This week, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay outlined just how successful the NFL draft was for the Dallas Cowboys. Before draft day last year, it was clear that Dallas would use its top pick for Ezekiel Elliot or a top-notch cornerback/safety. As we all know, the Cowboys selected Zeke with the top pick, gambled on Jaylon Smith in the second round and picked up Dak Prescott in the fourth round. Let’s take a look at best case scenarios for each player drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft.
Ezekiel Elliott, Round 1, Pick 4
Zeke has the potential to go down as one of the best running backs in the National Football League. Dallas has been a haven for star running backs with Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith and look for Zeke to follow in their shoes. The ultimate Achilles heel for Zeke and the Boys moving forward is his propensity to find himself in trouble. As the NFL continues to crackdown on off-the-field antics, Cowboys Nation must stay on edge before totally committing their future to Zeke.
Best case scenario: He avoids any off field trouble and busts through the 2,000 yards rushing barrier in a season.
Jaylon Smith, Round 2, Pick 34
Jaylon Smith was touted as the best defensive player in the NFL draft before suffering a horrific knee injury during the last game of his Notre Dame career. Dallas gambled on him and essentially red-shirted him all season such that he could recover on a neurovascular level. Time will tell if he can regain his form, but folks in the front office seem awfully optimistic that he will be near his former self come this September.
Best case scenario: A fully healthy Jaylon Smith with a firing nerve gives Dallas an elite linebacker, setting up future comparisons to franchise greats like Chuck Howley, DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee.
Maliek Collins, Round 3, Pick 67
Drafting Maliek Collins in the third round was clearly addressing a need along the defensive line. He suffered an injury during OTAs and was placed on the PUP list and was limited during the preaseason. By the time he did start playing, he played relatively well all season and ended the year with five sacks. This sophomore year for Collins will be important as he has the talent to be the long-term starter at the 3-technique tackle position.
Best case scenario: Builds on a solid rookie season and becomes entrenched as the Cowboys 3-tech tackle.
Charles Tapper, Round 4, Pick 101
The Dallas Cowboys continued to address their weak defensive line in the fourth round with Charles Tapper. He was slated to compete for the defensive end position but he was diagnosed with a back condition which forced him to miss much of the preseason, until he was finally placed on IR in late September. His talent and athleticism at Oklahoma was clear but it remains unclear how productive he can be on the field.
Best case scenario: He becomes a starting defensive end and provides competition for any incoming rookies.
Dak Prescott, Round 4, Pick 135
Rayne Dakota Prescott came to the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round and is now widely touted as the best late-round quarterback since the Patriots picked up Tom Brady in the sixth round. Cowboys Nation has already pegged Dak as the franchise face and the quarterback who will hopefully take them back to the 1990s dynasty days. His teammates, coaches and front office agree with each and every accolade.
Best case scenario: Proves the rookie season wasn’t a fluke, starts a trajectory to join other Cowboys QB greats like Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.
Anthony Brown, Round 6, Pick 189
Anthony Brown was drafted out of Purdue to add cornerback depth to what was perceived to be a very effective and healthy unit. Due to multiple injuries, Anthony Brown was thrust into the spotlight and played quite well over the course of year, often against worthy competition. As a result, it was easier for the Cowboys to let Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne leave in free agency this year. Just keep this in mind, Malcolm Butler was an undrafted cornerback who became the starter following the departure of a series of starters.
Best case scenario: Brown can become a legitimate second or third cornerback in Dallas.
Kavon Frazier, Round 6, Pick 212
Dallas continued to address its secondary by selecting Kavon Frazier in the sixth round. He spent the majority of 2016 on special teams and had limited action at safety. Given the departure of Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, look for Frazier to compete for the starting safety position, continue to provide depth at the position and play a role on special teams.
Best case scenario: He becomes this season’s Wilcox, a guy who plays regularly in the safety rotation.
Rico Gathers, Round 7, Pick 217
The Dallas Cowboys saw raw athleticism in Rico Gathers and he was given a spot on the practice squad. He’s a tight end and with continued practice time and technique-building, he could eventually compete as the backup tight end. Worst case, the experiment fails and Dallas lets him go at the conclusion of his futures contract.
Best case scenario: He makes the roster and competes as a backup tight end for the immediate future.
Best case scenarios for the 2016 draft choices would be: long-term starters at quarterback, running back and linebacker; quality starters along the defensive line and secondary. Depending on what happens, this draft has the potential to be the most productive in franchise history.