Finally after studying hoards of potential players, watching film, assessing projections, and stomaching countless mock drafts…the day of reckoning is upon us. The 2012 NFL Draft takes center stage tonight in NYC. The Dallas Cowboys, their many loyal fans, and the rest of the league anxiously await the annual selection festivities. Funny how it’s always so easy to get pumped for the draft to kick off, and then when it begins everything crawls at a snails pace. 13 picks takes quite a substantial amount of time to log into the books during the first round. Nevertheless, it’s gameday from this side of the table and time to load up with new, promising talent.
With the 2011 Cowboys teetering on the playoff brink, this year’s first-round pick seems to hold a paramount significance exceeding those of the recent past. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s difficult to glance in the mirror while analyzing the showcase of potential at this critical juncture of the off-season. Last season’s meltdown has already stung long enough and is easily shut out of the mind on a promising day as such.
And the future is merely conceptual when compared to the immediate energy buzzing around on this selection day. Or maybe it’s the wealth of talent at so many positions busting at the seams in this draft unlike most years in the recent past. By holding the 14th pick of this particular draft, you’d have to be aloof to elude selecting a starting player that can perform well on day one of the 2012 season. Then again, we all know too well that controversial decisions coming from the big boss in Valley Ranch are no rarity inside the Cowboys war room.
So before the crucial 14th pick reaches the podium tonight in this 2012 NFL Draft, let’s take a last look at who the Cowboys best option should be, who the choice absolutely shouldn’t be, and the likely way Jerry Jones will lean after taking into consideration the manner he tends to make decisions.
THE COWBOYS SHOULD…
Select a player with exceptional college production who will very likely start from day one, and is widely accepted to have great potential to man his position for years to come. He should immediately surpass the current starter penciled in at his position. The selection’s draft value must match or exceed the slot he fills. And of utmost importance, this player must fill a critical position of need for 2012. ‘Best available’ works well for teams with fewer holes than Dallas. Unfortunately Jerry Jones often fails to recognize roster holes when they are clearly glaring craters. In this crucial round one, the Cowboys selection should fill a spot where there is certainly not a known starter or returning productive player already manning the position.
- Eliminated positions: Entire starting offense minus interior linemen, cornerback, both linebacker groups.
Dallas could certainly use another CB to add to the fold and a dangerous OLB pass rusher, yet both positions have productive starters ready to take the field while other crucial positions remain unsettled. To reach the playoffs in 2012, it’s imperative to apply the ‘here and now’ approach to this first pick. Dallas must address a position containing an immediate starting question mark for 2012.
- Remaining ‘first round’ positions (in order): Strong safety, guard, defensive tackle, defensive end
In the 2011 draft, Tyron Smith was the right man at the position of greatest need. His on-field production and pro potential held very few question marks and the experts mostly agreed Smith was the best fit. Low and behold Jerry Jones went against all inclinations of his gambler mentality and it appears Dallas rightfully found a gem in their starting left tackle for many years to come. In 2012 the Cowboys are still not in position to gamble on a project or uncertain commodity no matter how high his ceiling MAY be.
And the 14th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft is (should be)…David DeCastro OR Mark Barron.
The Cowboys can’t go wrong with either player. DeCastro may be the surest thing of the entire draft, yet Dallas’ strong safety position may be a bigger Achilles heel than offensive guard if left unaddressed with Barron. In the air-elite NFC East, Dallas needs as complete of a starting secondary as possible. Not to mention Barron would elevate the play of the current starting corners while providing a unique, aggressive weapon for Rob Ryan to creatively unleash on offenses. Be it DeCastro or Barron, either guy is a massive upgrade to the Dallas starting lineup and are accepted by experts as sure bets to be difference makers in 2012.
THE COWBOYS SHOULD NOT…
REACH for a player with uncertain yet perceived upside!!! At the 14th pick there is ZERO need to do so. The talent remaining at this draft position will undoubtedly still have immense starting value. A player with much inferior college production on the field than the best at his position does not equate to having more value at this high of a spot, regardless of perceived ceiling. Dontari Poe being coined a ‘workout warrior’ is about as tired as Barron’s false labeling as a ‘box safety’. Yet when you watch substantial film on Poe, one should realize his play truly doesn’t match his exceptional and dominating combine results. He was a pretty good college player, don’t get me wrong. But a day one quality starter affording Jay Ratliff the ability to slide outside to end is far from a known conclusion. Poe’s unsafe level of immediate translation to the NFL game certainly classifies the pick as a reach at pick 14.
After studying Michael Brockers of LSU and Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State on film, Poe isn’t on the same planet at defensive tackle and clearly ranks third for his position at best. Brockers and Cox were explosive forces in the middle against the best the SEC had to offer. Both guys have routinely destroyed attempted double-teams by big, solid SEC linemen and often still made the tackle fighting through those blocks. Both guys are fast, compact, powerful players off the ball. Cox surely will be gone by the Cowboy’s selection, and Brockers value though high is still a tad lower than DeCastro and Barron at 14.
Poe is more adept at what his size indicates, eating space. And even that’s still not always the case. He often does what his massive girth and strength dictates best, takes up space by engaging a few Conference-USA linemen and holding them up at the point of attack. And he does so in a less than dominant manner that I’m not sold will produce solid results against quality NFL offensive linemen. After re-watching Alabama-LSU in the 2012 BCS Championship Game, I can tell you right now Brockers is a MUCH better player NOW with just as high of a ceiling. He has his concerns also that keep him below DeCastro territory, yet Poe is nowhere near his level. Someone will make a costly first-round mistake taking Poe early (just like Ryan Tannehill) and get an above average (second-round value at best) pro tackle for his career.
Also, the Cowboys should not draft with redundancy of position in the first round regardless of the upgrade provided. As said before, a pass-rushing OLB would be great to have, yet Spencer has re-signed (notice the pre-draft timing) and the OLB positions now have solid starters already signed. Could Dallas strongly improve the position through adding the fierce pass rush of Courtney Upshaw? Absolutely. However, the upgrade gained from an every down starter at a position with serious starter question marks like safety and guard far outweigh a redundant upgrade. Simply calculate the number of plays these players would effect and the answer is obvious.