In the spring of 2012 the Dallas Cowboys decided it was time to remake the corner back rotation on the team. On March 13, 2012 the Cowboys moved forward and released 2003 first round pick Terrance Newman. The following day, the team went out and signed Brandon Carr to a lucrative 5 year $50 million free agent contract. Five weeks later, the team shocked the NFL world and traded both its 1st and 2nd round picks to St. Louis to move up to the 6th overall position in Round 1 to select Mo Claiborne. Just like that the cornerback rotation was remade with Carr and Claiborne as the instant starters. Orlando Scandrick was put 3rd on the depth chart, playing to his strong suit covering in the slot. Mike Jenkins then dropped to 4th on the depth chart.
As we fast forward roughly 17 months, the depth chart is the same, minus Jenkins with rookie B.W. Webb taking over his role. After playing in a 3-4 base defense and man to man scheme in 2012, the defense has changed in 2013. Now running a 4-3 Tampa Two defense and playing more zone, Claiborne has struggled. In Claiborne’s defense, he basically missed two training camps dealing with injury issues in 2012 and 2013, and is now playing with a bad shoulder injury.
After selecting Claiborne with the 6th overall pick in 2012, the Cowboys came out and stated that he graded out with the highest cornerback predraft rating since Deion Sanders. While no one compares to Sanders, Claiborne has fallen woefully short in comparison. In 2012, Claiborne was credited with eight pass break-ups and one interception. In 2013, Claiborne has registered only one pass break-up and no interceptions. Claiborne has now lost his starting position to Orlando Scandrick, and only sees the field in three receiver sets. Pro Football Focus has Claiborne rated as the 98th best cornerback. That is terrible for what the team expects and needs from Claiborne.
In the NFL, you must find gold with your first and second round picks. You want to get lucky later in the draft and find some gems, but rounds 1 and 2 you have to hit on your team will suffer with a lack of stars and depth on the roster. Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, the team has not done that. Here is a list of the 1st and 2nd rounders since Bill Parcells left town after the 2006 season.
2007 Anthony Spencer (1), None (2)
2008 Felix Jones (1), Mike Jenkins (1), Martellus Bennett (2)
2009 Roy Williams trade (1), None (2)
2010 Dez Bryant (1), Sean Lee (2)
2011 Tyron Smith (1), Bruce Carter (2)
2012 Morris Claiborne (1 & 2)
2013 Travis Frederick (1), Gavin Escobar (2)
In the seven drafts since Parcells left, the team has hit on Spencer (2007), Bryant & Lee (2010), and Smith & Carter (2011). With fourteen opportunities in rounds 1 and 2 to strike in these seven drafts, the team only has five solid hits, and three question marks in Claiborne, Frederick, and Escobar. Hopefully Claiborne pans out for the Cowboys sake, because if he busts out, only Tyronne Crawford, Kyle Wilber and James Hanna remain from that class. In this new era of salary cap football, teams can’t afford to swing and miss big like this or your team will suffer. Mistakes of this magnitude have contributed to almost two decades of average football in Dallas, which after the quarter point of this season looks like the Cowboys are staring 8-8 in the mirror once again.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH