In a draft night full of trades (through the first 6 picks), Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett, and the Dallas Cowboys have shocked the mockers and moved up eight spots and selected the top rated Corner Back prospect, Morris Claiborne, out of LSU.
In 2011, Claiborne won the Jim Thorpe (award given to best defensive back) and was a consensus 2011 All-American. In the 2010 NFL draft, his former teammate, LSU’s Patrick Peterson, went No. 5 overall, and also won the Jim Thorpe award. Many mock drafts had the Cowboys slated for Alabama Crimson Tide safety, Mark Barron (who was drafted at #7 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), but Jerry Jones had different ideas. The Cowboys placed a trade with the St. Louis Rams, sending their 14th (1100 pts) and 45th (2nd round; 450 pts) picks while receiving the 6th (1600 pts) overall pick. The Cowboys came 50 pts ahead in terms of value with the trade, and St. Louis stockpiled yet another pick. In terms of on the field value, there is no doubt that the Cowboys felt that having two legitimate man cover corners were key to fixing an atrocious secondary.
Clairborne wowed scouts at the NFL combine, weighing in at 6′, 190lbs, and posting a 40 time of 4.50 seconds. Considered a strong ‘man’ cover corner, Morris will fit right in opposite Brandon Carr in Rob Ryan’s pressure defense. It seems like gone are the old days of the Cowboys secondary being shredded mercilessly with the likes of Terrence Newman, Alan Ball, and Patrick Walker.
It is still yet to be seen whether Claiborne will start over Mike Jenkins from day 1; Jason Garrett’s main point to this off-season was to fill the holes on the team, and create a competition at as many spots as possible. With the addition of Brandon Carr this offseason, the Cowboys have turned their weakest link (secondary) into one of the strongest and deepest positions on the team.
Claiborne not only will challenge for a starting CB spot, but will challenge for a spot as a returner. Claiborne averaged over 25 yards per KO Return last year at LSU. His return ability gives Dallas yet another dangerous option in the return game other than Dez Bryant, who suffered a deep thigh bruise in the first game last year, leaving him “gimply” for many games to come.
When Roger Goodell was booed onto his podium this evening at the beginning of the 2012 NFL draft, I wanted the Cowboys to stay put; hit the Best Player Available (BPA) and continue as such. After the Jaguars selected Justin Blackmon, and I glimpsed “DAL – On the Clock”, the goose bumps crawled up my arms, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. At first, there was some disappointment, because I didn’t want Jerry Jones & Co. to move up to draft Barron. I felt that it was too much to ask for a safety.
When the epiphany struck that Morris Claiborne was still on the board, I knew that JJ had made the right decision. Safeties are important, but there are only so many Ed Reeds and Troy Polumalu’s. Givning up that 2nd round pick ensured that the Cowboys would not be “stuck” short without a starting Corner Back next off season, and ensured that our secondary will be legitimate for years to come.
This year we will see what came first, the chicken or the egg. Was it a bad pass rush that lead to horrible secondary play, or was it horrible secondary play that lead to a bad pass rush? Only time will tell, but I can’t wait to see Claiborne and Carr line up against Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on September 5th, 7:30 pm. What a great way to kick off the start of the NFL season.