BTB Mailbag: Could The Cowboys Have Drafted Better in 2011?

Chris Trotman

Looking at past drafts with the benefit of hindsight is always a tricky business. But we'll do it anyway.

Question: "As we ponder what we should do next, we can't help looking back and wondering what we should've done in recent years. I know that helps no one, but I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the last couple of drafts and toy around with some different scenarios."

We attempted to answer the above question by BTB-member DannyPhantom in a look at the 2010 draft class. Now we move on to the 2011 draft class, but instead of constructing some hypothetical scenarios I made up, we are going to look at four hypothetical scenarios others made up: four mock drafts published just before the draft.

Two days prior to the 2011 draft, we had a post here on BTB in which we looked at four different seven-round mocks and voted on the most popular one. For the purpose of this post, let's assume that the four mocks in that post are the closest representation we can have two years after the fact of what Cowboys fans fans wanted. So today, we look back at those four mocks and, just as we did in the post on the 2010 draft class, we'll use Career Approximate Value (CarAV) to evaluate the different mocks. To establish a baseline against which to evaluate the mocks, here's the actual 2011 draft class and its CarAV:

Round Name POS Team Drafted CarAV
1 Tyron Smith
OT
DAL
9
16
2 Bruce Carter
LB
DAL
40
6
3
DeMarco Murray
RB
DAL
71
13
4 David Arkin
OL
DAL
110 0
5 Josh Thomas
CB
DAL
143
4
6 Dwayne Harris
WR
DAL
176
3
7 Shaun Chapas FB
DAL
220
0
7 Bill Nagy
OL
DAL
252
2
Total 44

If you'll remember, the 2010 has a 45 CarAV points after three years (to which I generously added 7 extra points for Montrae Holland, who was traded for a fifth-round pick), while the 2011 draft class already has 44 CarAV points after only two years. So despite Dez Bryant and Sean Lee headlining the 2010 class, the 2011 class has the 2010 class beat. And a big reason for that is that the Cowboys hung on to their third round pick and didn't trade away any other picks either.

Now on to our mock drafts. We had four mocks in total, with Drafttek, Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com, Walter Football and TheFootballExpert.com doing the honors. All four mocks, including their popularity as voted on by BTB readers, are featured in the table below:

Drafttek.com: 37% approval (166 of 441 votes)
Round Name POS Team Drafted CarAV
1 J.J. Watt
DE
HOU
11
30
2 Marcus Gilbert
OT
PIT 63 8
3
John Moffit
OG
SEA
75
6
4 Chykie Brown
CB BAL 164 1
5 Henry Hynoski
FB
NYG
UDFA
5
6 Bill Powell
RB
NYJ 126 3
7 Blaine Sumner
DT
- - - - - -
7 Mike Mohamed
LB
DEN 189 0
Total 53
Nick Eatman: 28% approval (125 of 441 votes)
Round Name POS Team Drafted CarAV
1 Tyron Smith
OT
DAL 9
16
2 Christian Ballard
DE MIN 106 3
3
Curtis Brown
CB PIT 95 2
4 John Moffit OG SEA 75 6
5 Ricardo Lockette
WR SEA UDFA 1
6 Mike Mohamed LB DEN 189 0
7 Mario Fannin RB DEN UDFA 0
7 Colin Baxter CB NYJ UDFA 1
Total 29
Walter Football: 24% approval (108 of 441 votes)
Round Name POS Team Drafted CarAV
1 J.J. Watt
DE
HOU
11
30
2 Marcus Cannon
OG
NE 138 2
3
Johnny Patrick
CB
NO 88 2
4 Quinton Carter
CB DEN 108 1
5 Joseph Barksdale
OT
OAK 92 1
6 Jeremy Kerley
WR
NYJ 153 10
7 Bilal Powell
RB
NYJ 126 3
7 Thomas Keiser
DE CAR UDFA 1
Total 49
Football Expert: 9% approval (42 of 441 votes)
Round Name POS Team Drafted CarAV
1 Tyron Smith
OT
DAL 9
16
2 Christian Ballard
DE MIN 106 3
3
Jarvis Jenkins
DE WAS 41 5
4 Nate Irving LB DEN 67 2
5 Ian Williams
DT SF UDFA 0
6 Da'Norris Searcey S BUF 100 3
7 Noel Divine RB PHI UDFA - -
7 Steven Friday
LB HOU UDFA - -
Total 29

What all four mocks have in common is that there really isn't much happening in these mocks outside of the first pick. This is quite remarkable, because the picks in rounds 2-7 in the mocks above contain some of the "hot" names circulating among Cowboys fans in the months prior to the draft in 2011. In contrast to that, the players the Cowboys picked in rounds 2-7 were either largely unknown or were met with mixed reactions at best.

Yet the 28 CarAV points of rounds 2-7 of the actual Cowboys draft beats all four mocks: Drafttek has 23 points, Walter Football has 19, Eatman and Football Expert both have 13. So the Cowboys actually look quite good in this comparison. Of course, six points come from players who are not with the Cowboys anymore, so there's always that.

This leaves the first pick of the 2011 draft. As I wrote in the post on the 2010 draft class, I am not a big fan of revisionist grandstanding that often pops up when you engage in a look at past drafts like this. But the fact is that 13 players from the 2011 draft class have a higher CarAV than Tyron Smith, and only six of those were picked ahead of the ninth spot in the draft. The Cowboys could have picked J.J. Watt, whose 30 CarAV points are third in this draft class after Cam Newton and Patrick Peterson (both with 33). But they didn't.

Just as they didn't pick CB Richard Sherman. In fact, like most other teams, the Cowboys passed five times on Sherman, who eventually got picked up by the Seahawks with the 154th pick in the fifth round, and now boasts the fifth highest CarAV of 24 points in this draft class. The point here is that every draft class has its Tom Brady, a future star who gets picked late. You can't beat yourself up forever for not taking that one player that day, even though you had the chance.

The Cowboys had a need and saw a player they valued highly who fit that need. They ended up getting probably the best offensive lineman in the draft; a player who'll likely end up playing for the Cowboys for a long, long time. All in all, that's a pretty good place to be in. Although J.J. Watt would have been nice as well.

Overall though, the future looks bright for this draft class. Smith will continue to grow into a premier lineman. Bruce Carter has only just started to show what he can do, while Murray is already on his way towards being a bona fide star. Dwayne Harris just started to come into his own at the end of last season, and maybe there's even hope for David Arkin.

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