Football fans hunger for information that is never served. NFL teams, however, will never satisfy their fans' cravings by dishing out morsels of data.
In lieu of being locked out from Ruth's Chris Steak House, fans find themselves wolfing down a whopper and convincing themselves that the difference is negligible. While services such as Pro Football Focus, individuals like Mike Mayock, and sites akin to Blogging the Boys satisfy a hearty appetite, none of them can accurately address what is actually happening at Valley Ranch.
That is why it is so satisfying to actually scour the trash behind the Ranch and find a few morsels in the dumpster. Jerry threw away part of his steak during the 2013 NFL Draft, and those ravenous enough to digest it, should enjoy it.
And let us face it, after enduring the last 17 seasons, die hard Cowboys fans can boast a fair share of intestinal fortitude...
The first selection of the 2013 NFL Draft set the table for Cowboys fans. By passing on the 7th best player on their board (source: Mike Fischer and Bryan Broaddus) in Sharif Floyd and accepting lesser value on a trade down, Jerry and Stephen Jones admitted that this draft was about need.
Philosophical differences regarding drafting for need as opposed to selecting the best player available aside, the menu for the 2013 NFL draft involved addressing weaknesses that debilitated this team throughout 2012. Drafting Travis Frederick to satisfy the enormous hole in the middle of the offensive line confirmed that Jerry Jones was convinced that the biggest deficiency affecting the Dallas Cowboys in 2013 was up the gut.
Travis Frederick looks like a solid pick, which is in itself out of character for this team. Players such as Morris Claiborne (2012), Dez Bryant (2010), Felix Jones (2008), and Mike Jenkins (2008) are generally the main course for this team during the first round. All of those players are well off of the ball in the center of the field. Even Tyron Smith (2011) and Anthony Spencer (2007), on the offensive and defensive line respectively, are as far from the center as possible along the line.
Travis Frederick is right by the ball. With the exception of the game at Baltimore, anybody watching the 2012 Dallas Cowboys could see how that team sorely needed more talent on the interior of the offensive line. Obviously, the Cowboys felt that this was one of their greatest needs and quenched the pang with the best Center available in the draft.
How many of those reading remember the biggest Cowboys story line heading into the opener at New York last season?
Last season, the Cowboys offense sputtered early in the season when the distinguished Jason Witten was but a shell of his former self due to a severe injury. Despite starting, Witten had an uncharacteristically high number of drops the first four weeks of the season.
But Witten has never been a red zone threat. Jason caught his career high nine touchdown passes in 2010 en route to a 6-10 season. In fact, when Witten has caught more than two touchdown passes in a season, the Cowboys have never won a playoff game, and the team has only made the playoffs once (in 2007 Witten caught 7 TD's) when Jason accumulates three or more touchdown receptions.
Excluding his rookie season (one touchdown), Witten has averaged a little less than 5 touchdown receptions per season. Drafting a 6' 5 7/8" target with soft hands to play the second Tight End position should offer more options near the goal line.
The Cowboys only converted a little more than half of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns in 2012. The Dallas offense only scored touchdowns on roughly 57% of its goal to go opportunities last season.
Fredrick provides a strong anchor up the middle near the goal line, and Escobar provides another big target that should help Dallas convert field goals into touchdowns. The Cowboys, however, did not stop there, as Terrence Williams is another big target at the wide receiver position.
Following the departure of Laurent Robinson, the Cowboys passing offense struggled with the inconsistency of Kevin Ogletree in 2012. The development of Dez Bryant propelled Dallas through the stretch run of the season, as he gathered 50 receptions for 879 yards with 10 touchdowns over the final eight games.
Despite his emergence during the second half of the season, Dwayne Harris only caught 17 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Miles Austin performed marginally better, accumulating 25 receptions, gaining 306 yards and two touchdowns over that span. Kevin Ogletree added 8 catches for 92 yards and a sole touchdown over the final eight games.
The Cowboys need better production from their second and third wide receivers to experience success in 2013. Extrapolating the numbers (including Ogletree) through sixteen games, the second and third receivers would accumulate 100 catches for 1,240 yards and four touchdowns.
Those numbers make it easy for opposing defenses to focus on Dez Bryant, who accumulated 92 receptions for 1,382 yards with 12 touchdowns in 2012. While Terrence Williams will likely make a bigger contribution in 2014 and 2015, his presence should help Dez and Miles this season.
If Terrence can carry over his scoring production from Baylor, the Cowboys should score more. Williams scored 11 touchdowns in 2011 and 12 in 2012. Gavin Escobar scored six touchdowns last season with San Diego State, and seven during the 2011 season.
Perhaps the brain trust at Valley Ranch recognizes the need for more scoring targets for the team in the passing game. The addition of Frederick may address the paltry seven rushing touchdowns scored by Cowboys running backs in 2012. Considering that the running back behind Frederick at the University of Wisconsin, Montee Ball, broke the NCAA rushing touchdowns record, Travis could help Dallas mount a running threat near the goal line.
Dallas needed someone to hit the holes, however, so the Cowboys dished out a 5th round pick on Joseph Randle, who ran for 14 touchdowns in 2012. Joseph found the end zone 43 times in his college career. Randle was ranked towards the top of the team's running back board, and should be able to fill in when Murray misses time.
The draft also highlighted how the Cowboys felt about the secondary in 2012. After Sensabaugh was released in the off season, and Mike Jenkins was not invited back, Dallas celebrated as the team gobbled up JJ Wilcox in the third round. One round later, the Cowboys added another small school standout, BW Webb. Both players have value as return specialists.
Jerry noted that he felt the Dallas defensive line was a position of strength. That may explain passing on Sharif Floyd and trading down 13 places. After hearing Monte Kiffin announce that he needed more linebackers on 105.3 The Fan, Dallas selected DeVonte Holloman and had him speak with the special teams coach and Kiffin. Holloman projects to the strong side linebacker position, after playing safety at Florida State.
The 2012 season was spoiled when injuries ransacked the team. The Cowboys did not select one player with a significant injury history in this draft. In fact, over their last two seasons of playing college football, the draft picks have only missed two games due to injury. In 2012, nary a game was missed to injury by those draft picks (Holloman was suspended for DWI). As noted before, that in itself is out of character.
The Cowboys actions display that the team was not happy with its secondary play, the performance of the interior offensive line, the drop off in talent from the starting wide receivers, tight end, running back, and linebackers in 2012. Dallas also made a concerted effort to limit the number of players on its roster with a significant injury history.
It is but the first course for 2013, but it looks appetizing. Bon Appétit.