The 2012 draft was the year of the big trade up. Under second-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan the team was looking to make a big impact by improving the defensive secondary. The Dallas Cowboys were willing to take a big gamble on the draft to get Coach Ryan the tools he needed to find success. Would it pay off for the team?
Morris Claiborne - CB, LSU
The St. Louis Rams held the #6 overall pick in 2012 and they eagerly accepted Jerry Jones offer of the Dallas first- and second-round selections in return for the opportunity to select the man whom most experts considered to be the best corner prospect since Deion Sanders. Due to off season surgery Claiborne missed significant work that hampered his transition to the professional game.The result of that lost time was evident on the playing field.
Morris dedicated himself to adding strength to his frame for his second season. It was not enough. Starting in the preseason with a sprained knee, Claiborne suffered a series of injuries that limited his effectiveness to the team. He was surpassed on the depth chart by Orlando Scandrick. Soon the dreaded 'bust' label was starting to be heard in association with his status. The former LSU Tiger faced more of the same in 2014. Once again he was relegated to a situational role and soon thereafter he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Not only has Claiborne failed to live up to the hype that surrounded his selection, he has failed the durability test as well. The 2015 season will be make or break time for his career in Dallas.
Tyrone Crawford - DE, Boise State
As a rookie defensive end in Ryan's 3-4 defense, Crawford filled a rotational role and acquitted himself about as well as could be expected from a third-rounder. Tyrone displayed plenty of potential for development and he looked to be a rising prospect for the team to develop. On the opening day of training camp during his second season, Crawford suffered a torn Achilles tendon and was lost for the season.
2014 saw Crawford start the season at defensive end before the team moved him inside to rotate with Henry Melton. His play was an improvement over what the club received from his predecessor and Tyrone moved into the starting role at the three-technique. He still has plenty of room for development as a defensive tackle, but he has proven to be a solid piece for the defensive coaches to work with.
Kyle Wilber - LB, Wake Forest
Kyle Wilber came to the Cowboys as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. During his rookie season he was slowed by a thumb injury that limited his experience during training camp and the early season. As his injury healed the team was able to get him some reps in situational roles. When Monte Kiffen took over as defensive coordinator and switched the team to a 4-3 defense Wilber moved to defensive end. The move was not a good fit for him, and when injuries at linebacker forced the team to move him back to that position he found some success as the starting SAM for the final few weeks of the 2013 season. During the most recent season Kyle played both defensive end and linebacker for the Cowboys until he was passed at the linebacker slot by Anthony Hitchens.
Matt Johnson -S, Eastern Washington
Matt Johnson came in to the NFL with the promise of being the surprise of the 2012 draft. A small school ball-hawk, Matt was expected to become the safety of the future. The big problem was that Matt became the David Arkin of the Class of 2012. During his three training camps with the team, Matt made two preseason appearances but never managed to make it out of Oxnard without winding up on injured reserve. He was waived by the team during the first round of cuts before the 2014 season. Johnson officially retired from football on February 27th.
Danny Coale - WR, Virginia Tech
Danny Coale was always open. There was a good reason for that; no defensive coordinator in the league felt the need to cover the guy who was always in the tub nursing an injury. Since leaving the Cowboys in 2013, the former Hokie has been on the practice squad in both Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Danny has yet to play a down of professional football but the Steelers did sign him to a new contract at the beginning of this year. He is still wide open.
James Hanna -TE, Oklahoma
When you are a tight end drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, your role is going to be limited because you will be behind Jason Witten. His biggest impact on the team has been as a consistent special teams player. In 2014, with the change of having Scott Linehan calling plays for the Dallas offense, Hanna has been used more frequently as a point of attack blocker for the Cowboys running game. He was one of the unsung heroes that helped DeMarco Murray set the team mark for single season rushing yards. James Hanna has done what is expected of a guy who plays behind the Senator.
Caleb McSurdy - LB, Montana
Caleb came to the Cowboys as a projected back up inside linebacker and as a potential fullback. An Achilles injury in training camp during his rookie season relegated him to injured reserve. He was cut by the team at the close of training came during his second season. Since that time, Caleb has spent time on the practice squad first with the Rams and later with the Cleveland Browns. He is currently a free agent.
The draft class of 2012 was certainly a lackluster one at best. It started with a splash but never lived up to those initial moments. Three of the seven men in the group have never played a meaningful professional snap. Although it pales in comparison to the 2009 draft, 2012 will continue to be a thorn in the side of the Dallas Cowboys.