Draft grades, we know they’re folly, but we can’t resist them. There is something about either getting validation for your own views, or having something to rant about when they disagree with your own views. Are they too optimistic, or did the reviewer just not understand what your team was doing?
Our own Tom Ryle gave his overall draft grade for the Cowboys earlier today, so check that out, it is well worth your time to give it a read. Now, let’s take a quick spin around the internet to get some other views.
Dallas Cowboys: B-
Top needs: Linebacker, wide receiver, defensive tackle
So I can see what Jerry Jones & Co. did on the first two days of the draft. I had Bama linebacker Rashaan Evans higher on my board, but I can’t deny Leighton Vander Esch’s high ceiling. The Cowboys see him as a Rolando McClain-type middle linebacker, who can be a playmaker against the pass and stick backs behind the line of scrimmage. Vander Esch surged up boards after the combine, but he only had one great year of tape at Boise State.
I see Connor Williams as more likely to move inside to guard, so that means Collins could stick at tackle. And that’s a good value at No. 50 -- Williams looked like a top-15 pick in 2016, but dipped a bit on play and measurables -- his arms are a little short. I said on Friday night that Dallas grabbing wide receiver Michael Gallup was one of my favorite picks of the third round. He’s an underrated player, but don’t expect him to replace Bryant. Dorance Armstrong Jr. (116) had an injury-plagued 2017 season but had 10 sacks in 2016. You trust defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to get the best out of him. Dalton Schultz(137) isn’t going to replace Witten, but at least Schultz isn’t allergic to blocking. I thought Mike White (171) could have gone late in the second round, so that’s a good pick. If Bo Scarbrough can play special teams, that’s a good pick late in the seventh round.
Where was the defensive tackle, though? That’s still a weakness, and maybe Dallas can find a street free agent to play a role. And if Witten does retire, do they have a starting-caliber tight end on the roster?
My take: That grade seems a little low for his own analysis. He basically likes the picks and thinks they got value, but the lack of a defensive tackle brings it to a B-? A little harsh.
Day 1 grade: A-
Day 2 grade: A
Day 3 grade: A
Overall grade: A-
The skinny: Vander Esch is a talented off-the-ball linebacker who can move on the outside and slip tackles inside to find the ball. The Cowboys needed to bolster the position, but should they have found a pass-catcher here instead given their dire need at the position and having their pick of the best? It’s a good pick -- if his neck truly is not a problem. Williams will likely play guard for the Cowboys. He’ll join a nasty group up front and has the talent to make Pro Bowls. They found a future starter at receiver with Gallup. His progress as a rookie will have a large effect on how the passing offense performs in 2018. Jason Witten’s expected retirement forced the team to find a tight end, and Schultz should be a move-the-chains guy for years to come. White was picked up in the fifth round to be a strong backup to Dak Prescott, but he has starter qualities. Covington is another coverage linebacker with great potential as a special-teamer, as well. Scarbrough struggled to become “the man” at Alabama, but he’ll be a worthwhile seventh-round pick if he can lower his pads and run hard consistently. The trade with the Raiders to acquire Jihad Ward at defensive tackle met the only need left on their board.
My take: They really liked our draft, so I’ll leave it alone.
Dallas Cowboys: B
Leighton Vander Esch dismissed rumors about his neck, though medical concerns have sadly become commonplace in Dallas’ linebacker room. Assuming he’s OK, he was a good decision in Round 1 rather than reaching for a receiver. Jerry Jones and Co. got leapfrogged in the second round by Philadelphia, which took TE Dallas Goedert ... who might have been a fine replacement for Jason Witten. Still, the Cowboys got an excellent player 50th overall in Connor Williams, who will further strengthen what’s arguably the league’s top O-line. WR Michael Gallup (3rd round) and TE Dalton Schultz (4th) won’t make anyone forget Dez Bryant or Witten, but that shouldn’t be the expectation. Trading for versatile Tavon Austin was a low-risk investment at the cost of a sixth rounder. Fifth-round QB Mike White could give Cooper Rush a summer battle to be Dak Prescott’s backup.
My take: Ah, the Philadelphia leapfrog. First, why can’t these writers do research and find out that Goedert wasn’t even in the conversation for Dallas at that point? And second, even if he was in the conversation in a hypothetical, I would say thank God the Eagles jumped ahead because I will take Connor Williams over Dallas Goedert for the Cowboys.
