The NFL Draft is where teams build the core of their team. Success generally follows the organizations that have been able to put together successful drafts in consecutive years. I have recently completed a series of articles that reviewed the Dallas Cowboys recent draft history (2008-2012). Last week I started a new series that reviews the notable players the team missed out on and passed over in these drafts as well as whom the team actually drafted. This week, the missed opportunities of the 2011 draft will be evaluated.
Here is a summary of the Dallas Cowboys 2011 draft, and players that were available when the Cowboys were on the clock:
1st Round – Tyron Smith (9th selection overall)
Smith played very well during his rookie season at the right tackle position, and while his move to left tackle in 2012 was up and down, it was nonetheless still solid. Smith is now seen as the cornerstone of the offensive line heading into the future. Smith’s sophomore season was more up and down as he was called for numerous penalties throughout the season. Nonetheless, Smith still looks to be a great piece and will only get better and is still only 22 years old. Notable players selected after #9 include the following: J.J. Watt – DE (11), Mike Pouncey – C (15), Ryan Kerrigan – DE/OLB (16), Nate Solder – OT (17), Adrian Clayborn – DE (20), Phil Taylor – DT (21), Derek Sherrod – OT (32), Andy Dalton – QB (35), Colin Kaepernick – QB (36), Jabaal Sheard – DE (37)
2nd Round – - Bruce Carter (40th overall)
Due to a continuing rehab from a knee injury suffered during his senior season at North Carolina, Carter did not make his debut for the Cowboys until the second half of the 2011 season. Carter at this time was mainly used on special teams and in sub packages. Carter had a breakout season in 2012 until being placed on season ending injured reserve in late November. Carter looks to have a bright future as a Dallas Cowboy. Notable players selected after #40 include the following: Brooks Reed – OLB (42), Kyle Rudolph – TE (43), Orlando Franklin – OT (46), Stefen Wisniewski – C/G (48), Torrey Smith – WR (58), Marcus Gilbert – OT (63), Randall Cobb – WR (64), Justin Houston – LB (70)
3rd Round – - DeMarco Murray (71st selection overall)
Murray has been a great 3rd round find for the Cowboys and is the best back the team has had since Emmitt Smith wore the star. The only thing that can prevent Murray from reaching his full potential with the Cowboys is a lack of talent along the offensive line and the ability to stay healthy. Notable players selected after #71 include the following: Stevan Ridley – RB (73), Sam Acho – LB (103), Colin McCarthy – LB (109)
4th Round – - David Arkin (110th selection overall)
Arkin was drafted with an eye to the future, and has showed some versatility in being able to play both guard and center. Unfortunately, he has not yet played at an NFL level yet. Arkin’s future is cloudy with team going forward. Notable players selected after #110 include the following: Cecil Shorts – WR (114), Marcus Cannon – OT (138), Denarius Moore – WR (148), T.J. Yates – QB (152), Richard Sherman – CB (154),
5th Round – - Josh Thomas (143th selection overall)
Thomas did not make the final roster cut down to the 53 man limit for the 2011 season and has been a solid contributor to the Panthers in his two seasons playing in Carolina. Notable players selected after #143 include the following: Jacquizz Rodgers – RB (145), Jeremy Kerley – WR (153), Pernell McPhee – DE (165), Charles Clay – FB (174)
6th Round – - Dwayne Harris (176nd selection overall)
Harris struggled to earn and hold a roster spot in the 2011 season. Again in 2012, he was battling throughout the season to show he deserved to keep his spot. Towards the end of the 2012 season, Harris solidified his role on offense as the third receiver as well as the main option on returns on special teams. Harris looks to have a good future with the team going forward as he and Tony Romo displayed good chemistry in the stretch run of the season. Notable players selected after #176 include the following: Jason Kelce – C (191)
7th Round – -Shaun Chapas (220th selection overall)
Chapas was on the practice squad for most of the 2011 season and was called up to the active roster late in the season when Tony Fiammetta was having injury problems. Chapas did not make the final roster when the Cowboys cut down to 53 players for the 2012 season. Chapas was picked up on the Detroit Lions practice squad in September and added to their active roster this past December. Other players selected after #220 and prior to #252 have not yet made their mark.
7th Round – - Bill Nagy (252nd selection overall)
Nagy was a good late round find for the Cowboys and earned a starting role for the 2011 team. However, due to injury issues, Nagy found himself on the waiver wire only to have a waiver claim submitted by the Detroit Lions the very next day. Notable players selected after #252 include the following: Chris Harris – CB (undrafted), Doug Baldwin – WR (undrafted)
This draft when compared to the Cowboys recent draft history produced a much better class than the Cowboys norm. This draft also had a good talent level. Some of the players available on the board at the time the team was selecting definitely look intriguing when looking back from a retrospective point of view. While some may complain at whom the team passed over, the team did hit on 50% of their selections in this draft and found some solid pieces for the future. If the team was able to have this type of success year after year, the talent level of the team would have more depth to it and free agency would be more about finding the last piece or two (as compared to drafting to fill a bunch of holes).
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH