Draft grades. We all make fun of them, but we still read them. I think we feel about them the way we feel about mock drafts - they're never accurate, but we read them and argue about them anyway. So what fun would closing out the 2012 draft be without throwing out some grades? In that spirit, I asked the front-page writers to offer up their opinions.
Before we get to our draft grades for the Cowboys, here's a review from SB Nation concerning the entire NFC East.
Make the jump to read our exercise in futility as we try to grade the Cowboys draft.
Overall Grade: A-
The decision to move up and grab Mo Claiborne with the 6th pick is one of the shrewdest moves the Cowboys have made under Jerry Jones and I don't think the Cowboys are getting enough credit. Mike Jenkins has durability issues and he's likely gone after this season so taking the opportunity to grab the best cornerback prospect in the draft in five years is absolutely brilliant.
The Cowboys have decided that improving the secondary will help the pass rush, but they also addressed that need as well. Tyrone Crawford is a name not many people knew but all of the scouts loved the selection and he'll provide power, aggression and versatility on the defensive line; he's a future starter on this team. Wilber is an intriguing pick but he's a pass-rush specialist and possible successor to Anthony Spencer.
Matt Johnson and Danny Coale both have the ability and talent to make an impact in their rookie seasons, with Coale having the inside track at the #3 receiver position out of the slot. Johnson is a downhill safety who was one of the best tacklers in the draft who also showed skills in coverage; it's likely he's competing for a starting position sooner than later as well.
I'm not too thrilled about Hanna, particularly because I thought the Cowboys needed a well-rounded TE that can block. Yet he seems to have potential as a receiver and could help provide another dynamic to this offense. McSurdy, if he contributes on special teams and as a backup fullback, will bring excellent value to the team as a seventh-round selection.
While the Cowboys didn't address the OL need that so many are worried about, they got great value with each pick and selected football players with incredible athleticism - with each player bringing the leadership and intangibles this team desperately needs more of.
Overall Grade: A-
Funny how these things go. Before the draft everybody kept telling us how important it is to go BPA. The Cowboys, by their own accounts, followed their board, but suddenly everybody is up in arms about the Cowboys not addressing their supposed needs on the interior o-line and at nose tackle.
I wanted three things this offseason: an improved pass defense, more pressure from the defensive end position and some meat-and-potatoes football playing dudes. I got everything I wanted, so I give this draft an A-.
With the 14th pick, the Cowboys managed to get the best defensive player in the draft. That is quite a feat, regardless of how you look at it. Coupled with the free agency moves, the Cowboys have completely revamped their secondary. In the third round, they took a defensive end who has the potential to be a true pressure five technique. In the fourth the Cowboys drafted a player who has the potential to be a stud safety. The remaining players are all outstanding athletes and good football players with the right work ethic, the right attitude and the right skills. Tough, hard-playing and hard-hitting guys.
We got five defensive playmakers. We got team captains. We got all sorts of award winners. Really, the only quibble I have is that I still need time to get to know all of these players, so I'm hedging my bets a little with the A- grade. But every player I've looked at in detail so far has left me mightily impressed.
Overall Grade: B
When the Cowboys traded up for Dez Bryant two years ago, I jumped over a coffee table. Last year, the war room selected the player I pushed for all offseason. This year I got to re-witness the same type of magic, landing my third rated player in the draft. Morris Claiborne doesn't just help out Rob Ryan and the defense, it changes the entire team. This kid has the talent and skill set to become one of the best cornerbacks in football. Jerry Jones takes a lot of heat for his bad decisions, and rightfully so. The one aspect with Jerry is that while the bad decisions can be tragic, the good ones can be simply amazing. It has been obvious for so long that when he wants a player, he makes it happen, but he pulls it off once again. Not many owners have that type of passion, and I love him for it.
The other picks may not have been the obvious names, but they are good football players. This is starting to become a theme associated with the type of players the Cowboys target in the draft and free agency. Solid football players with the RKG mentality will be a staple as long as Jason Garrett is the head coach.
Adding a pass rushing defensive end like Tyrone Crawford will do wonders for the defensive line. Kyle Wilber reminds me a lot of Anthony Spencer, and that is a good thing for a 4th round pick. Matt Johnson could become a starter down the road. Danny Coale was one of my favorite picks and reminds me of a poor man's Miles Austin. James Hanna was a great value that late and I see him becoming the receiving threat Martellus Bennett never became. The lack of talent at the center position really bothers me, but the Cowboys must believe in Phil Costa or Kevin Kowalski.
Once again, we strike gold on the UDFA market. Adrian Hamilton has the talent to become a Cameron Wake type of player, but is a major boom or bust project. Ron Leary will make this team and be in the mix for one of the guard positions. George Bryan was another great signing even though we drafted Hanna. Darrell Scott and Lance Dunbar look like great prospects too.
This draft receives a B from me, but Claiborne could easily make this an overall A because he is the type of talent where he could define the entire draft class. If some of the other guys pan out, we did really well then.
Overall Grade: B+
I am of the opinion that, aside from having a slew of first and second day picks, there are two possible reasons why an organization has a terrific draft: 1) they draft BPA at each pick, no matter what; 2) they get spectacularly lucky and the draft falls to them in such a way that BPA meets need at each pick. In a sense, both of these represent a form of "best player available" drafting - which is the only way a team can derive maximum value from a draft. When teams depart from this philosophy, they leave better players on the board. How can you tell a team has departed from a BPA Philosophy? Its simple: they deftly fill all their pre-draft roster holes.
