Cowboys 2011 NFL Draft Paying Dividends


It’s often difficult to judge an NFL team’s draft results until those prospects get a few seasons under their belts. For the Dallas Cowboys, it appears their 2011 NFL Draft class might already rank as one of their best. Over the weekend, our partner site NFL Mocks named the Cowboys 2011 draft class in the top five for that year. Here are those picks, so you can judge for yourself:

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Here’s what NFL Mocks’ Erik Lambert had to say about the most prominent prospects drafted by the Cowboys that year:

"“It didn’t start too well for Tyron Smith with the Dallas Cowboys but he has quickly developed into a Pro Bowl left tackle. Conversely, the start for running back DeMarco Murray was outstanding but then took a nosedive for awhile.  Soon though the juice returned and he breached 1,000 yards last season on his way to the Pro Bowl. An often overlooked linebacker (Bruce Carter) has quietly gotten better every year, posting career highs in tackles (96), sacks (2) and pass deflections (3) in 2013. His official designations is wide receiver but Dwayne Harris made his noise as one of the best special teams players in the NFL, amassing over 1,000 return yards and a touchdown last season.”"

Smith has obviously become the cornerstone to which the entire offensive line has been built.  The recent addition of Notre Dame guard Zack Martin along with last year’s first round pick, center Travis Frederick, is the blueprint for one of the youngest and best O-lines in the entire NFL. By the end of his career, Smith could become the greatest offensive lineman in Cowboys history. Let’s not forget that the 2013 Pro Bowler is only 23 years old. Martin, the Cowboys 2014 first round pick, is actually a month older than Smith.

Although Lambert refers to Carter favorably, I doubt most Cowboys fans agree. Although his stats have improved over the past three seasons, Carter also struggled last year in pass coverage. So much so, Carter lost his starting role for two games because of it. He is in the final year of his rookie deal. And at this point, it is unclear if the Cowboys will re-sign him. In a recent CBS Sports article, also about the 2011 NFL Draft, Senior Analyst Dave Brugler listed Carter as Cowboys biggest question mark out of that draft:

"“The Cowboys came close to replacing WLB Bruce Carter via the 2014 NFL Draft and would have if Ryan Shazier was still on the board. Carter will likely be a starter for Dallas in 2014 and needs to fix the mistakes and turn the impressive flashes into more consistent play if he hopes to hold onto the starting job.”"

Undoubtedly, finding a gem like running back DeMarco Murray in the third round was a big coo for Dallas. Especially considering he was drafted after half backs like Alabama’s Mark Ingram, Illinois’ Mikel Leshoure and Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams (recently signed by the Cowboys). But after three injury plagued seasons, Murray now finally seems to be on the cusp of real stardom. And at age 26, the clock is definitely ticking for Murray to step-up into that role.

But it is in sixth round pick Dwayne Harris where the Cowboys believe they have struck real gold. Although his offensive contributions may be below average, Harris has become the Cowboys spark plug on special teams. Last season, the East Carolina alum ranked second in the NFL for average yards per kickoff returns (30.6). And third for average yards per punt returns (12.8) And Harris’ emergence has also allowed wide receiver Dez Bryant to focus solely on playing receiver. And any Dallas fan will tell you that fact alone is probably more important than any stat.

Bottom line, if Carter can pull things together in 2014, this draft class could be looked upon as one of the best in franchise history.