NFL Draft Grades 2016: NFC East Winners and Losers
1-4 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
2-34 Jaylon Smith, ILB, Notre Dame
3-67 Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
4-101 Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma
4-135 Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
6-189 Anthony Brown, CB, Purdue
6-212 Kavon Frazier, S, Central Michigan
6-216 Darius Jackson, RB, Eastern Michigan
6-217 Rico Gathers, TE, Baylor
Analysis: The Dallas Cowboys land, what some analysts consider to be, the best player in this draft class in Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. Again, this choice is not about need but overwhelming talent.
As Elliott is the early favorite to become Offensive Rookie of the Year and possibly the NFL’s leading rusher behind the Cowboys talented offensive line, I’m not sure how you can fault the Cowboys for this choice.
Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith falls in the same category as Elliott. Talent over need. Unfortunately, his devastating knee injury complicates things. But the fact the Cowboys team doctor did the procedure should give fans confidence the Dallas staff is well informed about his situation. And the fact they were willing to spend a second round pick on Smith should give fans hope he can recover.
Collins, Tapper, Brown and Frazier all add quality depth to the Cowboys porous defense. They are all likely hand-picked by Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Prescott is an excellent developmental prospect, but the Cowboys also attempted to go after quarterbacks Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook. So the Mississippi State quarterback is a consolation prize.
Finally, Jackson and Gathers are simply “why not” picks. Jackson is a powerful runner with excellent speed and athleticism. And Gathers is a feisty former Basketball player looking to make similar transitions from that sport to the tight end position like NFL superstars Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham.
The biggest argument against the Cowboys draft is their failure to address their defense with more immediate help in the early rounds of the draft. Smith’s unknown timetable for a possible return is a major concern. Collins plays the same position as Tyrone Crawford, whom the Cowboys signed to a six-year, $45.6 million contract just last September. And the rest of the drafted defenders, outside of Collins, are simply role players until proven otherwise.
If Elliott is the game changer the Cowboys hope he is, Ezekiel will likely ease the pressure off of the defense making him the team’s best defender out of this draft class.
Next: Dallas Cowboys Select TE Rico Gathers
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