November 17, 2012; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Rantavious Wooten (17) runs with the ball against Georgia Southern Eagles safety JJ Wilcox (19) during the first quarter at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

A Look Back At The Dallas Cowboys 2013 NFL Draft

May 10, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick (70) on the field during rookie minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters in Irving, TX. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

After three full months of allowing our knee jerk reactions to calm, let’s have an open and honest look back at the Dallas Cowboys 2013 draft. First, let us begin by saying a draft cannot be fully “graded” until three or four years after it happens. But that does not stop us from having a guide of what to look for when grading a particular draft.

In my eyes, the three biggest needs for the Cowboys in the draft were safety, offensive line, and defensive line. The goal of a draft is not to select players strictly for need, but to stockpile your team with as much talent as possible. With the Cowboys draft, everyone (myself included) cursed owner and general manager Jerry Jones for the first round pick. What I want to discuss in this article is what it’s going to take in order for center Travis Frederick to be a successful first round pick. And here’s a spoiler: it is out of his hands.

How can the success of one player be out of his hands, you ask? By looking at what could have been. Dallas could have very easily drafted Frederick in the third round. Centers are not highly drafted and if you look at the deeper into the 2013 NFL Draft you’ll see that the next center was not taken until the 4th round at pick 107 (a full 76 picks after Frederick) by Tennessee. This is all to say that Frederick would have been available in the third round.

Looking back at the entire draft, the Cowboys did well, (outside of not finding any defensive line help) but that Frederick pick left a bad taste in my mouth. Here is where the problem lies and where the future will tell if he was a bad pick: J.J. Wilcox. Yes. The third round pick out of Georgia Southern holds the fate of Frederick’s draft grade. Now, let’s take Frederick and move him to the third round, in place of Wilcox. Which, in turn, leaves the first round pick vacant. Looking at who was best available and also fit a need, the choice at #31 becomes clear: safeties Jonathan Cyprien or Matt Elam. The players chosen right after Frederick. Sidenote: Since Matt Elam was not on Dallas’s board, according to the guys over at Blogging The Boys, we are going to eliminate him from the discussion.

Regardless of whether Frederick becomes a year one starter and a future pro bowler, the truth remains: he could have been had later. So the small school safety must perform at the same level as Cyprien to prevent the Frederick pick from being a reach. Yet again, this is not just a rookie year evaluation. Cyprien should start for the Jacksonville Jaguars from day one; Wilcox, on the other hand, is in a log jam to start come Week One. But if in a couple years, Wilcox can perform close to or beyond that of Cyprien, the Travis Frederick pick will not be a complete reach.

Before we go any further, please don’t feel like this is an article to bash Frederick. Because it’s not. Even he admitted he thought he would be drafted later. I like him and I think he will be successful. But in my opinion, (and the opinion of everyone else who follows the draft closely) Frederick would have been available later. He filled a huge need and improved the line. But a similar upgrade could have been made much later in the draft.

Now, we are going to leave the 2013 draft and talk about a trend Dallas must change. The Cowboys have long searched for decent safety play with free agent reaches (Ken Hamlin) and stop gaps like Gerald Sensabaugh. All while we allow young safeties to develop. Herein lies the Cowboys’ biggest problem with finding former safety and Cowboy great Darren Woodson’s replacement: the small school safeties…

Since Woodson retired after the 2003 season, here are the Cowboys draft choices at safety in Rounds 1-4. (where you can hope to land a future starter):

2010 4th Round: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (PA)

2012 4th Round: Matt Johnson, Eastern Washington

2013 3rd Round: J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern

In the past ten drafts, Dallas has selected just three safeties in rounds 1–4. This for one of the most consistently weak positions on the team in the past decade. Unacceptable. If the lack of quantity wasn’t bad enough, quality is also lacking. Two 4th rounders and a 3rd rounder. None in the first two rounds. All three are from small schools outside of the power conferences. “AOA” was a complete waste and the Cowboys even tried to switch him to wide receiver to salvage something of value out of him.

While the jury is still out on the other two, I like both Johnson and Wilcox. But both were drafted as projects. Johnson missed a lot of development time because he spent his entire rookie season hurt. While Wilcox played one single season at safety in college.

For such a weak group for the past decade, you must grab as close to a “sure thing” as possible. Even though there are plenty of busts from big schools in power conferences (cough, cough Taylor Mays), picking a player who plays against NFL talent on a weekly basis would be a nice change of pace from what Dallas has done in recent years. Hopefully Johnson or Wilcox can step up and become a stud. But Jerry and company need to change up their strategies and go grab more of a sure thing. That is if things don’t pan out with one of these two project players. How about drafting a safety in rounds one or two? At least they’d bring in some experience against top level competition for a change.

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys JJ Wilcox NFL Draft Travis Frederick

  • Old Frog

    I think the way offensive linemen were flying off the board, the fact that Frederick plays both center and guard increased his value and JJ was probably concerned another team would figure that out before the 3rd round. I was OK with the Frederick pick. I was more bummed when they passed on Warford to draft Escobar and then passed on Josh Boyce to draft Williams.

