Cowboys 2013 Rookie Class Analysis and Projections
The Cowboys 2013 draft did not start off ideally, as top targets Jonathan Cooper, Chance Warmack, Sheldon Richardson, D.J. Fluker and Kenny Vaccaro were off the board well before Dallas was on the clock. Instead, Dallas chose to trade down, which seemed like an ideal choice at the time. But then, the other three rational picks- Sylvester Williams, Eric Reid, and Sharrif Floyd- were swooped up as well, leaving Dallas with very little to choose from. They went with Travis Frederick. Almost every fan across the nation, myself included, groaned and didn’t hate anyone more at the time than Jerry Jones. Initially, I was stunned and extremely distraught by the pick. But I gradually accepted it and have grown to not mind it. In fact, I think Dallas had a fairly successful draft. They may not have gotten a top flight safety, or an intimidating DT, or even a superstar offensive lineman, but they got good players that can contribute. I really believe Dallas drafted for the future, and we will attach ourselves to these players in the coming seasons as they develop into stars. And here is my analysis and projection on every pick:
Travis Frederick, Wisconsin, C (Round 1, 31 overall)
The Cowboys didn’t by any measure hit a homerun on their first pick, but don’t count Frederick as a bust.While he isn’t the same as Jonathan Cooper, he is still a good offensive lineman and is a huge upgrade for Dallas on the interior of that offensive line. He should provide a massive boost for both Tony Romo and Murray, giving Romo an extra second in the pocket and allowing Murray a clearer hole. Assuming Dallas is also able to sign a free agent RT (Winston, Clabo), Dallas could have a fairly decent looking offensive line, with Smith, Frederick and Winston/Clabo leading the way and Phil Costa and Nate Livings the guys in between.
2013 Outlook: I believe Frederick will have a nice rookie campaign. Interior lineman is not as tough of a transition from collegiate to pros, so Frederick should provide the upgrade Dallas is hoping for. If Frederick is as good as he is projected to be, expect the Dallas offense to run much more smoothly, giving Murray holes to keep the offense balanced, while giving Romo improved protection. Frederick wasn’t the incredible guard Dallas was hoping for, but he is a good player who is an upgrade over any interior offensive lineman Dallas already has.
Stat Projections: None
Gavin Escobar, San Diego St., TE (Round 2, 47 overall)
The Cowboys second round pick was a pretty questionable one. Personally, I would have preferred Dallas double dipping on the offensive lineman and snagging Larry Warford, who was still on the board at the time. But Escobar is a great player who has a bright future and brings a lot to Dallas. The Cowboys were undoubtedly thinking about the future with this pick. Witten will likely retire after 4 seasons, and even in those seasons, his production will slowly decline. Escobar is a star potential tight end who can make grabs like Jimmy Graham. He will be the no. 2 TE in his rookie season, but expect him to be a big time redzone threat in the future. He will make James Hanna become a stud backup TE, and be a good insurance policy should anything happen to the deteriorating Jason Witten. After Witten, Escobar and Hanna will make one of the best Tight End combos in the league.
2013 Outlook: Escobar will be a No. 2 tight end in 2013, but should be a big factor in redzone situations. He has the best ball skills of any tight end of the 2013 draft class, and with his height and hands, can outplay most defenders for on jumpballs. That alone makes Escobar a pretty good pick, and I like what we can expect from him in 2013.
Stat Projections: 20 rec, 250 yards, 3 TD
Terrance Williams, Baylor, WR (Round 3, 74 overall)
I really liked this pick for Dallas, because while it seems Dallas is set at wide receiver, Williams will still be a contributor as people will see as the season goes along. I like Williams chance to beat Dwayne Harris for the majority of the slot snaps, forming a nice duo that will always be fresh and feature different talents. He also provides great depth, and will be a good starter when asked. It is no secret that Miles Austin or Dez Bryant are likely to miss time, and putting Dwayne Harris on the outside against tall corners is not the best idea, considering he is only 70 inches tall. On the other hand, Williams has great size. He is versatile enough to be a great slot, and will have no problem filling in for an injury. I see him as a starter in the future, and with his speed, hands, and size, he should be a valuable playmaker and regular contributor for Dallas.
2013 Outlook: I expect Williams to have one of the better rookie seasons for Dallas. I think he is the best option for Dallas in the slot, and will split snaps with Harris, in a 60/40 ratio, giving him plenty of chances to use that deep play ability and show Dallas why investing a third round pick in him was a good idea. I also expect to see him line up on the outside plenty, spelling Austin and Dez to keep them fresh, and moving Austin into the slot on 3 receiver sets. I love this pick, because with a Bryant/Williams/Escobar look in the redzone, Dallas will have threats all over the field.
Stat Projections: 30 rec, 400 yards, 4 TD (2 Starts: 8 rec,105 yards, TD)
J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern, S (Round 3, 80 overall)
I had been waiting all day for Dallas to take a safety, and when this selection finally came in, I was very, very happy. Wilcox is a great athlete who put up nice numbers at safety, despite basically no experience there. After playing as a flex his first three years, he switched to defense and thrived. This shows that not only is he already a capable safety and has the highest ceiling of all safeties that were available. While he may not be Troy Polamalu from his first day out at work, he will develop into a stud and Dallas will love this pick for years.
