In each draft selection, if you look into the pick, it is usually easy to see both tactical and strategic aspects of why the team chose the player. For the sake of this post, the word TACTICAL will be defined as the impact that the player has on the short term progress of his team. In effect this breaks down to how can he help the team win on day one. By contrast the term STRATEGIC will be used for his long term impact on the franchise. This is how he fulfills the role of getting the team to where they want to be in the future. If the team entered the draft with an overall gameplan and then stood with it throughout the process an obvious trend should emerge. Lets get started by looking at Travis Frederick and Gavin Escobar, the Cowboys first and second round selections in 2013.
Frederick is anticipated to be an immediate upgrade at any of the three interior positions along the offensive line, although based on OTAs and minicamp it is becoming clear that the staff intends to play him at center. With his brute strength and solid anchor, his efforts will go a long way to making sure that Tony Romo has a clean pocket to step up into this season. Even allowing for rookie mistakes and the learning curve, his presence should help make Tony a little more secure when he drops back to pass. With his power, there should also be more openings for the inside running game as well. In addition, the Bearded Beast brings a high football IQ to the table and he has already been making the line calls. His ability to do this will take that burden off of Romo, who has recently been making those calls himself. A lot is expected of the first round pick from Wisconsin, and he will have to learn the job quickly to be the player Dallas thinks he is.
Travis is expected to be a plug and play guy for the next decade and maybe longer. Along with third year left tackle Tyron Smith, he will be the foundation of the offensive line that Jason Garrett envisions for the Dallas Cowboys. Not only will he be expected to anchor the line in front of Romo throughout the remainder of the quarterback's career; he will also become the security blanket who eases the transition for the man who will eventually fill Tony's cleats. Along the way Frederick will be asked to serve as a mentor for a generation of interior linemen who work their way through the Dallas system. It is a large responsibility, but also one that the Badger has fulfilled during his college career. Travis Frederick is the cornerstone the Cowboys offensive line has been looking for at center.
The 6'6" 254 pound rookie tight end from San Diego St. has a set of high expectations as well. Although he is not expected to see as much action as Frederick; he was brought in to help solve a critical issue for Dallas: Red Zone Efficiency. Gavin is expected to be the second tight end when the team goes to the "heavy" 12 set in short yardage and red zone situations. Scoring, as we all have lamented, has been dismal inside the 20 yard line and Escobar will give Tony a second large target in these situations. He has excellent ball skills, and if Escobar and Romo can develop a good rapport early on there is a good chance that we will see a lot less Dan Bailey field goal attempts and more of him kicking extra points.
With All World tight end Jason Witten closer to the end of his illustrious career than he is to the beginning; the Cowboys are now looking at a future without the Senator. The big, lumbering tight end with the set of hands that Mike Mayock referred to as the best in the draft, has an opportunity to prove himself to be the next to join the long line of great Cowboys tight ends. He has been a reliable, albeit slow, receiver and has the size to be one of the better blocking ends in the NFL. What he lacks is the experience. At SDSU, Escobar was a primary offensive threat and was seldom called on to block. Fortunately his TE coach in Dallas is a former offensive line assistant and will be able to help him better himself in this area. As long as Gavin Escobar avails himself of Wes Phillips' teaching and relies on Jason Witten as a mentor he stands a good opportunity to find himself in the driver's seat on the highway toward filling the shoes of the great tight ends who preceded him in Dallas.
Both Travis Frederick and Gavin Escobar find themselves in positions where a lot will be asked of them this season and well into the future. Both guys fit into the mold Jason Garrett has cast for his players and they should meet or exceed these expectations. There will be pitfalls along the way, but both should be on their way to becoming fan favorites.
In the next piece from this series we will look at both third round selections as well as the fourth round pick to see where they fit into the long and short term strategies of the Dallas Cowboys. In the meantime, it is your turn to tell me what you see as the short and long term impact of the Boy's early round draft picks. What do you see in their future?