    • Guest

      I agree that linemen were flying off the board and may have scared Jerry into the pick. But the value you could get in a first round safety compared to a third is greater than a first round center compared to a third.
      My dream scenario was to trade back with SF like we did, take Elam 1st, warford 2nd, then a DL (short or Hankins) and a center 3rd round.
      The Escobar pick was very surprising to me though I heard they were interested in eifert. I loved how Hanna came along towards the end and wanted to see what he could do in an expanded role

      • JoeDaBeast

        It’s amazing to me the number of people that didn’t realize that OL were flying off the boards and that made ownership nervous. I feel that Fredrick’s nastiness will be infectious and create a offensive line that Cowboys’ fans have longed for some time.

  • Damon Bailey Smith

    I agree that linemen were flying off the board and may have scared Jerry into the pick. But the value you could get in a first round safety compared to a third is greater than a first round center compared to a third.
    My dream scenario was to trade back with SF like we did, take Elam 1st, warford 2nd, then a DL (short or Hankins) and a center 3rd round.
    The Escobar pick was very surprising to me though I heard they were interested in eifert. I loved how Hanna came along towards the end and wanted to see what he could do in an expanded role

  • ctcowboy1968

    I have written this on many sites since the draft. It was mismanaged. Like the writers below, the first pick should have been S since all the big name OL were gone. The trade with SF should have given us pick 61. This is what should have happened.
    1 – S – Cyperion
    2 – C – Frederick
    3 – G – Warford

    This gives us 3 instant starters in positions of need. Let Leary or Kowalski fight for the G position. Cut Bernadeau & keep Livings, due to salary, as the backup for one year.

  • Damon Bailey Smith

    Couldn’t agree more except for maybe snagging a guy along the dline with the 2nd pick in the second round or the 3rd round pick. Regardless. Like I argued, if Wilcox can perform at te same level as cyprien then it will work out in the end. If Wilcox/Frederick is a better pull then Cyprien/Frederick then it won’t matter that Frederick was a reach

    • ctcowboy1968

      Except that we don’t have Warford. So we have already lost an young OL starter.

  • disqus_kLJwdEdnOL

    The only thing worse than hindsight is not having foresight. The former is much easier and not worth anything. Having the latter builds winners.

    • ctcowboy1968

      That’s not hindsight. These were clearly easy & the best options at the time. Complete mismanagement by the cowboy “brain trust”. Each of the picks I listed were slam dunks. A child could have made them. And the trade value is on a card, yet they still screwed it up.

  • billy

    hell man count yourself lucky compared to the 06 through 09 drafts. we have something like 3 guys left from those 4 drafts. thank god we didnt have another one of those or so it seems for now. jerry has ruined his team for years with his draft picks and refuses to get help. the last 3 or so have been much better i think or maybe 4. look, we have gotten 2 good linebackers, a good corner ,looks like we got a couple of pretty good d ends, although one is hurt. we got at least one and maybe 3 pretty good safetys. we got at least one good running back and maybe two tight ends. maybe 2 good wrs, two o linemen. we got a great kicker and at least one good kick returner. i mean thats a hell of a lot better than we got in the coach wade years. you put those young guys with a few good vets and we dont look so bad. we got 2 old d ends that still can play. an old quarterback that still has some life in him. an elder tight end thats still good. an old wr if hes healthy can still go. we got a free agent corner thats pretty good and a new linebacker fa that seems to be ok. we got 2 old d tackles that i hope can get and stay healthy plus we got 2 young guys to rotate in at tackle that arent bad. when you put all that together and with the hope that some of the young o linemen might turn out and one or two of the safetys turn out to be ok and oh yeah we got a safety in fa that is looking pretty fair. i mean hell man we are a long way ahead of where we were 4 or 5 years ago even with jerry trying to manipulate the draft and managing to screw it up. with a little luck we could be ok. but to quote judge roy bean ” it might rain whores out of the sky too but i doubt it “.

    • Damon Bailey Smith

      Totally agree. The thing is like you said “with a little luck” will be te key. Dez having a finger out of bounds is one of the craziest endings to a game I’ve ever seen and Lady Luck has not been kind to the boys in recent years… Like you also said a good roster but yet again bad luck with injuries wiped out a lot of good talent and they were still one game away. With a little luck dallas will be back in the postseason

  • John

    Dig your piece, but the central premise is flawed. We don’t know that Frederick would have made it through the 2nd round. We can’t ever know that. And there’s no way to credibly assert it without seeing all 32 draft boards…

    • Damon Bailey Smith

      Very true but the general consensuswas that Frederick had a third round grade

      • John

        I get that. Your piece was cool because it had so many moving parts. But 30 GMs could have placed him in the 3rd round – only would have taken one who valued him as much as Jerry to ruin it. By picking Fredbeard in the 1st the ‘Boys can get an extra year on his rookie contract… If he’s a pro bowl caliber center, this is a good pick…

        • Damon Bailey Smith

          I get that but is he gonna be that much better than the 2nd center taken in the 4th? Probably not. Coulda got equal talent later