2013 Outlook: Wilcox will be in a training camp battle with Matt Johnson for the starting safety spot next to Barry Church, with Will Allen and B.W Webb providing some competition and and outside chance and winning it themselves. Expect Wilcox to win this battle. Not only is he more durable than Johnson, but I think he needs to see the field so that he can maximize on his development. He may look exposed on some plays at first, but with his athleticism, he is the best fit to play centerfielder. He also has good hands, evidenced by his use as a receiver in his first years of collegiate football. With Wilcox as the starter, Dallas should have a nice young tandem, with Church manning the other side.
Stat Projections: 65 tackles, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Fumble Recovery, 14 passes defended, 3 INT
B.W. Webb, William and Mary, CB (Round 4, 114 overall)
Webb was a very smart pickup by Dallas, who provides depth, return ability, and will likely challenge and take Orlando Scandrick’s spot as the primary nickelback. While he needs to get polished on his man coverage, Webb was a steal of a CB who is excellent in zone coverage. Dallas will employ a lot of zone schemes under Kiffin, and Webb is a golden fit. He is a tenacious playmaker with an aggressive on field attitude. In the slot, he will provide much better playmaking skills than Scandrick, and is a better tackler and run defender. I also like this pick because of his ability to start if Claiborne gets injured. He is good enough to start, and in the zone, he is an instinctive player who can contain receivers and make the necessary tackle. He also provides a kick in the return game.
2013 Outlook: Webb should be given chances to recieve significant snaps, whether it be as the slot corner, or playing as a safety. Wilcox and Webb would make a great rotation, and if Webb shows the range and speed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a week 1 starter at FS. However, I don’t predict him to beat Wilcox for that spot. With his quickness though, he will be given snaps at CB. I see him making quite an impact as a rookie, being the primary slot, which is used to often now that it may as well be considered a hybrid starter. Webb should make the most of his opportunities, being a reliable tackler and helping Dallas in their turnover woes.
Stat Projection: 30 tackles, 5 passes defended, 1 sack, 2 INT
Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St, HB (Round 5, 151 overall)
In terms of need, player talent, and draft position value, this is probably the best pick Dallas made in the entire draft. Dallas was in need of RB and got a great steal of a prospect.I absolutely love Joseph Randle. I mocked him to the Cowboys a couple times, and was very pleased with pick. He has quickness, speed (don’t be fooled by his poor 40), elusiveness, and great hands. He is just like Murray: he is a good cutter and has excellent field vision. He will be great being the 1-2 punch behind Murray, and should provide talent to still compete if asked to start, which he likely will be. And despite his upright running style, he is surprisingly durable. All in all, I expect him to be a tremendous return value and an important RB for Dallas for many seasons to come.
2013 Outlook: Randle should get plenty of attention on offense in his rookie year. I expect him to take a high amount of carries for Dallas, allowing Murray to rest, and he will more than likely start 2 or 3 games as well. I trust Randle to start, and see a playmaker in him who will make the most of his chances. Should be a contributor on the offense.
Stat Projections: 125 carries, 470 yards, 3 TD, 25 rec, 200 yards (3 starts: 55 carries, 220 yards, 2 TD0
DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina, LB (Round 6, 185 overall)
Holloman was another great late round pick by Dallas. Holloman was quite a steal. He should have been a 3rd round pick, but a DUI arrest two years ago likely scared teams away, leaving him for Dallas in the sixth round. I have high expectations for Holloman in the future. Justin Durant will be the likely LOLB, but Holloman is the future of that position. Durant will be a stopgag as Holloman develops. Holloman has the speed and can tackle with the pros. He is a hybrid safety linebacker, and with his coverage skills, is a perfect compliment to Lee and Carter. Once he develops, Dallas could have the NFL’s most athletic, young, and talented starting LB core.
2013 Outlook: Holloman likely won’t have much impact as a rookie, unless he receives extra snaps via injury and special teams. He is a project, but provides excellent depth behind Lee and Durant. Lee might miss time, and my first choice as a backup will be Holloman. He can also sub in as a safety if needed, providing depth there as well.
Stat Projections: 25 tackles, 3 passes defended (2 starts: 10 tackles, 1 pass defended)
Although the Cowboys 2013 draft class was far from what fans expected, I am very excited to see what Dallas can do with these picks. With their new investment in Romo and the offensive additions, expect Dallas to find a new starting RT, and with an improved line, new tight end, receiver, and RB, Dallas should have a great offense. Dallas should field a nice defense as well, finding some guys who can contribute to make the defense work.
P.S. I did an earlier “mock season” in which I play out the season for Dallas, not including this draft. Now, I will make one accounting for rookies, and try to make them as frequently as possible to account for any changes Dallas makes to the roster.