The dust has settled on the 2013 NFL Draft. Experts, analysts, pundits, draftniks, fans and maybe even your house pet has their opinion on how everyone did. Draft grades were handed out within seconds after the commissioner read someone’s name off of the 5×8 index card handed to him. There were winners. There were losers. Hell, even Vegas changed their odds on the likelihood that certain teams have to win the Super Bowl trophy.
So, forgive me if this seems to be an unoriginal topic to add my two cents towards. It’s my turn and you’re going to just have to read the 3,475,000th opinion of how, in particular, the Dallas Cowboys faired when it came to adding talent to their team in the hopes of finding themselves in the chilly late winter night of an outdoor New York Super Bowl.
Here’s the good news. You can always expect a fresh take from me so you will be spared grades. We’re not in school here, although I am bringing the knowledge. The whole such and such team gets an “A” and such and such team gets a “C-” makes no sense. No one has suited up for a single practice, let alone a game, so there is no way to know right this second which players are going to be productive and which players will make you remember Tony Mandarich, David Klinger, Vernon Gholston and the countless other busts.
Nope, today what I bring to the table is a different perspective. Think of as a past, present and future of sorts. We are going to compare how I felt the Cowboys draft should have gone prior to the draft (seen here: http://thelandryhat.com/2013/04/19/cowboys-six-round-complete-mock-draft/) to how it went and how I feel it should have gone at the draft. I feel it is necessary to provide this one disclaimer. Regardless of my thoughts, feelings and opinions, I hope that every player picked by the Cowboys does great and brings us back to the promised land. So when you’re reading this, remember, objectivity is the key. Let’s get started.
Who I had Dallas drafting – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Who Dallas actually drafted – Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin
Who the Cowboys should have drafted – Matt Elam, S, Florida
Vaccaro went 15th overall to the Saints so Dallas clearly could not have drafted him with the 18th pick so we’ll never know if they would have, had they had the chance. By now, it’s been beaten to death that Dallas could have stayed at the 18th slot and drafted universal top ten talent Sharrif Floyd. They chose to instead trade down and acquire an extra pick (the value of which is yet another heavily debated topic). So the Cowboys, now picking at spot #31, drafted a center, who of course they say they say was at the top of their draft board in Travis Frederick.
I CANNOT BE MORE CLEAR ABOUT THIS NEXT POINT… I really like Travis Frederick. I have no doubts he will come in and start from day one either at center or guard and be a Cowboy for a long time. ARE WE CLEAR? Good.
Now, let’s have a grown up discussion. These are indisputable facts. The next center in the draft was selected 86 spots later in round four. In the last ten drafts, only five centers have been picked in the first round. Would Frederick have been around later? The overwhelming circumstantial evidence says yes. I get wanting to make the offense more “Romo-friendly” and I am all for protecting him with stud offensive linemen. The point is that the goal of doing so can be done in all kinds of ways and this was the least effective.
Why Elam instead of Frederick? Because clearly Dallas was going to come away with a safety at some point in this draft, so why not take one of the three best available, that’s why. Elam is a big play maker and played on a big stage his whole career. Plus it sets up the rest of the draft for you to other things you want and need to do.
Who I had Dallas drafting – Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
Who Dallas actually drafted – Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
Who the Cowboys should have drafted - Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
Warford was still there for the Cowboys at pick 47. Was it too high? Not really. He went 65th overall in the top of the third round. Picking up Warford would have addressed the biggest deficiency in the offensive line which is the middle, where Romo likes to step up in the pocket. Instead the Cowboys went with their “Romo-friendly” plan and drafted a pass catching tight end to pair with and eventually some day replace all-world TE Jason Witten. Here’s the problems with that however. One. Dallas has been trying to do this since 2006. Anthony Fasano, Martellus Bennett and now Escobar. Is Escobar better than those other two? The likely answer is yes but even if he is, does Dallas actually commit to two tight end sets the high majority of the time? If so, that means a lot of one back, two receiver formations which makes previous picks like Cole Beasley and Danny Coale virtually wasted. Two. You already have a good, young pass catching tight end to back up and play with Witten. His name is James Hanna. Three. I get the benefit that putting a 6’6″ target to throw to brings and I agree with it but it’s not like Hanna is short, he’s 6’4″ and he’s faster than Escobar. So you’ve essentially now crapped on two of your picks from one year ago and an undrafted free agent that has a place in today’s passing game… and the blocking aspect of the line is still questionable.
Who I had Dallas drafting – John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Who Dallas actually drafted – Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor (74th overall) and J.J. Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern (80th overall)
Who the Cowboys should have drafted - Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin and John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
Frederick likely would have been available at 74 still and if not, then the next best center, Brian Schwenke definitely would have been. Jenkins went 82nd overall so he too would have been available. Imagine Warford and Frederick side by side for the next 10 years. You think Romo would have any complaints about that? Unfortunately though, the Jones’ boys idea of “Romo-friendly” means sexy picks that do flashy things like score touchdowns, not gritty, dirty things like block and keep lungs from being punctured and shoulders from being separated. I like the idea of Williams because we all know Miles Austin isn’t exactly the textbook definition of reliable when it comes to availability. I think he can provide some value to Dallas but again, this negates all the positives that Dwayne Harris showed last year. All that kid did was produce every time he was provided the opportunity, kind of like Austin did when he was up and coming. Now instead of being the clear #3 option, he is in a deep battle with the aforementioned Cole Beasley, Danny Coale and now Williams. All for limited time on the field because, remember, Dallas is going to go heavy on two tight end sets now that Escobar is in town. You can only have so may skill players on the field at once you know.
