Retrospective: Grading the Dallas Cowboys 2011 NFL Draft Class

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Of all the franchises in the National Football League, the Dallas Cowboys have been among the worst in finding lasting talent within the NFL Draft for the past few years. Out of the eleven players selected in the 2009 draft class, only three remain on the current roster. To pound this point home even further, the Cowboys have retained just 15 of the 39 players it has selected since 2006. But is the 2011 draft class good enough already to buck the negative drafting trend in Big “D”?

According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr., the answer to that question is “no”. Earlier this week, Kiper revamped his 2011 draft grades for all NFL teams. After re-reviewing the Cowboys’ draft class, Mel’s grade for Dallas went from being a B- to a C+. But I think most Cowboy fans will agree that this grade change is too harsh. Find out what changed Kiper’s mind and why I think he’s wrong to drop down the grade, after the break.

Here’s what Kiper had to say in his recent article on

Summary: I said then that I liked the conviction Dallas had to get younger on the offensive line, stay at No. 9 and take Tyron Smith, even though that was no home run in terms of value. Still, that pick turned into a win for the Cowboys. Smith, who started all season as a 20-year-old, played on the right side, but all indications are he could develop into a blindside tackle if they find it necessary to move him there. The grade rises if he can. Right now, a right tackle isn’t your goal with a lineman taken at No. 9 overall. Bruce Carter’s NFL script is still unwritten, but DeMarco Murray obviously was a great value in the third before he went down for the year. Murray’s injury, incidentally, is why it’s hard to ever say a great running back out of the third round is a “steal” — RBs land in the third because you expect them to get hurt. It’s just reality. There isn’t much else here so far. Dwayne Harris flashed in the preseason but wasn’t a factor. Aside from Smith, the best rookie was kicker Dan Bailey, but alas, he wasn’t drafted and thus can’t be factored in here.

Let’s take a look back at each draft pick individually. I’ll come up with a draft grade for each player and then we’ll average it out at the end to come up with our own 2011 draft grade for the Cowboys.

1st round (9th overall) – Tyron Smith; Offensive Tackle, Southern California

The youngest player chosen in the 2011 NFL Draft showed he belonged in the “big leagues” this season. Smith was arguably the most consistent offensive lineman for the Cowboys this year, which in retrospect isn’t actually saying very much. Dallas gave up 39 sacks in 2011. That’s the most since 2005. But remember, this kid faced off against some of the most feared pass rushers in the game, like Jason Pierre-Paul and Jason Babin, and held his own. The young lineman from USC will now make the critical switch to left tackle, skyrocketing his value to the team. GRADE: A-

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