A Final Rational Look at the Dallas Cowboys 2013 Draft


Last week we looked at the controversial first round trade and subsequent pick of Wisconsin center, Travis Frederick. Today we will review rounds 2-6 applying Pass/Fail grades based on how the Cowboys answered the following:

  1. Need: Recognize team needs and assess how effectively Dallas filled those needs.
  2. Value: Assess value by determining when players would likely be drafted, where positional drop-off occurs, and in the Cowboy’s case, compensation received by trading picks.
  3. Risk vs. Reward: Simply weighing the risk of the player vs. reward he may bring.

Apr 26, 2013; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks before the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

In a nutshell this means we will not grade a player on an A-F scale because someone like Mel Kiper said so. The scouts currently employed on NFL teams are more qualified to judge than Mel, you, or I am. For every hour of film we’ve seen, the Dallas Cowboy scouts have seen 100 hrs. Let’s just trust they drafted these players because film and interviews said the players can play, shall we?

The first point we will judge is Team Need which is pretty self-explanatory. How big are the needs, did Dallas fill the need, how important is it that it was or wasn’t filled. The second point is Value. Since we can only speculate when another team would have drafted the player we drafted, we will focus on when similarly ranked players (at the same position) were drafted to determine value. Finally we will assess the Risk vs. Reward and determine if the player is a risky project or a game-ready contributor.

September 24, 2011; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; San Diego State Aztecs tight end Gavin Escobar (88) makes a catch over Michigan Wolverines safety Jared Van Slyke (31) in the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 28-7. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Gavin Escobar (Round 2/Pick 47)

Ever since Parcells was in Dallas, the Cowboys have been itching to become a 2 tight end offense. The rational is simple: In today’s salary-capped NFL the best way for teams to get an advantage over one another is to create mismatches. The TE position provides the best possible mismatch on the field so what’s not to like?

Need: On the long list of needs, the TE position ranks pretty darn low. James Hanna was coming on strong last year making many believe he could be #2 and the Cowboys would fill the 3rd TE spot with a rookie FA who specializes in run-blocking. Instead the Cowboys aimed for a pass-catching red-zone threat. The player himself is very intriguing but to use a second round pick on a position of strength is a luxury the Cowboys do not have: Fail

Value: Gavin was the 3rd and final TE in what most consider the top tier of TE’s. The top TE, who according to reports Garrett was pushing for in round 1, is Tyler Eifert. Eifert was drafted with the 21st pick while Zach Ertz (consensus #2) was drafted 35th. Gavin at pick 47 seems to provide appropriate positional value: Pass

Risk vs. Reward: Gavin has strong hands and runs good routes. He does not rely on speed to get open but rather intelligence and fundamentals. At the very least he will be a solid possession receiver and red-zone threat. If he can improve his run blocking he could be much much more: Pass

Terrance Williams (Round 3/Pick 74)

Williams appears to be everyone’s top choice as this year’s “Steal of the Draft”. Why not? – he’s big, he’s fast, he’s smart, and he has a propensity for the big play. To get a player like this in the 3rd round seems criminal. He also completes the second part of the controversial trade down in the first round. The trade that originally appeared as a complete blunder by the Cowboys now seems like it may work out in their favor.

Need: WR may not be an immediate need for the Cowboys but it seems the front office has an eye to the future here. Miles Austin will be given one more chance to prove his worth in 2013. If he is anything short of spectacular he will be cut and replaced with Williams. The Cowboys will be up against the cap the next three seasons and tough roster choices will need to be made. Williams will hopefully make that decision easier: Pass

Value: WR rankings this year have varied greatly from scout to scout. That probably best explains why some top ranked WR’s like Williams slipped through the cracks. Needless to say it doesn’t take a genius to say tremendous value was had with this pick at 74: Pass

Risk vs. Reward: The Cowboys drafted a player in the 3rd round with excellent physical skills and intelligence. This translates to a low risk/high reward player and positions the Cowboys better in 2014: Pass

Jan 26, 2013; Mobile, AL, USA; Senior Bowl south squad defensive back J.J. Wilcox of Georgia Southern (19) against the Senior Bowl north squad during the first half of the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Wilcox (Round 3/Pick 80)

Wilcox seems to excite many Cowboy fans with his amazing athletic ability and potential. Known as a sleeper on many draft boards even the analysts who love to hate the Cowboys liked this pick. The only problem is- could the Cowboys afford to gamble on perhaps their thinnest and least-proven position on the roster?

Need: The Cowboys needed a safety like no other. Passing on Eric Reid and Matt Elam in the first round only compounded the situation. The problem is the Cowboys needed a more complete “game-ready” safety to alleviate fears. The Cowboys plan to play a lot of Single High Safety, as explained here.  Wilcox projects to fit the in-the-box SS role rather than the harder to find Centerfielder FS role. In addition, Wilcox has only played one year at safety and will take time to develop.