Wilcox would be rendered unnecessary by the first round selection of Matt Elam. This would have allowed the Cowboys to do the one thing they absolutely whiffed on in this draft. Address the defensive line. I read this week from various sources that Dallas did not feel this was a need. I read one not so amusing story about how new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin walked into the defensive line room and couldn’t find a seat, so this lead the Cowboys brass to the assumption that meant they were deep enough at that position. Wrong answer. Here is your projected starting linemen. DE – DeMarcus Ware, age 31. DT – Jay Ratliff, age 32. DT – Jason Hatcher, age 31. DE – Anthony Spencer, age 29. Sounds nice except Ware has been seriously nicked up by the end of the year the last couple of seasons and now he’s taking on a more physical role of defensive end from rush linebacker. Ratliff has been largely non-productive and Spencer is also moving to a new role. Backup players such as Ben Bass, Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lissemore are all decent but if anyone gets injured for a significant period of time, none of them really are starter material. This is where a big space eater like Jenkins would be ideal. He would have provided the big body type that would have went perfectly with Ratliff’s speed dimension and also could have turned Hatcher into a third down interior rush specialist and swing lineman capable of giving the starters a great backup at all positions.
Who I had Dallas drafting – Le’Veon Bell. RB, Michigan State
Who Dallas actually drafted – B.W. Webb, CB, William & Mary
Who the Cowboys should have drafted - John Simon, DE, Ohio State
Bell went in round two and was the first running back overall to be picked. I do not think that was expected by anyone honestly. Webb brings excellent coverage skills and depth to the corner back spot which in today’s NFL, is never a bad thing. The problem is that he is not the type of corner that fits the new Cover-2 scheme all that well. He is more of a turn and run type where the Cover-2 asks for more physicality and zone principles. Ultimately, in round four this was a great value pick which is really all you can ask for. I would have liked to see Dallas continue to address the defensive line however which is why I feel Simon would have been the better choice. As Cowboys fans, one thing we have grown accustomed to watching over the recent years is the New York Giants shuttle in pass rusher after pass rusher and really get after quarterbacks. We all know how this worked out for them. We also know, aside from Ware, Dallas has not been all that proficient at doing the same thing. Bringing in a guy like Simon who has an extremely high motor and can play both 4-3 end and 3-4 rush linebacker would have been nice as his versatility and tenacity could have possibly solved both issues.
Who I had Dallas drafting – Lavar Edwards, DE, Louisiana State
Who Dallas actually drafted – Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
Who the Cowboys should have drafted - Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
Edwards went nine spots in front of the Cowboys actual pick, Joseph Randle. Of all the picks made by Dallas in this draft, this is by far the best one. Randle in round five is a steal and fits a huge need as a backup option to the oft-injured DeMarco Murray. With Edwards gone and the hypothetical pick of Simon in round four, the need for a pass rushing end would have been filled anyways. Randle will be at worst, a healthier, albeit less speedy version of Felix Jones. He is a very accomplished all around back who should have a decent NFL career. There is nothing but positive things to say about this pick. Whoever was actually responsible for this one should stand up and be more vocal in future choices cause it was likely not Jerry.
Who I had Dallas drafting - P.J. Lonergan, C, Lousiana State
Who Dallas actually drafted – DeVonte Holloman, LB, South Carolina
Who the Cowboys should have drafted – Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
Longeran went undrafted who signed with the Bears as a free agent. He would have been rendered useless by the pick of Frederick in whatever round Dallas chose to get him, so I will go with the idea they had in round four here. Poyer is more of a scheme fit as a Cover-2 corner and went in the middle of round seven to Philadelphia. I guess we’ll get a decent idea of how he would have looked as we will be seeing him twice a year for the near future. Again, no knock on Webb but from a scheme prospective, Poyer may fit slightly better and the difference between them skill wise is miniscule. Holloman provides the Cowboys with another linebacker and fairly was probably the best option on the board at the time of this pick. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are set at that position for the next eight to ten years. The third linebacker spot is up for grabs so he could easily compete with the likes of Alex Albright, Caleb McSurdy, Justin Durant and Ernie Sims however I feel that Poyer would have made more sense, even with Webb picked in round four.
So there you have it, one writer’s review of the 2013 draft. Whether you or I like it, who we actually picked is who we have to support. I wanted to take this opportunity though to show that while you will hear a lot about how there was a plan to give the newly super rich Tony Romo some very well deserved help, I feel like it was another bit of failure brought to us by maestro Jerry Jones. Improving both the offensive and defensive lines helps Tony by not putting so much pressure on him to outscore the other team and actually hand the ball off every so often. Helping out your quarterback does not always mean give him new weapons to throw the ball too. Having solid, dominant lines has worked out for recent Super Bowl champions like Baltimore, the Giants and Pittsburgh fairly well. given that they have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in four of the last six championship games.