The Cowboys were widely ridiculed for picking Travis Frederick in 2013, not necessarily because Frederick was viewed as a bad player, but because it was felt he would have been available much later in the draft.
Dan Kadar, SB Nation's draft guru, gave the Cowboys a prescient A+ grade for the Fredrick pick at the time, but even he talked of a reach.
Almost no one is disputing that the Cowboys took Frederick too early in the draft. But once games start, people will quickly forget where Frederick was picked. He's a perfect fit on Dallas' offensive line and will open a lot of holes in the run game.
Most post-draft grades were not as kind, with the majority of comments calling the Frederick pick a reach, as virtually nobody had expected Frederick to be a first-round pick.
- Scouts Inc., the guys providing the prospect rankings for ESPN, had Frederick at No. 70.
- Mel Kiper had Frederick at No. 87 on his draft board.
- On Mike Mayock’s list of the top 100 prospects in the draft, Frederick checked in at No. 92.
- Matt Miller of Bleacher Report had Fredrick as the last player on his 100-player strong big board.
But it wasn't just draft analysts panning the Frederick pick. Here's Pro Football Talk's take at the time.
What did NFL teams think? Ed Werder of ESPN surveyed five NFL teams and asked for their grades on Frederick. One team rated him a fourth-round pick, two had him as a fifth-round pick, one had him as a sixth-round pick and one had him as a borderline sixth- or seventh-round pick.
A day after the draft, ESPN Dallas reported that Travis Frederick was the No. 22 player on the Cowboys board, a claim that was met with much incredulity at the time. It wasn't until the Cowboys' 2013 draft board was inadvertently leaked almost a month later (and transcribed by my good friend rabblerousr) that the Cowboys' claim was proven right: Travis Frederick was the 22nd-ranked player on a draft board that had 19 players with a first-round grade.
Travis Frederick meanwhile has been to three Pro Bowls, has made second-team All Pro twice, first-team All Pro once, and the Cowboys made him the highest paid center in the NFL last year.
Just because some draft analyst or over-eager Twitter scout ranks a player lower than where he was picked doesn't automatically make the pick a reach.
The Cowboys pay their scouts to find players that will fit their system, and those scouts put in way more work into the evaluation process than any draft analyst out there.
And that process will inevitably result in a draft board that differs from the many draft boards published in the lead-up to the draft.
NFL fans constantly ask their teams to "follow their draft board." But what if following the draft board results in the team drafting a player that public perception had ranked much lower?
Sitting where they are at the bottom of the first round, the Cowboys would be happy to see a player with a first-round grade fall their way. But if that doesn't happen, they'll pick one of the highest-graded players remaining on their board, even if that player might have "only" a second-round grade - and even if that player may be ranked much lower elsewhere.
Just going off their list of official pre-draft visitors, what if the Cowboys make a player like DE Tyus Bowser their top pick, even if many see him as a second-round prospect, and some might not even know who he is? Or if they take a CB like Chidobwe Awuzie or Fabian Moreau with their top pick, players that not many are expecting to be taken in the first round?
Would you be able to keep your cool and "trust the process"?
Perhaps not. But keep in mind that every year we'll see a wide range of assessments of draft classes. Some of them will offer a reasonable assessment of a given team's draft, others offer a much more radical take penned by authors clawing and scratching for relevance, who often have no particular football expertise, and have nothing but snarky commentary and click-generating headlines to offer.
If the Cowboys pull another Frederick, recent history suggests that the perennial nattering nabobs of negativism will fall all over each other proclaiming the pick another reach by the Cowboys, only to change their tune as soon as they publish their first re-draft of the 2017 NFL draft.