With the Dallas Cowboys 2012 campaign coming to a close two weekends ago, the team and fans must turn their attention to the offseason. In the days and weeks to come, there will be coaching staff changes, talk of resigning their own players, potential free agent signings from other teams, and of course April’s NFL Draft. With this being said, I want to take a quick look back at the players the team selected in last year’s draft.
Some players come out of college and are prepared to play and succeed right away, while others take more time to develop before being able to contribute on the professional level. At the conclusion of each year’s draft, sports writers across the country will try to assign grades to each team’s annual draft. While you can have a general feel about how the draft went for a respective team, you truly won’t know for several years later how the draft actually turned out for that team. Players in the NFL usually make their biggest improvements from year one to year two, and then year two to year three. Although players can still improve going into year four and deeper into their career, the biggest jumps usually take place during the aforementioned time frame.
Here is a summary of the Dallas Cowboys 2012 draft:
1st Round – Morris Claiborne (Traded for 14th & 45th overall for 6th selection overall)
Claiborne looks to have real talent and appears to be a foundation piece for the future. The stats he recorded this season were 55 tackles (43 solo, 12 assisted), 8 pass deflections, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumbles in 15 games played. At the time he was drafted, Jerry Jones said the Cowboys scouts rated Claiborne with the highest pre-draft grade for a cornerback since Deion Sanders. Claiborne showed good general game awareness, cover skills, and did not hesitate to make tackles when necessary.
2nd Round – - (45th overall; combined with 14th overall to move up in Round 1)
3rd Round – - Tyrone Crawford (81st selection overall)
Crawford appeared in 16 games this season had a total of 20 tackles (16 solo, 4 assisted). He was used as a rotation player to provide depth at the defensive end spot and as a pass rusher in some longer down and distances. He looks to have some potential and it will be interesting to see how he develops in the next few seasons. With turnover very likely to occur on the defensive line this offseason, he will be given an opportunity for his role to increase.
4th Round – - Kyle Wilber (113th selection overall)
Wilber dressed for 10 games this year and was used mainly on special teams. He tallied 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 assisted) for the season. He was drafted with an eye to the future, as the Cowboys have been uncertain for some time as to how they want to handle Anthony Spencer’s contract situation. They were hopeful he could possibly fill Spencer’s shoes, but that looks unlikely at this point.
4th Round – - Matt Johnson (135th selection overall)
There was a lot of positive talk coming from the Cowboys after they selected Johnson in the draft. With the impressive interception numbers he put up in college, speed he displayed prior to the draft, and showing range on tape, the Cowboys were very high on him. Unfortunately, Johnson missed most of the spring football activities with school obligations. When the calendar turned to summer, he missed most of camp and the regular season with injuries. The Cowboys have not been able to evaluate Johnson in game situations, and don’t know much more about him then when they drafted him as his rookie season was pretty much a wash.
5th Round – - Danny Coale (152nd selection overall)
Like Johnson, Coale also dealt with injuries during the summer and was not able to really be evaluated. He was cut when the team was trying to get to the 53 man roster limit, but was then added to the practice squad for the 2012 season. His development was cut short when he suffered a torn ACL in mid November. The Cowboys hope he can contribute in the future, but the jury is still out.
6th Round – - James Hanna (186th selection overall)
Hanna has an intriguing combination of size and speed, but was underutilized by the coaching staff this season. Hopefully the Cowboys bring in an imaginative offensive coordinator/playcaller this offseason that can better put to use the personnel on the offensive side of the ball. Hanna is definitely one of the players from this draft class that the fans can have some hope for going forward.
7th Round – - Caleb McSurdy (222nd selection overall)
McSurdy suffered a torn Achilles tendon in August at practice and was placed on the season ending IR. He was a long shot to make the 2012 team, as he was behind Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Alex Albright, and Orie Lemon on the depth chart. His future with the Cowboys appears cloudy, but we will have to wait until he gets backs on the field once he proves healthy.
So in review, the Cowboys got one solid starter in Claiborne, however, it took two premium picks to get him. If he turns out to be perennial pro bowler, then it the risk was worth it. If he is ends up being just a solid corner, then the move may not have been worth it as there are a lot of holes on this team and limited resources to fill them. The rest of the draft looks to be rated as a question mark, or a disappointment at this point in time. While some of these players seem to have some potential, it is too early to judge as injuries really hampered this class.
In this era of the salary cap, teams need to hit on their draft picks. You need rookies to come in and contribute right away, and hope to get more that one solid contributor out of a draft. The Colts, Seahawks, Browns, and Rams are just a few teams to select multiple starters/significant contributors from the 2012 Draft. It usually takes having a couple of good drafts in a row to truly stock a team with talent. I contribute an article to this site every Thursday and will continue to evaluate the past few drafts in the upcoming weeks. The further we look back, the more time has passed so that the drafts can be evaluated more objectively. When looking at the Cowboys last five drafts, they did ok on only two of them, which contributes to why the Cowboys are home in January, instead of vying for the Super bowl.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH