Dane Brugler is one of the well-known names in NFL draft circles, despite being one of the newer faces on the scene. He has established a good reputation for both his evaluation of prospects and his willingness to admit that he is just a writer presenting his view of things.
And he thinks trying to grade a draft a few days after it happens is ludicrous. No one has any idea which players from the 2014 draft will thrive and which will take a dive. The old saw is that it takes at least three years to evaluate a draft.
So he went back and completely regraded the 2011 NFL draft, top to bottom. He took a few days following the end of this year's draftstravaganza to look over the players taken three years ago, and then assigned a grade to each team based on actual performance in the NFL. He then published it in two parts. If you want to see how all of the league scored in Brugler's eyes, you can check out teams 17 through 32 here, and see his take on the top 16 teams here.
Of course, the first two things that I look forward to are 1) What grade did the Dallas Cowboys get? And 2) How did they stack up against the rest of the league - particularly the NFC East.
Just to give you a sense of both, I'll just review the division grades here. Starting from the bottom:
27. Philadelphia Eagles (11 picks)
1 (23) G Danny Watkins, Baylor; 2 (54) FS Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple; 3 (90) CB Curtis Marsh, Utah State; 4 (116) LB Casey Matthews, Oregon; 4 (120) K Alex Henery, Nebraska; 5 (149) RB Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh; 5 (161) G Julian Vandervelde, Iowa; 6 (191) C Jason Kelce, Cincinnati; 6 (193) LB Brian Rolle, Ohio State; 7 (237) LB Greg Lloyd, Connecticut; 7 (240) RB Stanley Havili, USC
The good: A sixth-round, undersized center, C Jason Kelce earned the starting job during the preseason of his rookie year and started every game in 2011. He missed almost all of the 2012 season with a knee injury, but returned healthy and didn't miss a game in 2013, earning the Ed Block Courage Award.
The bad: Billed as a "can't miss" early-round prospect by some, OL Danny Watkins was anything but that with inconsistent play over 18 starts in an Eagles uniform. He was released before the 2013 season and signed with the Dolphins, where he saw action in only one game last season.
Jury still out: Some thought LB Casey Matthews could develop into a consistent NFL starter, but that has yet to happen in Philadelphia. A member of one of the most prestigious football families, Matthews hasn't had a NFL career like his brother, Clay, but he has the attitude to stick around as a quality backup.
Hmm. Looks like having a whole bunch of picks is not much of a guarantee of finding talent. But always great to see the Eagles at the bottom of the division.
25. New York Giants (8 picks)
1 (19) CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska; 2 (52) DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina; 3 (83) WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy; 4 (117) OL James Brewer, Indiana; 6 (185) LB Greg Jones, Michigan State; 6 (198) SS Tyler Sash, Iowa; 6 (202) LB Jacquian Williams, South Florida; 7 (221) RB Da'Rel Scott, Maryland
The good: Although he admits he hasn't done enough as a former first-round pick, CB Prince Amukamara had a refreshing 2013 season, starting all 16 games and recording a career-high 14 pass break-ups. He has room to improve, but showed last year that he can be a reliable starting corner.
The bad: After North Carolina suspended him for the entire 2010 season, DT Marvin Austin saw his draft stock slip into the second round. The Giants took a chance on him at pick No. 52, but it wasn't a wise investment; he missed all of his rookie year with a pectoral injury and was released a year later.
Jury still out: OL James Brewer got off to a slow start and was a healthy scratch for every game as a rookie, but started eight games in 2013 with the versatility to see snaps at tackle or guard. He will likely compete with free-agent addition Geoff Schwartz for the starting left guard job.
I still have complete faith in (head coach Tom) Coughlin, yes. Looking back, I think Jerry Reese dealt Coughlin a horrible hand last year and it's amazing TC got that misfit group to win 7 games. That could easily have been a 3-13 disaster. It's not Coughlin's fault that Reese, who is a very good GM, has not been as successful in his recent drafts as he was back in 2007 and 2008.
I guess once a good GM, always a good GM, and once a bad one, you can never improve. No matter what the results.
22. Washington Redskins (12 picks)
1 (16) LB Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue; 2 (41) DE Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson; 3 (79) WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (Fla.); 4 (105) RB Roy Helu, Nebraska; 5 (146) SS DeJon Gomes, Nebraska; 5 (155) WR Niles Paul, Nebraska; 6 (177) RB Evan Royster, Penn State; 6 (178) WR Aldrick Robinson, SMU; 7 (213) DB Brandyn Thompson, Boise State; 7 (217) G Maurice Hurt, Florida; 7 (224) LB Markus White, Florida State; 7 (253) NT Chris Neild, West Virginia
The good: One of only four first-rounders from 2011 who have started all 48 games since entering the NFL, OLB Ryan Kerrigan hasn't lit the world on fire in Washington, but he has been very consistent. With 183 total tackles, 24.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in his career, Kerrigan has been Mr. Reliable for the Redskins.
The bad: While this pick hasn't been a complete bust, the Redskins expected more from DL Jarvis Jenkins when they drafted him 41st overall in 2011. He tore his ACL as a rookie, was suspended four games in 2013 for violating the league's substance abuse policy and his on-field impact has been average-at-best.
Jury still out: WR Leonard Hankerson set career-bests in 2012 (38 catches, 543 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns) and was on pace to pass those marks in 2013, but an ACL tear in Week 11 last year shelved him for the rest of the season and puts his 2014 outlook in doubt, especially with a crowded depth chart.
Wow. That is three-quarters of the division in the bottom third of the league. It's rather depressing. After all, that leaves the honor of the division up to the Cowboys. This was the first Jason Garrett draft, so the new head coach, who was still pretty much a puppet according to the conventional wisdom, couldn't even save Jerry Jones from himself. So how bad did Dallas come in?
6. Dallas Cowboys (8 picks)
1 (9) OT Tyron Smith, USC; 2 (40) LB Bruce Carter, North Carolina; 3 (71) RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma; 4 (110) G David Arkin, Missouri State; 5 (143) DB Josh Thomas, Buffalo; 6 (176) WR Dwayne Harris, East Carolina; 7 (220) FB Shaun Chapas, Georgia; 7 (252) C Bill Nagy, Wisconsin
The good: A player who is still only 23 years old, OT Tyron Smith has developed into one of the top young left tackles in the league, earning his first Pro Bowl nod in 2013. His athleticism, strength and improving technique will likely earn him a contract extension soon, making him one of the top paid tackles in the NFL.
The bad: Coming from the FCS level, G David Arkin struggled to adapt to the NFL game and was inactive for every game during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He saw limited action at guard in 2013 before being released. The Dolphins signed him off the practice squad and he is fighting for a 2014 roster spot in Miami.
Jury still out: The Cowboys came close to replacing WLB Bruce Carter via the 2014 NFL Draft and would have if Ryan Shazier was still on the board. Carter will likely be a starter for Dallas in 2014 and needs to fix the mistakes and turn the impressive flashes into more consistent play if he hopes to hold onto the starting job.
OK. I'm a homer, and I really like to see the Cowboys getting some credit where I think credit is due. Most of us have thought the 2011 draft was a good one, and one that changed the course of things for the franchise. Brugler largely agrees, only grading five teams as having a better draft than Dallas.