Although the Cowboys' brass maintained otherwise, Dallas entered the draft with specific roster holes: wide receiver (preferably one with return ability); tight end; cornerback (either a starter or depth); inside linebacker, and pass rusher (either DE or OLB). There appears to be an awfully strong correlation between the existing pre-draft roster holes and the positions that they drafted this weekend. Given the fact that, except for their first-round trade-up, the Cowboys didn't make any trades, the explanation for such a strong correlation must be one of the two possibilities outlined above: either the draft broke for them perfectly or they disobeyed their board to fill needs.
Can you name a single one of the Cowboys draft choices that didn't address a need? I can't, especially when I consider that the type of defensive scheme Rob Ryan most likely wants to run requires two press-man corners (going in, they only had one of these) who can run with receivers down the field in zero coverage, allowing him to dial up myriad blitz packages. To my mind, therefore, the only explanation was that they reached to fill the positions they wanted to fill.
Don't get me wrong: I love the move to get Claiborne, and think the rest of the picks were solid players. But you build a roster by drafting the best players, period, regardless of position. I think the Cowboys reached (even if only a little, and not with every pick) to get a few of their guys this weekend, and you can't reach and get a top grade from Ol' Rabble.
Overall Grade: A
A low-profile draft, outside of the trade-up for Claiborne, and even then, the price paid didn't make headlines for the wrong reasons (unlike, say, the Redskins move up to number 2). I call the rest of the draft low-profile because the Cowboys didn't make any effort to grab guys based on Mel Kiper's board or Drafttek's board, or any other board outside their own war room.
So we didn't get the "big names," big deal. Do we really want to leave the draft as the "all-hype team?" I didn't think so. If you trust Mel Kiper to put together your team more than a professional NFL front office, then why do many of Kiper's 3rd-round prospects go undrafted? The draft is an inexact science. I want the Cowboys to trust their board, and I'm glad that they did. I don't know the first thing about these college players (I don't count hearsay), so consider this a grade for the process.
Overall Grade: B+
I think I'll love this draft no matter what, just because we picked up Mo Claiborne. I believe in his skills that much. To enter the draft with pick #14, and leave with the best defensive player available was a bold and smart move. Especially since Dallas only gave up their second-round pick (I can't believe the Rams didn't ask for our 4th-round pick, or at least our 5th-rounder). Claiborne obviously makes this draft.
I like the Tyrone Crawford pick, he'll hopefully provide something we haven't had, a disruptive defensive end. The Danny Coale pick was another one I liked, seems like the perfect fit for a #3 wide receiver. I'm more on the fence about the fourth-round duo of Kyle Wilber and Matt Johnson. Especially Johnson, even though Lars' recap on his measurables made me revise my position somewhat. James Hanna looks to be boom or bust, the word seems to be he makes spectacular plays, but doesn't consistently play up to his skills. That kind of player can go either way. Finally, no real opinion on Caleb McSurdy. Seems like a guy who makes the most of his skills, but are his skills good enough for the NFL?
If Claiborne, Crawford and Coale hit, and I suspect they will, and one or two others find roles on the team, then it will live up to a B+ or even an A.
Overall Grade: B+
This is a bit of a hedge, because my gut feels like this is an A, but the other six after Pick Six are still a bit of a mystery to me, although I do like what I am seeing.
Claiborne is almost enough to call this an A all by himself. I think it is possibly the second best trade made by Dallas ever, topped only by the Herschel Walker move.
The best thing about the rest of the draft is that the team stuck to its theme of finding the right kind of guys who have talent and fill the right positions. I see chances for improvement all over the defense, and the two offensive pickups can make contributions. Obviously, the odds are very long that all these players will work out, but I think four or five of the drafted players are going to make the roster this year, and I see Crawford as a future starter - and that future may be months, not years away. The others for now are likely role players.
I am also feeling good about the UDFA group. I expect the team to find three or four gems in this bunch. And if Nathan Dick wins the third QB role, well, the comment threads will never be the same.
But in all seriousness, this is the third good draft in a row, with a potential to be excellent. The Cowboys are headed in a very good direction.
Overall Grade: B
The draft is a funny thing when you spend months talking about the possibilities and mainly focus on targets of the first two or three rounds. Get to know 60-90 names, 40 of them extremely well and hope that your team does what it takes to bring at least three of them into the fold. That's the trench most amateur draftniks fall into. When a team starts to make selections that go outside these parameters, it's a natural reaction to think that they have passed up prime opportunities seeing how some of those names they've studied have slid down draft boards. Blame Dallas and Jerry Jones instead of the people that claimed Player X and Prospect Y should have been gone in the first 64 selections.
I must say that I'm very intrigued by what Dallas pulled off over the weekend. Last year, I coined the acronym BPAPN, because I don't believe in simply picking the BPA. I say look at all your holes and then without giving them rank, take the best player available at one of those positions. From round 3-6 I thought Dallas did this extremely well. Of course, this is with the hindsight of some convincing arguments and articles that my fellow FPW's have penned; namely Brandon Worley on Tyrone Crawford and OCC on Matt Johnson. I still laugh when I read that Danny Coale will "make up" for letting Danny Amendola go, as I know where that sentiment is born from and know that Amendola is a barely average receiver, but I like that selection too. Kyle Wilber I'm not exactly sold on. James Hanna's measurables that didn't show up in games worry me a bit, but I understand why the team made both of those selections.
Morris Claiborne to match up opposite Brandon Carr? No way a grade goes below a B, and the fact that I think Dallas shared my philosophy keeps the grade steady for me.