As some have noted, I have strongly disagreed with most of the actual draft of the Cowboys this year. I know most like to counter when someone says they disagree with a pick with "well, what would you have done instead?" I thought I'd offer a look at what my alternatives would have been for Jerry and co. I'm trying to be careful to only choose who Dallas actually chose or who was available after it, thus no altered history. My goal is to better match need and best pick available than Dallas did.
First let's look at the first round: Cooper and Warmack are off the board as guard options along with Fluker. All the DL with first round grades are gone except Floyd, who inexplicably falls all the way to 23. Since that fall makes me a little wary, and I don't think we need a FS so bad that I take Eric Reid here, I will accept the trade offer from San Francisco for picks 31 and 74, even if I don't truly accept it as even value. The Cowboys do using some chart or another, though, so whatever.
That leaves us at pick 31 in the first round. I could take Travis Frederick, but I don't think he is the best value for the pick. Instead I will take John Cyprien FS. nfl.com profile here I think he sounds more like a SS, though and his weakness is that he probably wouldn't be the single high safety, so I would put him in as the SS. He is a non-project and is actually rated much higher by nfl.com than Eric Reid, 90.6 to 82.5. In fact, nfl.com has him as the 13th best player in the draft overall and the best safety even over Vaccaro. I think we plug him in as a day 1 starter and let Church be the FS and Matt Johnson continues to get his feet under himself after a redshirt year. The Jaguars actually took him two picks later at the top of the 2nd. Other possibilities: Tank Carradine, Menelik Watson, or Kawann Short. I feel much better about our secondary at this stage, and am ready to tackle the next big project, OL.
That brings us to pick 47. I think Travis Frederick may have easily dropped this far, but I'll assume he didn't, and I would put him in the mix if he did. And a third TE? Yeah right. My pick would be Larry Warford OG here. nfl.com profile here I know he didn't go until the top of the third round, but that doesn't put me off him. I don't trust he would make it to our next pick at 74, so I go ahead and get my guy. He's rated very very highly on nfl.com who makes him the 17th overall talent with an 88.3 grade. He's a huge road grader but still has plenty of agility and gets downfield to block. I think he is an instant upgrade over Bernadeau at RG. Other thoughts here: Johnathan Hankins, Terron Armstead. We're still not done with our project, though.
At pick 74, I take Terron Armstead OT. nfl.com profile here I trust Free as far as I can throw him, and have little to no faith in Parnell being an effective replacement. I also don't think we should try to squeeze Winston or whoever under the cap as a free agent. Armstead's a terrific athlete and would easily upgrade RT. Nfl.com gives him a 84.0 grade which puts him in a tie for 44th best talent in the draft. He could even slide inside for Livings, if we have to and let him be a pulling guard or on screens. He's got quicks and is a good pass protector and can contribute as a run blocker. He slides to the third probably because he still needs to add lower body strength, so give him to Juraszek and chisel him out. He's still got to be better than Free, though. Other considerations here: Keenan Allen, Terrance Williams, Damontre Moore.
At pick 80, we look back and see we basically have 3 day one starters already. I can go with a more clear BPA approach, with an emphasis on the DL. So I take DaMontre Moore here. nfl.com profile here Technically the WRs I would look at here, Williams, Allen, and Wheaton are gone here, but I think if Dallas had not taken Williams at 74, that mini-run on WRs wouldn't likely have happened, and at least one of those would have been available. But let's say they aren't. Moore has an 87.4 grade and the 20th overall talent according to nfl.com. This is the guy to replace Spencer with. He will be an exceptional strongside DE once he finishes filling out and could go ahead and let Spencer go to free agency next year if we can't afford him. He can play both sides and with his hand down or up. He could potentially be Ware's replacement as well if we pick up another good DE in the near future. But in the short term, he makes Spencer expendable next offseason. Other considerations: Jesse Williams, Alex Okafor, Quinton Patton, Brandon Jenkins.
That gives us 4 players with no less than an 84 grade, and no less than the 44th best talent in the draft. According to nfl.com, of course. We've taken in starters at SS, RG, and probably RT. We have a near future starter at DE that can seriously rush the passer in Cyprien, Warford, Armstead, and Moore.
Now we come to day three. I would suggest that in my alternative draft, positions still needed are WR, RB, DT, blocking TE, CB, in basically that order. The best available, though is Jesse Williams DT with an 85.5 grade. If he's not available, I go down the list of Quinton Patton WR, Joseph Randle RB, Andre Ellington RB, Marcus Lattimore RB, Da'Rick Rogers WR, B.W. Webb CB, Tony Jefferson FS, Stepfan Taylor RB, Gerald Hodges OLB, Johnathan Franklin RB, Josh Boyce WR, Philip Lutzenkirchen TE, Everett Dawkins DT, Brian Schwenke C, Ray Graham RB, DeVonte Holloman OLB, then it gets to slim pickens like Kenjon Barner RB and Michael Williams TE.
I would hope to come out of that with Quinton Patton, Joseph Randle, and Philip Lutzenkirchen, all if available, of course.
My issue with Dallas isn't sticking to its draft board, its that I don't believe the draft board was correct to begin with. I also don't believe in leaving a crying need pick on the board when it's available and at least a decent value for the pick. Dallas is not close enough to the Super Bowl to simply go pure BPA and just upgrade already decent to good positions.
People may not agree with my picks and that's fine, but I also can't agree with what Dallas actually did. Travis Frederick is a decent pick if a bit early, but I won't hate on it except as a value which is pretty poor for the pick. OL definitely needs an upgrade. Gavin Escobar is a total WTF pick for me. I cannot justify spending a 2nd round pick on a third TE when so many other needs with at least decent value for the pick are available. The third round was better but still not great. We did get a good WR in Terrance Williams but still turned down other value-need picks that would have benefited the team much sooner and more impactfully IMO. The J. J. Wilcox FS pick wasn't bad but I prefer a safety that isn't yet another project. Also we still passed on better need-value picks.
Now on day 3, we still need a RB, we only have one upgrade on the OL, we have NO new DL, and all the crying needs are basically still there unmet. I don't believe we can protect Tony Romo well enough to justify this draft, and I believe safety has been a hole since Darren Woodson left and Roy Williams had the horse-collar rule put in place. Also the DL badly needs some youth and rotational players, especially at DE where Spencer isn't likely here much longer. We're not likely going to get anymore upgrades on the OL, the DL will get a project player at best, and safety gets patched over again waiting for one of our prospects to pan out in the future. We will likely get a RB, but I really don't know what else the team is looking at after that.
I'll give people a chance to do a quick review of my draft as well, with a poll.