clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL draft grades: Was Dallas a winner or a loser on day one of the draft?

The reviews are in from the Cowboys community.

NFL: NFL Draft Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, after the Dallas Cowboys selected linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of the 2018 draft, we ran a few polls to get a grade on the pick. There’s nothing like instant reaction to a draft pick before he’s even set foot on a practice field for the team, amiright?

Well, that’s what we do as sports fans, so there is no reason to fight it. Here is what you guys said about the pick.

From Tom Ryle’s article where he graded the pick a B.

Out of 6,540 votes, 51% said it was a B and 30% gave it an A.

In another article immediately after the pick, we had this poll.

In this version, with 3,207 votes, we ended up with almost an even split between an A and a B grade.

Overall, it appears the community is either happy with the pick, or at least okay with it. Earlier this morning, OCC posted some national reactions and grades for the pick, check that out if you haven’t already.

Here are some more grades.

Bleacher Report

Grade/Analysis: A+. Leighton Vander Esch to the Dallas Cowboys was the expected pick all along. The Cowboys did have a need at receiver, but they recognized they can wait. Vander Esch may have some play strength issues, but they will work themselves out in time. He may only have one year of starting experience, but Vander Esch can play all over the field and changes direction on a dime. He joins Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee in the Cowboys front seven. This pick felt etched in stone weeks ago.

SB Nation

Too low, just right, or too high? I was not expecting him to go here, so I guess that means too high, but I love this dude. He’s a freaky athlete who led a tremendous Boise State defense in tackles and run stuffs and was second in second in tackles for loss and third in sacks. And his “played 8-man football” story is tremendous.

Bonus points for that and for being absolutely ecstatic to get picked by the Cowboys. He’s a little bit of a one-year wonder, but BSU coaches knew he was going to erupt last summer, and then he did.

SB Nation (again)

A lot of people expected all along that if Vander Esch was available at No. 19 that he would be the pick for the Cowboys. Vander Esch is a great athlete who can patrol the middle of Dallas’ defense. He’s an asset in coverage with his ability to read the quarterback and make a break on the ball. A trio of Vander Esch, Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith is an imposing and athletic trio for the Cowboys. But does he make a bigger impact than a wide receiver like Calvin Ridley or D.J. Moore would?

Grade: B

Andy Benoit’s grade: C

Dallas’s biggest need is wide receiver, and every one of them was still on the board when they picked at No. 19. And yet, they went with linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, which suggests they believe that Sean Lee—injury prone, 32 years old in July and a contract expiring in 2019—is nearing his end. If they don’t believe that Lee is almost done, this pick makes no sense with Jaylon Smith on the roster. In today’s NFL, where nickel defense is on the field around 60% of the time, you only need two high-quality linebackers. Vander Esch is a classic three-down ‘backer who started only one year in college. Most likely he’ll learn from Lee and then replace him. Good player, but the glaring need at wideout going unaddressed can’t be forgotten.

USA Today


Analysis: Jerry Jones resisted the urge to take a receiver and landed the most complete linebacker in the class. Maybe now the Cowboys defense won’t implode when Sean Lee inevitably gets injured.

Draft Season

The Cowboys said screw it, we don’t need no damn wide receiver. They made their love know for Vander Esch in the past few weeks and they stuck to their guns. This guy can cover ground and barring the whole neck injury thing isn’t a thing he will be a stud for the Boys. Still think they shoulda went receiver since they had the pick of the litter. But it was a quality pick.


Overall, it looks like you would have to declare the Cowboys winners on the first day. There are some rave reviews for Vander Esch, and some mediocre ones. But even the mediocre ones seem to be more about what the Cowboys passed on than the actual player drafted.

So what will happen tonight? We’ll see, but you can catch up on the best available players and possible strategy for the Cowboys in this article.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys