The draft is always an exciting time for us fans because our team will see an influx of new players with great potential. Hopefully, some of the names called over the weekend will become key contributors. With a little luck, a few will become franchise cornerstones.
For some players, the 2013 rookie class brings the promise of an improved team performance that could see the team make the playoffs and the veterans receive individual accolades and post-season honors. For others, the new players are an immediate threat to their job security. Who were the biggest winners and losers from draft weekend?
Winner - Kyle Wilber
The Cowboys surprised a lot of fans when Jason Garrett announced last week that Kyle Wilber won't be deployed as a strong-side linebacker, but rather at defensive end. Garrett acknowledged that Wilber will need to get bigger, but believes Wilber has the size and "juice" to come off the ball as a pass rusher. In the absence of much depth at defensive end it looks like the Cowboys are willing to give Wilber the time he needs grow into an edge-rusher.
Loser - Caleb McSurdy
Some guys just can't catch a break. Drafted in the seventh round in 2012, McSurdy tore his Achilles in training camp and spent the season on IR. The switch to the 4-3 offered a brief glimpse of hope with the increased need for linebackers, but that hope was probably dashed when the Cowboys brought in free agent Justin Durant, drafted DeVonte Holloman, lured UDFA Brandon Magee to Dallas with a lot of guaranteed money and brought in three more linebackers as college free agents. Sad, but that's the way it sometimes goes.
Winner - Tyrone Crawford
Remember when every second mock draft showed the Cowboys drafting a defensive tackle? Yeah, those were the days.
For 2012 third-round pick Tyrone Crawford, this looks like a vote of confidence. The Cowboys list him as a defensive tackle on their roster and if he's healthy, he'll likely get every opportunity to see rotational duty at 3-technique behind Jason Hatcher. After Crawford, there's likely to be tough competition at DT anyway: The Cowboys roster currently shows nine defensive tackles (ten if you were to include Josh Brent) who'll be competing for two starting spots.
Loser - Phillip Tanner
The Cowboys didn't like what they saw from Tanner last season as a pass blocker, and effectively replaced him with Lance Dunbar from week 10 onwards. Joseph Randle probably played 99% of his snaps at Oklahoma State out of the shotgun, and as a result he's great in pass protection, a trait the Cowboys desperately look for in their backs. The Cowboys may keep Dunbar on as the change-of-pace back (or replace even him with Kendial Lawrence) but this could be the end of the road for Tanner.
Winner - Anthony Spencer
In a weak draft class for edge rushers, the Cowboys did not make a move to find Spencer's eventual replacement. The Cowboys would likely have been uniformly criticized for drafting a "luxury pick" if they had taken an edge rusher, and the luxury now is all on Spencer's side: Without an obvious successor in place, Spencer significantly improved his bargaining position as his agent and the Cowboys jockey for position on a long-term contract extension.
Doesn't mean an extension is going to happen, but if it does, it'll likely favor Spencer more than it does the Cowboys.
Loser - Wide receiver depth guys
Barring unforeseen events, Terrance Williams will probably be the number three receiver, possibly the number four. That doesn't leave much room for the likes of Cole Beasley, Danny Coale, Anthony Armstrong, Tim Benford and many others, who could end up vying for the fifth WR spot. With some luck, there may be a sixth spot available, but don't count on it.
Winner - Free agent right tackle
On Friday, Jerry Jones was asked what his dream scenario had been heading into the first day of the draft. His response: “That dream ended with the first four picks.”
The Cowboys failed to address an obvious issue and an obvious need at right tackle in the draft and are now officially a RT-needy team. The Cowboys may try to bolster their bargaining position by trying to get Doug Free to take a pay cut, but at the end of the day, they do not have a bargaining position, they have a need. The free agent right tackles know this. And their agents know it as well. Quality will not come at a bargain price at right tackle for the Cowboys.
Loser - Guards
I'm going to assume that Travis Frederick starts at guard in his rookie season, while Phil Costa, whom the Cowboys just re-signed, holds down the center position for the season. That leaves one starting guard spot open and five guards (count 'em: Livings, Bernadeau, Leary, Arkin, Dominguez) competing for the other starting spot.
Winner - Tony Romo
Sometime early in 2009, Jerry Jones coined the phrase "Romo Friendly Offense." At the time it was thought to mean the Cowboys would run a more simplified offense, with emphasis on the running game and high percentage passes to multiple targets (not just T.O.). This was going to help Tony cut down on his improvisation and minimize his turnovers.
Romo-friendly today also includes the fairly novel concept of offering Tony Romo some protection from opposing pass rushers. The Cowboys have now drafted two offensive linemen with the first pick in the last three drafts to provide that protection. But they haven't lost sight of the other elements of a RFO: multiple receiving targets and a solid running game, both of which the Cowboys addressed with two new receiving threats and an additional running back.
Loser - Lawrence Vickers
The likely emphasis on a Patriots-style offense with multiple TE-sets does not bode well for Vickers, who had frequently been mentioned as a potential salary cap casualty anyway. If Vickers gets cut, it may end up being less about the player and more about a position that's not needed any more.
Who are your winners and losers?