He helps the depth chart but to expect him to contribute to anything more than spot duty and special teams in 2013 would be extremely optimistic. The Cowboys “need” help in 2013: Fail (for now)

Value: Wilcox is all about potential and could become a force on Kiffin’s defense down the road. The Cowboys appear to have selected Wilcox at the appropriate time in the draft, unfortunately better value was found when Swearinger was picked at 57, Phillip Thomas at 119, and Bacarri Rambo was had at 191: Pass

Risk vs. Reward: It’s true the Cowboys took a gamble on Wilcox at 80 but considering the draft as a whole the Cowboys did very well at mitigating risk. Wilcox is the lone high risk/high reward player. The issue is this is the one position the Cowboys could not afford to be risky at. Barry Church is coming off of injury so it’s unknown how well he’ll play in his return. Matt Johnson is completely unknown and unproven and also possesses the same high risk/high reward combo Wilcox gives us. The Cowboys don’t have a great track record for taking gambles at safety so let’s pray at least one of these gambles pays off in 2013: Fail (for now)

B.W. Webb (Round 4/Pick 114)

All NFL teams should pick at least one cornerback every single Draft. Gems can be found in lower rounds and the roster churn at the position makes it necessary to address. In the Cowboy’s case Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne provide a starting foundation for the next 4 years. It’s hard to believe anything Webb does on the field will change that. But he does present a challenge to Orlando Scandrick at the nickel corner spot. While Scandrick’s salary is manageable in 2013 it will increase significantly in 2014. Much like Miles Austin, Scandrick will need to perform highly in 2013 to justify a roster spot in 2014.

Need: CB isn’t a top need for the Cowboys now but it will be in the future. This pick is about managing the cap in 2014 and giving Kiffin some depth in the interim. This is smart move from a front office whose intelligence and short-sidedness is often questioned: Pass

Value: Like Wilcox, Webb was considered a sleeper by many. He’s from a small school but possess ball skills and athletic ability to compete with the big boys. Ability is something you just can’t fake at the cornerback position. Webb was the 17th CB picked in the draft. Judging the talent after him he provides excellent value as the 114th pick and the 17th of his position: Pass

Risk vs. Reward: Even though he attended William and Mary he should be able to compete vs. big-time talent in the NFL. He’s smart and athletic and will not be under pressure to be anything more than the #4 CB in 2013. Like all picks in the 4th round and after, he provides some risk but nothing more than moderate. Package that moderate risk with a fairly high reward and Dallas did quite well in the 4th round: Pass

Nov 12, 2011; Lubbock, TX, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Joseph Randle (1) scores a touchdown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the first half at Jones AT

Joseph Randle (Round 5/Pick 151)

He’s a back-up and eventual replacement running back in the mold of DeMarco Murray. Found in the fifth round he seems like both a good move for 2013 and beyond. Murray has had problems staying healthy in the NFL so it would be irresponsible NOT to prepare for injuries in 2013. Randle is a fantastic pass protector and should be able to be a strong 3rd down back and potential starting back when the inevitable happens to Murray.

Need: He’s greatly needed as both depth and as a low-cost starter down the road. In today’s NFL it is wisest to draft new running backs rather than sign current starters to extensions (unless of course you have Adrian Peterson).  This is another smart business move for the future and a necessary football move for the present: Pass

Value: Randle was picked shortly after Lattimore at 131 and Stefan Taylor at 140 – both of which are similarly ranked by the experts. Lattimore is the superior talent but he may need to “red shirt” for much of 2013 while he rehabs his knee. The Cowboys just couldn’t afford to wait for a RB to contribute and needed a plug-and-play player to back-up Murray: Pass

Risk vs. Reward: Randle’s pass protection limits his overall risk and provides yet another Romo Friendly element to the offense. The only concern is the offensive line at Oklahoma State was considerably better than the line in Dallas. He will not have the same opportunity to sprint through the gaping holes he has grown accustomed to: Pass

DeVonte Holloman (Round 6/Pick 185)

The first thing that jumps out about Holloman doesn’t have anything to do with his game but rather a DUI arrest in 2011. Garrett, always on the lookout for the Right Kind of Guy, must have felt the DUI was not a sign of things to come and just a mistake from the past. Holloman is versatile and while he projects as a SAM could also provide depth to the Mike and Will currently occupied by the injury-prone Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.

Need: Dallas had major needs at LB entering the NFL Draft. They will need Holloman to step in for depth at the very least: Pass

Value: This far down in the draft it becomes hard to find value picks that fill a need and have realistic shot at making the team. Holloman seems to do both. He should contribute immediately as a Special Teamer and have every opportunity to contribute on defense. Sliding into the 6th round keeps expectations low: Pass

Risk vs. Reward: A 6th round pick only has a marginal chance at starting in the NFL. Holloman provides a reasonable reward for not much of a risk (the cost of a 6th round pick). He most likely will only be a contributor the first couple seasons but has the ability and opportunity for much more. DUI aside, he is another reasonable pick by the Cowboys: Pass