We have all come to the same conclusion that last year’s draft by the Cowboys was phenomenal. With Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott fast out of the gate, it didn’t take long for draft pundits to give the Cowboys a gold star for their quality of work in the draft. Both Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown aided in the draft grade by producing some quality snaps for the defense last year. And of course, this doesn’t even take into account the high upside of Jaylon Smith who the team should unleash in 2017. It was an epic draft.
With Dak, Zeke, and the potential of Jaylon, the Cowboys may have landed themselves three first-round talents. That’s very impressive. What is also impressive is they might have themselves another three firs- rounders from 2015 as well.
In a recent 2015 re-draft by Lance Zeirlien of NFL.com, the draft analyst has three Cowboys players going in the first round. And the Cowboys top player in the draft is a player they didn’t draft at all. In fact, nobody did.
Original pick: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington.
Irving was drafted: Irving went undrafted.
Irving was dismissed from Iowa State and fell in the draft. In the re-draft, however, he's on the board and going early.
The Kansas City Chiefs signed Irving as an undrafted free agent and then placed him on their practice squad in September. The Cowboys scooped him up a few weeks later and put him on their roster. Irving, who was an unknown to most of us, started raising eyebrows after he blocked a field goal against the Seattle Seahawks midway through the season. After a solid rookie campaign, Irving started garnering more attention with some spurts of great play. Most memorable was his NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors against the Green Bay Packers. In just 19 snaps, he forced three fumbles, recovered one of them, had a sack, and one batted down pass.
Last year, he was my favorite pick to land a starting spot on the defensive line.
When your defensive line group finally breaks the seal on showing the world that they have talent, there is always one player that nobody has heard of that breaks out. Irving can be that player. The 22-year old has great athleticism and showed up on tape several times last season. Despite playing inside at defensive tackle, he's got the speed to play on the edge. The Cowboys have nice depth at DT now and Irving is too talented to be buried on the depth chart. He'll have plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills on the edge with the team being suspect at defensive end. He shows great thrust and can attack the run well, which makes him a good candidate for being a two-down player, but don't sleep on his pass rushing skills. Despite playing only 205 snaps last year, he still managed to have 16 quarterback hurries. Irving gave us all a glimpse of his talent last year, but look for him to break out on the scene this season.
And now, he’s a favorite of many. Everyone loves him. In fact, here is Packers’ T.J. Lang giving him a nice little hug. It’s a shame this showing of affection didn’t come at a less critical point in the game.
And Irving isn’t the only player on this list that the Cowboys didn’t draft.
Original pick: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville.
Collins was drafted: Collins went undrafted.
Collins fell out of the draft due to off-the-field concerns, but we'll slot him to guard-needy Dolphins in this do-over.
The Cowboys caught a couple breaks when it comes to Collins. For starters, he chose not to enter the 2014 NFL Draft and finish out his senior year at LSU. Initially, that seemed like a great decision for him because he played his way to a top-10 projected pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Unfortunately, his draft stock plummeted when news broke that he was being questioned in the shooting of a women who he had a previous relationship with. NFL teams didn’t touch him and he went undrafted. A few days later, Collins signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys.
After former guard Ron Leary got nicked up early in the season, Collins stepped in and took control of the starting job. Collins would suffer a toe injury last year so Leary go his job back, but left for a big free agency paycheck last month. Collins will return to his position at left guard.
Say what you want about Jerry Jones, but his hospitality can sure sway you into wanting to play for Dallas. And the fact that the team has been drawing aces on the offensive line in previous drafts may have had a lot to do with Collins choosing the Cowboys. He had a specific reason for joining this group.
"This is going to be the best offensive line in NFL history," Collins said. "Mark my words."
But at least one of the picks from this list is a player the Cowboys drafted.
27) Cowboys: Byron Jones, S, UConn
Original pick: Jones.
Cowboys would be pleased to find Jones here again.
After such a great haul in the first round over the last several years it can be a little bit of a let down when a first round pick is just a....well, a first round pick. Over the last seven years, Jones is the only first-round pick on the team that is not an All Pro. But his performance is nothing to shake a stick at. He’s been valuable in the secondary and has demonstrated the ability to shut down the opponent’s tight end. And he’s only played two years in the league. Even future Hall of Famer, Jason Witten didn’t make his first All Pro until his fifth year in the league. Let’s give the kid a bit more time.
The Cowboys got some good luck with Collins, but you have to hand it to Will McClay and company for bringing in Irving. To think they got a mid-first round caliber player on their team playing for a measly $615,000 is astonishing. The Cowboys have tried all kinds of tricks as they’ve attempted to land an impact defensive lineman and fans keep waiting for one of them to pay off. Is it possible the wait could finally be over?
Some notes added by my colleague, Tom Ryle:
The Cowboys weren’t the only team with three first-round caliber players. The Minnesota Vikings also had three - 3. Danielle Hunter (round 3, 88 overall), 16. Eric Kendricks (round 2, 45 overall), and 24. Stefan Diggs (round 5, 146 overall). Strangely, their own draft pick, Trae Waynes (round 1, 12 overall) didn’t make the list. Nice recovery, Minnesota.
Nine teams didn’t land a first-round caliber player, including the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. This explains why they are always picking in the front of the draft. The Philadelphia Eagles are another team with a first-round whiff when they surprised everyone and took Nelson Agholor with the 20th overall pick. So keep those nine mistakes in mind if you are worried that a good pick won’t make it to 28. It will.