The NFL Draft buzz is heating up as the big day approaches for Dallas Cowboys, and NFL fans everywhere. All the draft speculation will be laid to rest next Thursday, April 25th when New York City Music Hall will fill to the brim with fans and draft hopefuls. As we wait for the big day let’s recap what happened last year and give a brief overview of where these players are as well as what can be expected from them in the upcoming 2013 season.
Round 1, Pick 6: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The Cowboys traded with the St. Louis Rams to move up to the sixth spot and grab the highest-ranked cornerback. Morris Claiborne came in and started right away and showed the country during the nationally televised season opener against the New York Giants that he was worth the two picks it took to get him. His proved his worth throughout the season, playing in 15 out of 16 games, tallying one interception and 55 total tackles.
Look for Claiborne to build upon his successful rookie campaign the season as he continues to show the Cowboys, and the league he was worth the extra pick.
Round 3, Pick 81: Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State
Having used their second-round pick to acquire Claiborne, the Cowboys didn’t select again until the third round. Tyrone Crawford was graded as a second-round talent prior to the draft, so when Dallas got on the clock they jumped at the opportunity to get him as late as they did. Crawford is pegged as a gym-rat type, who is always at the facility trying to improve his game and it showed throughout the season as he found his way on the field more and more.
Crawford isn’t known for his rushing ability as much as he’s known for his sound football play so don’t expect him to jump off the page in the first half of the season. As he works more and more in the new 4-3 defense he will find his nitch an become a solid rotational contributor along the defensive line.
Round 4, Pick 113: Kyle Wilber, OLB, Wake Forest
The fourth round yielded Kyle Wilber from Wake Forrest. He was pegged as a pass-rush specialist who had the ability to get into coverage and hold his own. With two top-notch linebackers on the outside in DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer as well as stellar young inside linebackers like Sean Lee and Bruce Carter manning the inside positions, Wilber didn’t see the field much.
The switch to a 4-3 defense is going to benefit Wilber a great deal. He has a real shot at getting at least a rotational role at the weak-side linebacker spot not that Ware and Spencer will be moving to defensive end. Look for Wilber to make his mark this off-season.
Round 4, Pick 135: Matt Johnson, S, Eastern Washington
The Cowboys needed help at safety again, and so they selected Matt Johnson with their compensatory pick in round four. He was selected with the idea that his play-making abilities he showed in college could transfer well to the NFL and help the Cowboys solidify a position of need. Well things didn’t go as planned. Johnson spent the entire year injured and piece after piece was used alongside Gerald Sensabaugh in an effort to make it through the season.
Johnson has had a full season and will have a full off-season to get into football shape. Hopefully this will help him stay on the field (or find it for that matter). Kiffin’s defensive scheme has to have a play-making safety, and that’s just what Johnson is. As long as he can stay healthy, Johnson will be a perfect fit for this new defense.
Round 5, Pick 152: Danny Coale WR, Virginia Tech
A receiver was a definite need going into the 2012 draft, and Dallas tried to fill that need with Danny Coale out of Virginia Tech. He isn’t a big guy who could stretch the field, but Dallas already had that in Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. What they needed was a third receiver who could act as slot guy and provide a quick, dump-off option for Tony Romo if the deep options were covered. Like with Johnson, things didn’t work out as planned with Coale either. After a string of injuries he ended up on the practice squad for the 2012 season and tore his ACL.
With the emergence of Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley at receiver there isn’t much room left for Coale. If he makes the week one roster he will be in a deep reserve role at best. And after coming off a torn ACL last November, he may not get much of a chance to make an impression this off-season. Look for Coale to most likey end up back on the practice squad.
Round 6, Pick 186: James Hanna, TE, Oklahoma
People talk about drafting Claiborne in the first round as the big highlight of the 2012 draft. It was a significant move, but James Hanna will prove to be at the same level in terms of a quality acquisition from last year’s draft. He was a raw talent with speed and size (4.49 40-yard dash; 6’4″ 249 lbs.) and since he was pegged as a fourth-round talent on some of the draft boards, getting him in the sixth round was a steal.
Hanna showed his ability in limited opportunities last year. As he continues to work and develop confidence with Romo he will flourish. Look for Hanna to more than double last year’s output (eight catches for 86 yards).
Round 7, Pick 222: Caleb McSurdy, MLB, Montana
Caleb McSurdy was drafted because he was a Jason Garrett-type player with a strong work ethic and high character. Unfortunately he suffered an ACL tear in the preseason that kept him off the field all season. That, coupled with the fact he was drafted as a middle linebacker for a 3-4 defense, and Dallas is switching over to a 4-3 defense, and there is more against McSurdy that what he has in his favor.
At the end of the day I think McSurdy will make his way on to the roster because of his willingness and ability to play wherever the Cowboys need him.