Oct 20, 2012; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Travis Frederick (72) during warmups prior to the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 38-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Even in the Draft the Cowboys Fumble Late

An entire offseason of speculation on how to improve the Cowboys roster, a gutting of the team due to salary cap restrictions and a lack of cap space resulting in the Cowboys being shut out of any chance at signing top level free agents meant that the draft would be the saving grace for the 2013 season.The Dallas fan base stood by as the quarterback with one playoff victory in three playoff appearances in 10 seasons (6 1/2 as a starter) was made the highest paid player in terms of guaranteed money. We accepted this as fans because we expected the Cowboys to make a splash in the Draft, only to watch that splash turn into a belly flop Thursday night and continue throughout Friday night as well.

Much like the problems that have plagued the quarterback, the Dallas front office followed suit with the same kind of mistakes. They started off well, only to provide a let down when it mattered the most. They started with a trade out of the number 18 pick down to number 31 in Round 1, when the top offensive linemen flew off the board in the top 15 picks. The trade with the San Francisco 49ers gave the Cowboys an extra Third Round pick to fill holes in their roster. Then as the Cowboys typically do on the field, they fumbled and completely screwed up as time ran out on the Draft with the selection of Travis Frederick – C – Wisconsin.

November 24, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Travis Frederick (72) blocks Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (91) at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets take a break and simply state this is not a hit piece on the young man from Wisconsin. He is a solid player and has a fine resume as a collegiate player. Frederick himself was a part of a Wisconsin team that ran the ball better than anyone the last two seasons and he has the versatility and experience to play both guard and center, which was the basis for his appeal to the Cowboys brain trust. The problem with the pick is that there is not a Draft Analyst, outside of the Dallas War Room that had Frederick rated higher than a mid Second to Third round grade.

Coming into the NFL Draft on Thursday Night it was no secret that the Cowboys needed help on all phases of the offensive line. They could have used a tackle to kick Doug Free either inside to guard, or as most fans would rather see to the curb. They also needed help inside at either guard or center. Prior to the Draft fans were hopeful that a tackle or one of the top guards, Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper would land in their lap at pick number 18. Unfortunately for the Cowboys three of the top four picks were tackles and the two guards were all taken in the top 10. Then DJ Fluker went at 11 to San Diego and the offensive line prospects were falling off the board.

The Cowboys were also hoping for defensive help at safety and defensive tackle. However those dreams were slashed when both top defensive tackles, Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson, were taken back to back at 13 and 14. At safety the top guy, Kenny Vaccaro was snatched up at 15 by New Orleans. This left the Cowboys at 18 with players they did not desire. Sharrif Floyd, considered a top prospect was available, but character  concerns at defensive tackle has not worked for the Cowboys this past season with the transgressions of Josh Brent and Jay Ratliff. So the Cowboys made a calculated decision to trade out of of the 18th pick with the 49ers for the 31st pick and the 12th pick in the third round (74th Overall).

The trade back was not a bad decision, however the compensation was not up to par. The Cowboys allowed the 49ers to move up 13 places in round One and received only one extra third round pick. By comparison, when St. Louis moves up 8 places earlier in the Draft the Bills received a second round pick, a swap of third round picks and a seventh round pick. With that thinking in mind, the Cowboys gave up more places to the 49ers and received less compensation for their move.

Living with an inferior trade was only compounded by the selections of the two teams involved in the trade. The 49ers used the 18th pick to grab LSU safety Eric Reid, which as discussed earlier was a need of the Cowboys. The pain was increased exponentially by the Cowboys selection of Frederick.Doing extensive Draft research, many draft projections have been studied. I have yyet to find one projection or big board that had Frederick higher than 45 . The consensus of most Draft boards had Frederick as a third round grade. Many draft boards did not even have Frederick as the highest interior lineman in the Draft.

When analyzing the trade and the pick together the Cowboys passed on such prospects as Eric Reid, Sharrif Floyd, Sylvester Williams Alec Ogletree and Matt Elam. All of these players could have filled needs for the Cowboys and were ranked higher than Frederick as far as projected production is considered.

The Cowboys had opportunities to remedy their first round pick Thursday night with three picks Friday night, and the Cowboys continued to pull out picks that make fans scratch their heads. In the second round the Cowboys neglected any need and took Gavin Escobar – TE – San Diego State. This player is a guy that I like as a prospect, but fail to recognize where he helps within the Cowboys roster. The Cowboys already have an All-World TE in Jason Witten, and they used a draft pick last year on James Hanna, an emerging talent at TE. So it is likely that Escobar will be a third tight end and a rotational player within their system.

In the third round the Cowboys used the pick they got in the trade with the 49ers to select Terrance Williams – WR – Baylor. The questions about this pick are very wide and very frustrating to a team that needed help on defense. The Cowboys already have Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. They have an emerging player in Dwayne Harris, who played admirably as the slot receiver. They have Cole Beasley and Danny Coale who were both projected as slot receivers. So now they add another wide receiver to the mix. Not to mention that despite the talent of Terrance Williams, many scouts and analysis of Williams said that he lacks the breakaway speed to separate from NFL cornerbacks, so the Cowboys will have another receiver that fails to create separation and can be shut down by one player allowing teams to focus on Bryant WItten and Austin when Tony Romo drops back to pass.

With their second pick in the third round the Cowboys finally filled a need on their roster taking J.J. Wilcox – S – Georgia Southern. This pick I really liked for the slot that the Cowboys were in. They finally got a player who can fit in the “Tampa 2″ defensive scheme. The Cowboys switch in defensive philosophy meant they needed a guy in the secondary that can cover the deep half of the field, and Wilcox fits that need perfectly.

Out of the four picks the Cowboys had in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, there is only one that I really liked. J.J. Wilcox filled their need on the back end of their defense. Travis Frederick is a guy that fits the needs of the Cowboys, but taken at 31 was too high in my opinion for the value they traded away and even the spot they ended up in. The middle picks of Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams make me scratch my head to see how they fit on the field for the Cowboys in the future. The lack of defensive tackle is still an issue heading into the final day of the Draft, so hopefully the Cowboys will land someone like Jesse WIlliams – Alabama, or Everett Dawkins – Florida State at some point on Saturday to bolster an otherwise disappointing 2013 NFL Draft.

So far in the 2013 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys front office has tried to mirror their team on the field. They make the right decision but bungle the execution. The way they have drafted so far is the equivalent of fumbling a snap on a game winning field goal. Fortunately for the Cowboys the ball has bounced back in their hands and hopefully their guys can reach the end zone instead of being stopped short of the goal line, but don’t be surprised if as is always the case, the Cowboys finish short of the line to gain… Does this image bring back any memories to us Cowboys fans???

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