Johnson were dominant small schoolers. The Cowboys came away with one surefire blue chip talent, and as many as four or five more 2012 role players. Even after giving up the second-rounder, this has the look of a solid draft.

Mel Kiper is less complimentary (In$ider) about the Cowboys picks. Kiper gives the Cowboys an overall grade of "C+" for their 2012 draft. Kiper hands out a 'needs grade' and a 'value grade,' then combines them for the final grade. The Cowboys get a B for filling needs, and a C for value.

Dallas created one of the first dramas of the draft, moving up to No. 6 in a deal with St. Louis. The big question was whether they would take Mark Barron or Morris Claiborne. They went with Claiborne, and suddenly you look at their corners as a strength, adding the LSU star to a team that already has Brandon Carr. Problem is, Carr wasn't a draft pick and Dallas didn't get much after that.

Tyrone Crawford is a decent player. He was my No. 8-ranked defensive end, but my first guess would be that he'll stand up. He profiles more as a depth pick as he adjusts. Kyle Wilber could stick. Really thought Dallas would get a player along the offensive line and improve the run game. I also don't see any immediate help for the pass rush. But the Cowboys can feel pretty good about landing Claiborne.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland thinks that slapping a grade on an NFL draft the day after it happens is dumb, especially after the first round, so he lists five teams whose stock are up and five whose stock are down.The Cowboys stock is up, the Giants stock is down, the Eagles and Redskins are presumably somewhere in the middle:

You have to give it to Jerry Jones and the Cowboys; when Dallas has a weakness, they are certainly willing to invest serious resources to fix it. After inconsistent performances from the likes of Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman over the past three years, the Cowboys went and blew up their starting cornerback tandem this offseason. They released Newman, signed Chiefs corner Brandon Carr to a $50.1 million contract, and used a second-round pick as bait to trade up and grab Claiborne with the sixth pick on Thursday.

Dallas said afterward that they hadn't placed a similarly high grade on a cornerback since Deion Sanders, and they were apparently so afraid that other teams would share their interest in the LSU cornerback that they avoided any sort of public or private contact with him before draft day. This seems bizarre to think about in the real world — if you found a house you liked online and wanted to buy it, would you never visit it or talk to the owner before you submitted a bid to the realtor? — but it might have worked for the Cowboys.

Now, Dallas should be able to step up and hold their coverage against the likes of the Eagles and Giants, each of whom have multiple above-average receivers to contend with. The question now is what to do with Jenkins. With one year left on his deal and Orlando Scandrick handsomely compensated to play the nickel, the Cowboys seem likely to move Jenkins along to a cornerback-needy team. Such a move could help them recoup the second-round pick they gave up as part of the Claiborne deal.

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