If you want to build a team for long term success in the NFL, the most reliable way to do that is to draft well, selecting players who can contribute to the team as soon as possible, and supplement that with some undrafted free agents that can fill some needs.
The Dallas Cowboys took seven players in the 2013 draft and added safety Jeff Heath as a UDFA. Of those eight, only Joseph Randle was not active for the first game of the year against the New York Giants, as a healthy scratch with the staff opting to go with only two running backs on the active roster. (This may have tipped their hand in electing to go with a mix of plays that leaned towards the pass in the opening game.)
How did the other seven rookies do?
C Travis Frederick. A first-round draft pick is usually expected to come in and play a significant role from the beginning, and Fredbeard certainly did, snapping the ball on all 79 offensive plays. According to ProFootballFocus, which uses a scoring system to rate every player in the NFL, he only got a -0.5 rating. However, that score was good enough to tie him for fifteenth among all 32 centers in the league. In his first ever NFL game. Without Brian Waters, who will likely elevate his play. And against the New York Giants, who have the reputation as one of the best pass rushing teams in the league. While many will still complain that the 31st pick of the draft was too high to take him, and he would have been available later (which is something that is really only speculation), there seems to be little doubt that he is a good to excellent pick. There is no doubt whatsoever he is an upgrade at the position. And he should just get better.
TE Gavin Escobar. This was the most controversial pick of the Dallas draft. He is widely seen as not being a good blocker. But surprisingly, using PFF's system, he graded higher than either Jason Witten or James Hanna, and he saw about as many snaps as Hanna. One reason was that Witten was used much more in run blocking, and did not do all that well in PFF's eyes. Witten certainly was the star receiver for the night, but PFF is an attempt to look at the complete performance by players. Escobar did handle his assignments a bit better than most expected, partly because he was used almost exclusively in passing situations or was split out too wide to be involved in the play on runs. He was a part of the multiple 13 personnel packages the Cowboys ran. In his Decoding Bill Callahan article, Bob Sturm charted seven times the Cowboys put three tight ends on the field, and two were in the shotgun, which shows that this is not exclusively for runs. Escobar is one reason the team can use that formation, and it is clear that he is a significant cog in the offense.
WR Terrance Williams. He had a bit of a rough night. TWill is still trying to catch balls against his body, and that led to a couple of drops on a night where the offense was inconsistent overall. However, Tony Romo did not give up on him, and he wound up catching two balls, including the longest Dallas reception of the night for 23 yards. With the possibility that other teams will use the Giant's tactic of taking Dez Bryant out of the offense, Williams needs to get better, because the team needs him. And with the way Dwayne Harris stood out on special teams, notching three tackles and appearing to be one of the first players down the field on every play, the coaches may consider giving him a few of Williams' snaps - TWill had 36 snaps, and Harris only had 4 outside his special teams channeling of Bill Bates.
S J.J. Wilcox. Wilcox saw limited duty on defense, notching five snaps with no real impact. He did get one tackle on special teams, which is likely to be where he makes his biggest contributions for a while. However, it must be said that Will Allen did not have the best game outside his pick. Wilcox could be in line to get more snaps to see just how long it will be before he can compete for the starting job.
CB B.W. Webb. Webb also got five snaps on defense, but did not show any statistics beyond that. Based on being listed as a slot corner, he was likely giving Orlando Scandrick, who in coverage had the best night of any of the Cowboys' defensive backs, a breather.
LB DeVonte Holloman. The last draft pick taken by the Cowboys, Holloman is so far the steal of the draft. He only saw action on special teams, but his strange ability to attract loose footballs once again manifested itself as he came flying in to recover the muffed punt. He still provides more impact per snap than just about anyone on the team, and you wonder if it might not be a good idea to give him a few snaps with the defense, just to see how his luck holds.
S Jeff Heath. Another player who did not show any stats with the defense, he was likely subbing for special teams ace Danny McCray, and he did post a tackle in that role.
That is how the rookies did. All seven of the active players at least showed up on the field. One is the fulcrum of an offensive line that was not bad as a whole, one had a splash play with a fumble recovery, and Escobar and Williams both were used for significant snaps. It was a very good beginning for the class of 2013, and hopefully the contributions will increase as the weeks go by.
More from Blogging The Boys:
- Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Key Takeaways From The Giants Game
- Trolling The Nation: Giants @ Cowboys Reloaded
- Dallas Cowboys Week 2 Power Rankings: Defense Carries Cowboys Up The Chart
- The Weekly BEast Report: Covering The NFC East
- Cowboys Defeat The Giants 36-31 To Start 1-0. Yeah, But...