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2016 NFL Draft Grades: Jaylon Smith and Dak Prescott Are The Keys To Cowboys Draft

A look at the first draft grades published over the last few hours, and how the NFC East teams graded out.

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Arbitrary draft "grades" right after the draft may be one of the silliest rituals the NFL has produced. The silliest? Complaining about those draft grades.

Too often, when we as fans evaluate a draft, the reason why we like or hate a pick is the result of what some "expert" said about a given pick, or where some other "expert" had a given prospect ranked before the draft.

Keep that in mind as the experts below try to do in a few hours what usually takes a few years: grade a draft class.


Cowboys Draft Grades 2016
Burke & Farrar, NYG PHI WAS


If Smith is able to return from the knee issues that now hamper his NFL future, this is a lead-pipe A+. He was the best player in this class, and the Cowboys took a manageable risk in spending their second-round pick on him. There’s no question that Elliott will help the Dallas offense return to form. Fourth overall is a high pick for a back, but Elliott does it all and does it well. Collins is a bit of a project, but he’s a good athlete who will vie for a rotational slot early on. Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper is a more developed player who will be an asset against the run, with pass rush as a bonus attribute. Prescott is a big, mobile quarterback who has shown a lot of mental development over time, and he’s in the perfect situation to continue to grow—as long as Tony Romo stays healthy.​ A B A-
Chad Reuter, NYG PHI WAS


I love Ezekiel Elliott as a player. There's always concern when a running back is taken early in the draft, however, because of attrition at the position. Choosing Smith in the early second round was a gamble worth taking. Collins was pushed up boards more than his play indicated, but he does have the size and athleticism to be a factor inside. Tapper will give the team the power rush they're looking for, although some Cowboys fans wondered if it should have been addressed earlier in the draft. Prescott was a solid pick as a backup, and maybe more if he continues to improve his accuracy. Dallas then found very interesting players from the MAC in Frazier and Jackson, as well as an intriguing prospect in Gathers. B+ C+ A


Is it possible for a Cowboys draft class to be simultaneously splashy and shrewd? The Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith picks certainly made the kind of headlines owner Jerry Jones covets, but they were also calculated selections that could pay dividends both immediately and for the long haul. Yes, taking Elliott over Jalen Ramsey was questionable. Yes, Smith is a significant injury risk. But each player is a premier talent and coming away with both of them is a win for the Cowboys. Charles Tapper and Dak Prescott stand out as a nice mix of value and need in the fourth round. The selection of basketball player Rico Gathers is an intriguing home-run swing late in the draft. B- B+ A-
Terez Paylor, Kansas City Star NYG PHI WAS


Many had the Cowboys springing for defensive line help in the first round, especially with Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence suspended for the first four games, but the Cowboys instead opted to go for Elliott, the draft’s best back, who could give them a potentially dominant running game. The Cowboys took a gamble on Smith, a supremely-gifted player who might need to redshirt in 2016. They landed a quick, powerful interior tackle in Collins, a Center High School graduate. Tapper, meanwhile, is a plus athlete who can help at a position of need. The Cowboys gambled on Gathers, a star basketball player who wants to use his brawn for football.

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Mark Maske, Washington Post NYG PHI WAS


This is truly a mixed bag of a draft class and difficult to assess. Using the No. 4 overall pick on Ezekiel Elliott gives the Cowboys a potentially special RB who could be a centerpiece of their offense. But productive runners can be gotten far later in a draft and the Cowboys had to pass up Jalen Ramsey to get Elliott. Jaylon Smith was taken 34th overall. Was that too expensive a pick for a player who might not play at all as a rookie but could be a future standout? The pass rush wasn’t addressed until the fourth round with DE Charles Tapper and the secondary wasn’t particularly bolstered. Dallas might have gotten its eventual successor to Tony Romo at QB by using a fourth-round choice on Dak Prescott and took Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers as a prospective TE in the sixth round. B C- B-
Dan Kadar, SB Nation NYG PHI WAS


Elliott should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year front runner. He's a do-everything running back who immediately jumps Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden on the depth chart. If you assume Smith can come back in 2017 and play like he did at Notre Dame before his injury -€” and that is a bold assumption -€” the Cowboys got a likely top 10 pick. He did everything the Fighting Irish asked him to do. The Cowboys got help up front with Maliek Collins and Charles Tapper, but did they wait too long to get pass rushing help in the draft? Grabbing Rico Gathers in the sixth round was worth the flyer. His size is impressive, but we'll see if the former basketball player can make the conversion. B+ C+ A-
Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus NYG PHI WAS


Day 2: Dallas rolls the dice with Smith, whose knee injury will likely keep him out for all of 2016. When healthy, he’s an explosive playmaker, capable of running with receivers, tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. The No. 25 player on the PFF draft board is worth the risk at this point. Collins posted the No. 11 overall grade among interior defensive lineman in the class, using his quick burst to disrupt plays in the backfield.

Day 3: Tapper brings great athleticism on the interior and he can play all along the defensive front after grading at a balanced +13.8 against the run and +13.8 as a pass rusher. Prescott is one of the best running quarterbacks in the draft, though he’s not a natural passer as his accuracy (ball location) ranked 14th of 19 qualifiers in the class. Frazier posted the sixth-best run stop percentage in the class and 14th-best tackling efficiency.

B B B+
Jon Machota, Dallas Morning News NYG PHI WAS


If Elliott becomes a perennial Pro Bowler, Jaylon Smith returns to his Notre Dame form and there's solid production from Maliek Collins and Charles Tapper, this is an outstanding class. And then you have quarterback Dak Prescott. Some experts believe he'll never be more than a quality backup. Jerry Jones and Co. seem to think he has a chance to be a future starter. C- C- B
Pete Prisco, CBSSports NYG PHI WAS


I don't like taking backs high, so I ding the Cowboys for taking Ezekiel Elliott in the fourth spot, even if he's a good player. They also get two players -- Smith in the second and Prescott in the fourth -- who won't help right away. That's troubling. I did like some of their other picks, but not a great draft for me. B B- B

Agree, disagree? Tell us in the poll and the comments below what you think of the Cowboys' 2016 draft.

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