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Cowboys Drafts: Reviewing The 2011 Draft

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Continuing our look at how the Cowboys have fared since the dismal "Special Teams" draft of 2009. This time we look at the Class of 2011.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As was shown by our look at the 2010 draft class, the Dallas front office made a solid turn around. Five of the six selections from that class are still in professional football, and three of those are playing significant roles for NFL franchises. Another has elevated his game while playing north of the border. That is a credit to the scouts and front office personnel who did the evaluations of those players. Did that trend continue into the 2011 draft?

Tyron Smith - OT, USC

Drafting an offensive lineman in the first round was a strange concept for the Dallas Cowboys until the team opted to take Tyron Smith over J. J. Watt. What a choice to be faced with, huh? Drafted with the long-term goal of becoming the blind side protector for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Smith was allowed to get his feet wet as the starting right tackle during his rookie season. He delivered a solid performance and earned a shot to move over to the left side for his second season. Smith experienced growing pains in his new role but as the season wore on he grew into his new position. Over the last two seasons, Smith has earned two trips to the Pro Bowl. In 2013 he was a second team All-Pro and last season he earned a first team nod.

Smith has proven to be everything the Dallas front office hoped he would be when they invested the ninth overall pick in him in 2011. Still just 24 years old, Smith will be entering his fifth professional season as one of the best left tackles in the game, and he has still not reached his peak. The left tackle spot is set for years to come, thanks to the drafting of Smith.

Bruce Carter - LB, North Carolina

Bruce Carter, like Sean Lee before him, fell to the second round due to injuries sustained in college. More athletic than his counterpart, Bruce was anticipated to become the playmaker of the Dallas linebacking corps. His rookie season was spent primarily recovering from his injuries, but toward the end of the season, Carter played a total of 41 snaps for the team. During his second season in Dallas, Bruce demonstrated the potential that the Cowboys saw in him. He adapted well to his role inside next to Lee and he did a solid job replacing the Dallas Mike linebacker when Lee's season was cut short due to injury. With the move to the 4-3 defense, big things were projected for Bruce.

Those big things never came to pass. Carter often seemed lost in the new scheme, and eventually Carter lost his starting job to journeyman Ernie Sims. Although his 2014 season was an improvement on his efforts in 2013, Carter lost his starting role again, and once his contract expired, the team made the choice not to re-sign him. Bruce Carter has moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

DeMarco Murray - RB, Oklahoma

Murray began his rookie season as the Cowboys third running back but by the time the team made its way to St. Louis for a week six showdown with the Rams injuries had elevated him to the second-string role. That game in St. Louis would be a day that will live in team history. Murray set a team record with 253 yards on 25 carries. From that point until his rookie year came to an early close due to an injury, the former Sooner gained nearly 900 yards to lead all rookies. During his second season in the league Murray again experienced durability issues. In ten games he accounted for 663 rushing yards combined with an additional 251 receiving yards. When he was healthy, DeMarco was a beast in the backfield. In 2013 he became the first Dallas runner in recent memory to go over the 1,000 yard mark and he made his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

The 2014 season was one that will long live in the memory of Cowboys fans. Murray led the league in rushing with 1,845 yards. His season began with eight straight 100+ yard efforts, the longest such streak in league history. For the second straight year he was selected to the Pro Bowl and he earned first team All-Pro honors for his season. With 2014 being his contract season Murray figured to cash in on his success, and when free agency opened up, Murray left the friendly confines of Dallas to join the Philadelphia Eagles.

David Arkin - OG, Missouri State

Arkin was a running joke among Cowboys fans. During his time in Dallas he never saw a snap. Primarily a practice squad player, he was eventually poached off of the practice squad by the Miami Dolphins in the aftermath of the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin fiasco when that franchise found themselves in dire need of an offensive lineman. Following his release at the end of the 2013 season, Arkin made his way to the Pacific Northwest to join the Seattle Seahawks. That stint lasted only five days. The Indianapolis Colts then signed him to their practice squad for the remainder of the 2014 season.

Yes, folks, David has finally saw regular season action in the NFL. He played one game for the Phins in 2013.

Josh Thomas - CB, Buffalo

Josh was selected by Dallas in the fifth round. He was cut before the start of his rookie season. Following his release by the Cowboys, Thomas joined the Carolina Panthers where he made four starts at the end of his rookie season. During his second season he played in 13 games and made six starts. In 2014 he made three appearances with the Seattle Seahawks before being released. He finished the season as a member of the New York Jets, although he did not see action. Josh Thomas is currently a free agent.

Dwayne Harris - WR, East Carolina

Harris made his impact felt as a special teams guy.In 2012 and 2013 he proved to be a serious weapon as a return man on kicks. He also was a demon in kick return coverage for the Dallas special teams unit. His efforts resulted in his earning multiple honors as special teams player of the week. In 2014 he continued to dominate as a coverage guy on kick returns, but Harris appeared to have lost his fast ball when it came to returning kicks. He recently signed a five-year, $17 million dollar deal with the New York Giants.

Shaun Chapas - FB, Georgia

During his time in Dallas, Chapas was primarily a practice squad player, however he did make one stat for the Cowboys during 2011. He was released at the end of training camp in 2012. Since that time he has been a member of the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Baltimore Ravens. He is currently a free agent. For his career Shaun has two receptions for 15 yards.

Bill Nagy - C/OG, Wisconsin

Bill Nagy was drafted in the seventh round by the Dallas Cowboys as a part of their initial youth movement on the offensive line. In his rookie season he saw limited action but started all four of his professional appearances,  A fractured ankle early in his rookie season relegated him to injured reserve, The following season a high ankle sprain in training camp prompted the Cowboys to release him in an effort to put him on injured reserve. The Detroit Lions claimed him before he could clear waivers even knowing that he would not be able to play that season. Following the close of the season Nagy was released by Detroit.  He has not played football since that release.

Of the eight players selected by Dallas in 2011, seven are still technically active football players, even though Josh Thomas and Shaun Chapas are not currently under contract. Only Bill Nagy is out of football. Four of the eight are regular contributors to their teams and two members of the class have achieved All-Pro status. Hell, David Arkin even managed to find the field. All told, it was another solid job by the personnel folks in Dallas.