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Undrafted Free Agents have a storied history with the Dallas Cowboys, so when the team started off with six picks in the seventh and final round of a loaded 2014 NFL Draft, it's no wonder fans of the squad were excited. Having the chance to bring in five players (before trading a pick away) that you would normally have to compete for in the post-draft signing frenzy, is an extreme bonus for this team.
Generally, less than five percent of seventh-rounders in any given class end up becoming productive starters in the league, and if you look at the Cowboys history over the past decades it bears this out. You'd be hard pressed to have specific memories of anyone on the seventh round ledger outside of Jay Ratliff and Patrick Crayton; selected in back-to-back seasons by Bill Parcells. Maybe Sean Lissemore as well, but that's about it.
Now on the other hand, the Cowboys have been able to find gold in the heap of players that none of the 32 NFL teams were much inclined to spend resources on. The UDFA market has been more than kind to Dallas over the years. Just look at their current salary cap structure to bear witness.
Four of their Top 16 current salary hits for the 2014 season belong to some of their undrafted free agents. Tony Romo (2nd), pre-June 1st Miles Austin (4th), Barry Church (13th) and Dan Bailey (16th) all went through their respective draft weekends without hearing their names called. That's a huge number.
Now, one could argue that the Cowboys inability to find adequate talent in the draft is the reason so many UDFA's get great opportunities here, but as the old saying goes; once you get into camp your draft pedigree means nothing. So five extra seventh-rounders should have afforded the Cowboys the opportunity to bring in extra guys for their respective "shots in the dark" at making something of themselves in the NFL.
From most circles, the final round haul was good, and then complimented by the usual selection of hopefuls in the true UDFA market. All of the Cowboys seventh rounders were on the defensive side of the ball, and all of them have a profile: extremely aggressive individuals. The players selected for the front seven have even been referred to as tremendously violent. You'd be hard-pressed to find a cornerback that could earn that label, but even so, the Cowboys final seventh-round selection might turn out to be the best of the bunch.
Terrance Mitchell out of the University of Oregon caught SB Nation's Matthew Fairburn's eye when he was perusing the draft and looking for guys that are much better than where they were selected. His findings weren't limited to the seventh round, as only three of his guys were selected there. Here's what he had to say about "Pick-254".
Terrence Mitchell is a long athlete with speed to cover any receiver all over the field. Aside from his physical makeup, it's his aggressive mentality in coverage that makes him a potential steal for the Cowboys in the seventh round. He locates the football well in the air and knows how to make plays at the catch point. Mitchell may get a chance to prove himself early in Dallas, too.
Mitchell's resume at Oregon was pretty impressive. He hauled in five interceptions and knocked down 12 passes in 2013. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler ranked him as the 11th-best cornerback available in the draft in his Annual Guide. He thinks that Mitchell "does his best work with his eyes to diagnose the action and break on the ball to make plays for the defense and prevent plays for the offense. Mitchell projects as a zone corner at the NFL level with starting potential due to his alert awareness and movement skills."
These weren't the only draftniks high on Mitchell, all throughout #DraftTwitter you could find accolades for the selection by the Cowboys.
In a league where you can never have enough corners, it's great to have an addition that fits the team's profile and is highly regarded. Even better to have one with a huge chip on his shoulder that you'd expect from someone that slid to the seventh round.
SDC: How frustrating has your lack of pre-draft attention been?
TM: The thing that was frustrating, hearing and looking at where they have me placed as far as my ranking, I am just upset about that because I'm not quite sure what they were going off of. At DB, you don't want to give up touchdowns, but last year I didn't give up a touchdown. I figured I should be pretty high based off that. There's a lot of political things that go into it that I'm aware of. That is one thing that is frustrating, having to sit behind guys that I know I'm better than, but I'm going to have my opportunity to show that on the field once a team picks me up.
Considering that Dallas will have some financial decisions to make over the next few years as Morris Claiborne's fifth-year option looms and the team reaches a point it can consider escaping Brandon Carr's contract, corner help is a necessity. As an added bonus (albeit really, really tiny), he spent two years defending Chip Kelly's offense in practices; maybe there's a trick or two he can help our coaches prepare for.