The 2019 NFL draft is in the books. The Cowboys went into it with six picks and exited with eight thanks to consecutive trade downs that started in the fourth round. There was wide disagreement over the picks and strategy here at BTB, so it’s always good to take a look at what some outsiders thought. In this case, we’ll get a grade from Mel Kiper and a best pick from Todd McShay.
Dallas Cowboys: B-
While a B- grade might not seem bad, in the overall context of Kiper’s grading system, it’s not good. He gave out one A, four A-, six B+, nine B, five B- and seven C+. So the Cowboys ended up around the bottom third of the league
Here is his evaluation.
Top needs: Defensive tackle, wide receiver, safety
The Cowboys got a great rookie season from first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch a year ago, and the defense took a step forward under Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard as they won the NFC East and a wild-card game. But there were still holes, particular at defensive tackle and safety. Remember that Dallas hasn’t made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2006-07. And with no first-rounder because of the trade for Amari Cooper (Jerry Jones is OK with that deal, no matter what Cooper’s new contract look like), it had to fill those needs on Day 2. Did it do that?
I’m not so sure. Defensive tackle Trysten Hill was a reach at No. 58, but I see why Marinelli might like him. He has a great motor and some physical traits, but you wonder why he didn’t produce consistently in the AAC. I had a fourth-round grade on him. I would have gone safety with Taylor Rapp, Juan Thornhill and Nasir Adderley still on the board. There was good value with my second-ranked guard Connor McGovern at No. 90, and he could be insurance for Travis Frederick at center, too. The ESPN draft projection system thought highly of him.
Dallas took two running backs on Day 3 -- Tony Pollard (No. 128) and Mike Weber (No. 218) -- and there was a quiet need for someone to spell Ezekiel Elliott. Jalen Jelks (No. 241) flashed top-50 talent but never put it all together. He has measurables that make the seventh round a steal.
To not get a safety until the sixth round made me scratch my head a little bit -- that was such a glaring need. Let me ask you: Did Dallas get any immediate starters here? Cooper doesn’t count. Hill is an enigmatic player, and Pollard is more of a luxury pick. I do like taking McGovern and making sure the offensive line stays a strength of the team.
Let’s unpack this. First of all, I would take issue with his top needs. Defensive tackle and safety were certainly top needs, but wide receiver? You’ve got three quality starters and several capable backups. That makes me suspicious of the grade immediately.
On the other hand, many observers (including me), lamented the fact that the Cowboys came out of the draft without a top safety prospect. Trysten Hill may end up being a quality pick, and defensive tackle is certainly an area of need. It’s hard to ding the Cowboys too much here, but Juan Thornhill would have been my pick. Still, this is just a preference thing.
The fact that the Cowboys had such a high grade on Connor McGovern precluded them from grabbing a safety in the third round. If you are a true believer in BPA, then you can’t argue against the McGovern pick since the Cowboys have said he was the highest-rated player by far left on their board.
The fourth round is where things got sideways. With two picks (128 and 136) so close, it was all about the order of the players. The Cowboys went with Tony Pollard first and lost out on targets they had at 136. There’s a belief they could have waited on Pollard and still got him at 136 since he was projected to go lower than the fourth round. On the other hand, as we’ll see below, there are some who really like the Pollard pick.
From that point, the Cowboys traded down and down, eventually grabbing a haul of players with final pick Jalen Jelks seeming to draw “steal” commentary from quite a few places.
Tony Pollard, RB/WR, Memphis (Round 4, No. 128 overall)
Pollard is super versatile, and Dallas is going to use him all over the place. He’s going to line up in the slot. He’s going to contribute in the run game, taking some of the load off Ezekiel Elliott and getting reps on third down. And he’s going to play a big part in the return game, which needs a lot of work. Pollard averaged 30-plus yards per kickoff return over three seasons and took seven to the house. He has limited punt return experience, but he could theoretically factor in there as well.
He has size, speed and vision. If Dallas gets him going downhill, he’s going to do some damage. Pollard is typically a one-cut-and-go back, but he’ll show patience in waiting for the hole and then the acceleration to pull away. And he fits nicely with the Cowboys’ zone-blocking scheme. Expect him to make an impact in multiple phases of the game.
Pollard was the pick that caused some of the controversy for the Cowboys. Could he have been taken at 136 instead of 128? This would have allowed the Cowboys to grab their rumored crushes, John Cominsky or Isaiah Johnson, and then circle back for Pollard.
If Pollard does what he was drafted to do, we might not be worried about this in years to come. As has been mentioned, this is the “Kellen Moore” pick. Scott Linehan was notorious for talking a good game about using players in different potions and in different ways (see Tavon Austin from last year) only to resort to his tried-and-true scheme without trying much new. Everybody is hoping this will change under Kellen Moore.
Pollard will be exhibit A if that happens. As noted, he is one of the most versatile players in the draft with the ability to be a running back or slot receiver and to play special teams. The Cowboys have been one of the few remaining “workhorse” running back teams that relies solely on one guy and really don’t utilize a variety of weapons from their running back corps. Elliott will still be the workhorse, he just too good not to be, but the hope is Moore can incorporate Pollard into the offense and freshen things up a bit.
If that happens, then Pollard will justify his draft selection.