The Dallas Cowboys 2012 draft class is in some ways considered the runt of head coach Jason Garrett’s litter. Pro Bowlers in left tackle Tyron Smith and running back DeMarco Murray head a solid class from 2011, Garrett’s first season as a principle in the Cowboys war room. The 2013 class was packed with first-year contributors, led by All-Rookie center Travis Frederick and starting wideout Terrance Williams.
Now entering their third season, the Cowboys 2012 draft class has not yet produced a single solid starter. Cornerback Morris Claiborne came the closest with a workmanlike rookie campaign, but lost his starting role the next season. The team had high hopes for defensive end Tyrone Crawford following a rookie year in which he played 300 snaps as a situational contributor, but he missed all of 2013 with a torn achilles. James Hanna showed promise as a speedy pass-catching tight end late his rookie year, but his struggles as a run blocker limited his snaps in 2013.
The whys behind the Cowboys recent defensive struggles begin to take shape, given the team drafted 10 defensive players between 2011 and 2013, and five of them were in the lost class of 2012. But circumstances have positioned at least four of these players with a chance to compete and contribute in 2014. Here’s a look at the status of all the players from the Cowboys 2012 draft class:
|1||Morris Claiborne||CB||Competing for a starting spot|
|3||Tyrone Crawford||DE||Competing for a starting spot|
|4||Kyle Wilbur||OLB||Competing for a starting spot|
|4||Matt Johnson||FS||Competing for a starting spot|
|5||Danny Coale||WR||Pittsburgh practice squad player|
|6||James Hannah||TE||Competing for a starting spot|
|7||Caleb McSurdy||MLB||St. Louis practice squad player|
Wide receiver Danny Coale and mike linebacker Caleb McSurdy have moved on following injury waivers. Hanna has a tough road to hoe with eight-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten and 2013 second-rounder Gavin Escobar ahead of him. But the other four players here have a real shot to break out, and revise conventional wisdom about the disappointment of the Cowboys 2012 draft class. All four of those players are on defense, and could offer a huge boost to a unit that must play better if the Cowboys are to compete for a playoff spot.
Next up: Marinelli’s promise of more man coverage may make the difference for a former first rounder.