America’s Grade: Dallas Cowboys Draft Grade

Round 1: Zach Martin 

Protecting Tony Romo
Protecting Tony Romo

With the first pick, much to the dismay of Cowboys fans, Dallas selected offensive lineman Zach Martin. Despite the pleas to draft Johnny Football, the Cowboys made the right pick. Trust me, it would have been entertaining to see Jerry World have Manziel in the center ring, but with the enormous contract of Tony Romo that would never happen. In order to protect their muli-million dollar man at quarterback, the Cowboys made the smart selection of Martin. He started every game in college and can play every position on the line. He will be a day one starter at tackle or guard and was the safest pick for Dallas at this point. Could become staple on their offensive line for next decade.

Grade: A

Round 2: Demarcus Lawrence 

Demarcus Ware's Replacement?
Demarcus Ware’s Replacement?

Without question the Cowboys defense was abysmal last season. Not only did the team struggle on the field, but with arguably their best playmaker in Demarcus Ware heading to Denver, this defense has problems everywhere. To address the rebuilding, the Cowboys are relying on Lawrence to be the foundation. An outside pass rusher who can play standing up or with his hand in the dirt, his flexibility means that he can moved all round in the Cowboys defense. He maybe lacking in run defense, there is no question that Lawrence can get to the quarterback. He has some big shoes to fill in Ware’s absence, but could be a consistent double-digit sack artist if utilized correctly. Dallas needs to get after the quarterback and believe that Lawrence will be happy to oblige.

Grade: A

Round 4: Anthony Hitchens

A big reach
A big reach

With 5 picks in the seventh round, it’s puzzling why the Cowboys would pick a player who projected to be there. Hitchens was a productive player in college but at 6’0 and 240 pounds Hitchens will at best be a backup in the Cowboys new 4-3 defense. He fits the mold for an outside backer, but with Bruce Carter already at the weak linebacker position, Hitchens will probably be just a backup and only see a few snaps this season. With other needs and talent still available, the Cowboys stretched for a backup next season.

Grade: D+

Round 5: Devin Street 

Another weapon for Romo
Another weapon for Romo

The Cowboys made a nice pick with Street here in the fifth round. Despite lacking elite speed, Street’s 6’3 size and great hands make him a nice red zone target for Tony Romo. With Dez Bryant the clear number one receiver on the depth chart, Street could work his way up into the number two or three spot by the end of the season. Terrance Williams will be opposite Bryant opening day, but don’t be surprised if Street becomes a solid third receiver for Cowboys. A good pick, but the Cowboys offense is not the problem. Would have been better off improving their terrible defense but at least they get a nice offensive piece.

Grade: B

Round 7: Ben Gardner 

Building up D-Line
Building up D-Line

A puzzling pick. Despite their needs on the defensive line the main problem for the Cowboys is rushing the passer. Gardner is an above average run stuffer who struggles rushing the passer. If anything the only reason this pick makes sense is if the Cowboys still are unsure about what base defense to use. While they are transitioning to a 4-3, Gardner would be a solid 3-4 end and could be a backup plan if the 4-3 does not pan out. Either way, if the Cowboys do decide to stick with the 4-3 the 264 pound Gardner can’t play inside. Will have to play well on special teams or could be cut be end of training camp. Could be the case of square peg trying to fit into round hole.

Grade: D+

Round 7: Will Smith 

Not that Will Smith
Not that Will Smith

No, not Will Smith the actor, although you never know with Jerry Jones in his constant quest to be in the spotlight. Smith is a better prospect here in the seventh round then Hitchens was in round four. Good size and speed has the tools to develop into a versatile outside linebacker. Fits 4-3 mold and despite average run stopping skills and raw pass rushing ability, Smith is great in coverage. If he develops could be a nice role player on defense and special teams. Has more upside then Hitchens and could be a dark horse to be a late season starter and compete for a starting job next season.

Grade: B

Round 7: Ahmad Dixon 

Cowboys finally address woeful secondary
Cowboys finally address woeful secondary

Is it just me or is Jerry Jones sticking to Texas prospects? Maybe trying to make up for not drafting Johnny Manziel by drafting players his fellow Texans will know. The safety position was a disaster in Dallas last season. While the team could have addressed this in round one, Dallas waited to the seventh to add depth to the safety position. Dixon is a stout run stopping safety, whose limitations in pass coverage mean he is better suited for strong safety position. Wilcox and Heath maybe in front on the depth chart right now, but if Dixon can learn the playbook and work on his coverage, then he maybe a backup for 2014. Unlikely to start this year, but could be a nice project in two to three years if given time to develop.

Grade: B –

Round 7: Ken Bishop

ct-spt-1113-niu-football-20131113-001
Run stopper

Cowboys could see Bishop developing into a future run stopper in their 4-3 scheme. Small school prospect who will be better off in rotational role, will have to prove his worth to make 53 man roster. Could be destined to make practice squad in order to develop or could be a training camp casualty. Despite drafting two linebacker already, Yawin Smallwood was available and could have been a steal here. Missed opportunity for the boys.

Grade: C

Round 7: Terrance Mitchell 

Steal in seventh round
Steal in seventh round

How Mitchell was available in the seventh round I will never know. Good size makes up for lack of explosive speed and burst. Very raw player with a decent ceiling. Could make a strong case to be third cornerback on the depth chart next season or at very least fourth corner. Provides very good depth and young prospect. Left school too early, but if developed correctly could become a very good corner.

Grade: A –

Overall Grade: B – 

Some hits and missed, but overall a solid draft considering lack of picks
Some hits and missed, but overall a solid draft considering lack of picks

With only four picks in the first sixth rounds, the Cowboys were under a lot of pressure to get it right. While it would have benefitted them to probably move up by trading some of their five seventh round picks, the Cowboys were limited in the top end of this draft. Zack Martin may not have been the pick Cowboys fans wanted but he was the pick they needed. A safe pick that will shore up the offensive line and help Demarco Murray and Tomy Romo instantly. The loss of Demarcus Ware is a big one on an already depleted defense but Lawrence will be a nice addition and whose pass rushing ability will fit either the 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. After two great picks, the Cowboys whiffed in round four. The problem? Not only did they select better linebacking prospects in the seventh round, but also missed out on some good receivers and safeties available. Street is a nice edition in round five, but receiver wasn’t a primary need for this team. Despite eventually filling all of their needs, Dallas waited until the very end of the seventh round to it. There were some nice developmental picks in the seventh round, but it’s hard to imagine all five making the fifty-three man roster or even the practice. The good news is that the Cowboys did not completely screw up this draft and take Manziel in round one. The bad news is, their will be minimal impact by these prospects this year as these players will probably make their impact down the road after some development. They may have a lot of holes, especially on defense, but the silver lining is the Cowboys are still in the NFC East. No team significantly improved in the draft or free agency in this division and I still believe Dallas is the second best team in the division. I predict 8-8 in 2014, but at least this draft is keeping the Cowboys heading in the right direction instead of heading for a complete disaster.

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. I agree about Smith probably being a better pick than Hitchens at LB. Nothing against Lawrence but I didn’t like giving away a 3rd round pick to get him. Also agree that picking Gardner was puzzling. He does have a good motor and may become a 3 tech. DT but I don’t like his chances to make the team.

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