Overview: Tavon Austin should be mentioned after the Cowboys acquired him for the No. 192 pick, although he doesn’t quite move the needle. Austin will play running back in Dallas, providing a change of pace for Ezekiel Elliott. Taking Vander Esch at No. 19 was a tacit admission the Cowboys never should have taken Jaylon Smith in the top-35 picks of the 2016 draft. Smith will now be pulled on passing downs in favor of Vander Esch and Sean Lee. The next three picks after Smith in that draft were Hunter Henry, Myles Jack, and Chris Jones, all of whom would be much higher-impact contributors to the Cowboys than Smith. Nevertheless, Vander Esch and Williams are near-certain Week 1 starters, and Gallup easily could be too in a weak wideout corps presently led by Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Allen Hurns. Edge prospect Armstrong managed 1.5 sacks last season and showed limited explosion in pre-draft testing. Schultz is mainly a blocker and needs a heavy dose of weight-room work for that skill to translate to the pros. I expected Wilson to be a higher pick as a versatile wideout with NFL lineage and deceptive big-play ability. I don’t think Covington, White, or Scarbrough will last.
My take: He no likey. Fair enough, but he seems a little too focused on the Jaylon Smith draft pick, rather than what Vander Esch brings to the table.
Dallas Cowboys (B-minus)
Interesting that Dallas didn’t go receiver in the first round to replace Dez Bryant, but the Cowboys coveted Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch and took him at No. 19. Later, they picked Colorado State WR Michael Gallup.
My take: Not enough analysis to make a comment, just wanted to get another grade in for you guys!
Dallas Cowboys: B
Vander Esch was a tremendous first-round get by Jerry Jones to round out the Cowboys’ linebacker corps. The next best pick was Schultz, a potential starter soon with the Jason Witten retirement thoughts becoming a reality. Other than that, including the trades for Tavon Austin and Jihad Ward, it was a mixed bag that didn’t reflect the Cowboys’ status as a contender in the NFC East.
My take: Wow, Schultz is a better pick than Connor Williams or Michael Gallup? Two moves that almost everyone praised? I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion.
NFL Draft Scout
No one was a bigger winner in the 2018 NFL Draft than the Cowboys, who did a fantastic job of hosting the event while simultaneously adding quality talent to fill key positions of need each day. Dallas thrilled the hometown fans with the selection of Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch at No. 19 overall, an ascending prospect with the instincts, athleticism and perhaps most important, durability. Dallas lacked the latter at that position and saw only flashes from Jaylon Smith and even star Sean Lee. It then reinforced the strength of the team - the offensive line - with falling local product Connor Williams who could prove to be a Pro Bowler at left guard and addressed the need for pass-catchers with nationally underrated receivers Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson in the third and sixth rounds, respectively. Tight end Dalton Schultz won’t have anyone forgetting about Jason Witten any time soon, but he is a quality prospect who should be able to at least fortify the position. Similarly, Dallas found quality backup options at defensive end, quarterback and running back to their current stars in Dorance Armstrong Jr., Mike White and Bo Scarbrough, respectively.
My take: Is this guy on Jerry’s payroll? I’m not going to argue with this glowing review!
The new MIKE linebacker for the Cowboys, Vander Esch is an ascending player who is an ideal fit for the Cowboys’ defense and should start from Day 1. Williams had a streaky 2017 season, but he was tremendous value at No. 50 and is the exact medicine needed for the Cowboys’ offensive line with his tackle/guard versatility. He is probably the starting left guard in the season opener, but can also kick out to tackle if needed. Gallup is part of the new-look Dallas receiving depth chart and could emerge as the team’s best wideout at some point during the 2018 season. At only 21 years old, Schultz could take over the starting tight end duties as a rookie if Jason Witten retires. White, who was my No. 6 rated quarterback ahead of Mason Rudolph and Kyle Lauletta, could easily beat out Cooper Rush for the backup role and strengthens the most important position on the depth chart.
Ranking: #4 overall best draft in the NFL
My take: We’ve been using Dane Brugler for a lot of draft stuff this offseason, so it’s only fitting that we close with his review.