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Cowboys Draft Picks (Plus One Undrafted Free Agent) Are Creating Expectations

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

NFL.com ran a series of articles recently discussing draft picks from around the league. Some articles focused on the best and worst picks from each team, other articles focused on the expected impact from the rookies. As you might surmise, the Cowboys did well in the expectations game, especially if you consider La'el Collins. The offensive lineman from LSU wasn't technically a draft pick, but the reality is he was a first-round talent. So we'll go ahead and lump him in with the rest.

In the best pick/worst pick category, Collins doesn't count, so you might guess who the best pick was based on value.

Dallas Cowboys Best: DE Randy Gregory, Round 2 (No. 60 overall) Yes, Gregory enters the NFL already in the first stage of the league's substance abuse program, and the bust potential here is high. But the upside is unparalleled for the price -- Gregory could prove to be the best pass rusher in the entire draft, an elite talent who could make a major impact on a team already of playoff quality. Sure, Dallas could have gone with a safer pick, but the outcome of a second-rounder isn't going to break this franchise.

On the worst side, the player selected wasn't even the cause of his "worst pick" designation. Instead, it's the old meme of the Cowboys not picking a running back.

Worst: LB Damien Wilson, Round 4 (No. 127 overall) This was the point in the draft where Dallas could have addressed its need at running back with Boise State's Jay Ajayi, a highly productive and promising rusher despite medical concerns. When the Cowboys passed on the Plano native, they missed their last shot at one of the draft's real talents at the position. Nothing against Wilson, but Dallas needed to pass on him if it wanted a legit alternative to Darren McFadden in the backfield.

This line of thought is not going away. There are good arguments for both sides of the coin, selecting a back or not selecting one in the draft. Until the Cowboys hit the field and start answering the running back-by-committee question, we'll keep hearing about it.

NFL.com also ranked all 32 draft classes (including UDFAs). The Cowboys power ranking was a very healthy #3, behind only the Vikings and the Browns. That's saying something considering the Vikings were choosing at a much higher position and the Browns had two first-round picks.

Using NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt's Hot 100 prospects list as the arbiter, the Vikings were the draft's clear "winner." First off, the Vikings selected six Hot 100 players. And when you add some math to the equation -- i.e., assigning point totals to each player depending on where he was ranked (100 points to the No. 1 player, 99 to the No. 2 player and so on) -- the Vikings piled up 290 points, 42 more than the second-place team (the Browns).

3. Dallas Cowboys: 237 points (3 players) Overview: Dallas got three of Brandt's top 28 players. But how they got them is the interesting aspect of this. The Cowboys' first-round pick was CB Byron Jones -- and he was the lowest-ranked by Brandt of Dallas' three Hot 100 players. The highest-ranked was OT La'el Collins, who was signed as a free agent after teams bypassed him in the draft. Dallas got OLB Randy Gregory in the second round after he fell because of off-field issues. The players (points) No. 15 OT La'el Collins, LSU (86) No. 23 OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska (78) No. 28 CB Byron Jones, UConn (73)

Next, NFL.com ranked the Top 100 rookies who will make an impact in 2015. Yes, those same three names pop up for the Cowboys.

12. DE Randy Gregory, Dallas Cowboys: The Dallas pass rush was non-existent at times last season. Gregory will have plenty of opportunities to change that playing opposite Demarcus Lawrence and, eventually, Greg Hardy.

21. OL La'el Collins, Dallas Cowboys: The undrafted first-round talent will likely start at guard to boost the already top-notch offensive line in Dallas.

47. CB Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys: He sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when talking about the Cowboys' draft picks, but Dallas is counting on the first-round pick to shore up the secondary, and he should be a mainstay on special teams.

Not bad for one draft, as long as all three players play to expectations.

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