Last April, the Cowboys drafted 12 players between rounds three through seven. Of those 12 picks, only OLB Victor Butler, K David Buehler, and TE John Phillips contributed on a regular basis during their rookie seasons.
In limited action, Victor Butler (4th Round, Selection 110) finished the season with 17 total tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble. He showed flashes of the strong pass-rushing abilities he had at Oregon State. Butler's continued development will be something to keep an eye on come training camp.
David Buehler (5th Round, Selection 172) led the NFL with 29 touchbacks on kickoffs. He was also credited with three solo tackles. Moving forward, it looks as if Buehler will get the chance to prove he can be the starting placekicker next season. By hiring Chris Boniol as a kicking consultant now, perhaps the Cowboys will see that they have enough competition between Buehler and recent CFL signee, Connor Hughes, to prevent them from having to draft another kicker. After all, they only have six draft picks this year.
While John Phillips (6th Round, Selection 208) caught just seven passes for 62 yards during the regular season, he provided solid blocking on offense and was a core special teams player. Phillips' dependability should allow Jason Garrett to continue the two-tight end set while also giving the team another option from the fullback position.
Having just three of 12 players sum up the Class of '09's rookie accomplishments suggests that there has got to be some leftovers. With the taste of winning brushing past the team's palate, this next season should prove to be a hungrier one. Hopefully, 2010 will better indicate how this class will contribute to the team's future.
Make the jump.
Of the Cowboys' 12 draft picks, only three did not make the team. DB DeAngelo Smith, the first of three Dallas 5th-rounders, was waived in early September. He finished the season as a Detroit Lion. Both 7th-round picks, CB Mike Mickens and WR Manuel Johnson cleared waivers and were signed to the practice squad. Mickens, who struggled in camp, was picked off the practice squad by Tampa Bay in November.
Manny Johnson will compete for that last WR spot next season. So far, he would have to beat out Jesse Holley and Titus Ryan just to have a chance. Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree will be right above him in the depth chart.
His best shot at earning the job is to contribute on special teams. During his tenure on the practice squad, Johnson returned punts for the scout team. It's doubtful that Patrick Crayton is ready to hand those duties over, but Johnson can at least give the team another option there during camp and preseason.
We didn't get to see much of Manny's quickness, so here's some of what he showed at Oklahoma (gotta love that screen at the 2:00 mark).
Other than developmental QB Stephen McGee (4th Round, Selection 101), the rest of this Cowboys' draft class was set back by injuries. In the end of the year press conference, Jerry Jones indicated that these players should be ready to contribute next season.
Because of injuries to this draft class, we'll have a draft class and a half, good news is the injured players were in the strength and conditioning programs and they've done outstanding. At that young age, improving coming out of college, they were outstanding in how they used that time. They can come in and compete.
Top pick, ILB Jason Williams (3rd Round, Selection 69), suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason. Coming out of the gates, it slowed his progress, but he did end up seeing the field and registering three tackles on the season. With Keith Brooking and Bradie James playing strong throughout the season and Bobby Carpenter manning the cover-linebacker role, there was no need to force Williams into play.
Unfortunately, Williams' lack of playing time gave us, BTBers, little evidence of what he could be for this year. He won't be challenging anybody for a starting job, but it's hard to imagine Wade Phillips not wanting to get this guy on the field. We know he's fast. We've heard he's explosive. Maybe he could be a pass rush specialist from the middle, as Mike Mayock says here.
Dallas' second third round pick, offensive lineman Robert Brewster, began and ended the season on the Non-Active PUP list with a torn pectoral muscle. Brewster, who played RT in college at Ball State, could conceivably put himself in competition with Kyle Kosier for the starting LG position.
The Cowboys followed up their Victor Butler pick in the fourth round with another college DE that they would project as an OLB: Texas Tech's Brandon Williams (Selection 120). Unfortunately, Williams tore his left ACL early in the preseason while covering a punt against the Titans.
In '10, Williams will most likely back up SOLB Anthony Spencer, moving Butler back behind Ware on the weakside. Also like Butler, Williams should push for some action as a situational pass rusher on nickel and dime packages. Here's what he could be capable of.
The only other Cowboy who ended the season on IR was sixth-round pick (Selection 197), Stephen Hodge. Hodge is a converted college safety who the Cowboys see as a weakside ILB. The team placed him on IR after swelling continued to slow down his recovery from knee surgery.
At TCU, Hodge was known as a physical player and a tackling machine--both on defense and special teams. One 2008 game, in particular, stands out.
In the Poinsettia Bowl against Boise State, recorded 11 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and an interception on defense while also returning two kickoffs for 47 yards.
SS Michael Hamlin is another '09 rookie that the Cowboys hope to depend on. At this point, the backup spot to Gerald Sensabaugh is Hamlin's for the taking. Alan Ball is more in the mold of a FS, so he won't compete there. Patrick Watkins can play the strong-side in a pinch, but will probably compete with Ball to backup Ken Hamlin.
Mike Hamlin showed promise in camp and preseason up until he broke his wrist against the 49ers. After having seven screws put into his wrist, Hamlin was able to make his debut in the regular season against the Redskins. He notched his first tackle on Thanksgiving Day against the Raiders.
He looked to be a playmaker at Clemson. It'd be nice if he shows some of this with the Cowboys (warning: you might want to mute).
The good thing about these injuries is that the Cowboys were able to keep much of their '09 draft without having to count them towards the 53-man roster. If these "redshirts" have done, as Jerry Jones says, an "outstanding" job in the strength and conditioning program, they will have a leg up on this year's rookies. Who knows? Maybe they will even push some vets for playing time.
When April rolls around, though, some of these leftovers from 2009 may see another face with which they will have to compete. The Cowboys' expected needs on the offensive line, in the defensive backfield, and perhaps at wide receiver will force guys like Robert Brewster, Mike Hamlin, and Manny Johnson to take giant steps forward. And never rule out the Cowboys drafting another linebacker. Jason Williams should be given every chance to compete, but Brandon Williams and Stephen Hodge have some making up to do.
It's been called the "special teams" and "depth" draft. With 12 picks--all being in rounds three through seven--I've also seen the term "quantity over quality" attached to the Cowboys '09 Draft class. We may not be able to grade it for a year or two from now, but we are sure to have some answers come the 2010 season.
If you only watch one video, this one sums up Dallas' draft last year.