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Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Picks: Their Impact This Season and Beyond | The DC Times

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Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Picks: Their Impact This Season and Beyond

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Jonathan Bales

Some (including me to a degree) have criticized the Cowboys for selecting players at certain positions, even if those prospects were the highest on their board at the time.  Second-round pick Bruce Carter is a highly-talented player, for example, yet there’s really no doubt that the Cowboys could have secured a player at the No. 40 overall selection who will contribute more in 2011 than Carter.  Clearly the organization though Carter’s long-term value was enough to bypass more immediate value.

We could debate the efficiency of this strategy all day, but regardless, I wanted to take a look at the potential impact of the Cowboys 2011 draft class this season and beyond.

  • Tyron Smith, OT, USC

2011 Impact: Smith will immediately start at right tackle, where he played the last two seasons at USC.  I think this is the right move to allow Smith to get accustomed to the NFL, while also giving Doug Free the opportunity to continue his development on the left side.  Smith is a huge upgrade over Marc Colombo.

Best Case Long-Term Scenario: The sky is the limit for Smith.  He has the natural talent and athleticism to be a Hall of Fame player.  I’m not saying that is what he will be, but he’s one of the best tackle prospects I have ever seen.  Certainly Smith will need to work hard to become elite, but being a hard-worker was one of the reasons Dallas drafted him.

Most Likely Scenario: You can never project a guy to make the Hall of Fame, but I don’t think it is outrageous to suggest it is likely that Smith will be a Pro Bowl player.  As long as he remains healthy, I simply can’t see how Smith isn’t a multiple-time Pro Bowler.  That stems more from confidence in his work ethic than his ability.  And his ability is off the charts.

  • Bruce Carter, LB, UNC

2011 Impact: There is concern about Carter’s knee health, but he should be ready for training camp.  The Cowboys will still bring him along slowly.  Carter will play primarily on special teams in 2011, with the possibility of receiving some snaps in nickel packages.  I’d love to see him beat out Bradie James for the nickel job alongside Sean Lee, providing him with experience and James with much-needed rest.

Best Case Long-Term Scenario: Smith is widely considered a first-round talent, so his upside is tremendous for a second-round pick.  First-round players are supposed to be able to make Pro Bowls.  If everything goes as planned, Carter will be a Pro Bowl player three or more years down the road.  Health will be key.

Most Likely Scenario: The most likely scenario is that Carter takes over the starting inside linebacker gig in about two years, supplanting James.  I’d place his chances of making a Pro Bowl at about 30 percent–he’s a great talent, but he has a long way to go.

  • DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma

2011 Impact: I think you’ll see Murray almost immediately supplant Tashard Choice as the No. 2 back (assuming Marion Barber is cut).  I’m not saying that is what I want to happen, but I have a hard time believing Garrett is going to give a ton of snaps to a player he clearly doesn’t care for (Choice) over the first skill position player he ever drafted as a head coach (Murray).  That means Murray will probably receive around 25 percent of the touches among running backs, including plenty of receptions.  He is also the leading candidate to return kickoffs and, if he can learn to do so, punts as well.

Best Case Long-Term Scenario: The ultimate goal is probably to have Murray become a feature back, or at least a 1B type player alongside Felix Jones.  I think he has that potential, but will he be able to hold up?  He’ll never be a true workhorse back, but those are few and far between nowadays.

Most Likely Scenario: Murray will probably see a role similar to that of Jones.  He will receive a modest amount of touches as a rookie and play special teams.  That role will gradually increase as he gains more experience.  Like Carter, health is the main concern with Murray.

  • David Arkin, G, Missouri State

2011 Impact: Arkin will not start in 2011.  At best, he will be the primary backup guard, although that is even a stretch.  He will take 2011 as an opportunity to learn behind veterans.

Best Case Long-Term Scenario: Arkin has the potential to be a starter, perhaps as soon as 2012.  With starters Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis on their last legs, the future belongs to Arkin and Phil Costa.

Most Likely Scenario: I would say it is likely that Arkin will be a starter at some point in his career.  I don’t see Pro Bowl potential in him, but I think he can be a solid player in the mold of Kosier.

  • Josh Thomas, CB, Buffalo

2011 Impact: Special teams.  Thomas may be inactive a large portion of the time, but his best bet to get playing time is as a returner.  Punt returns and solid play as a gunner and on kickoff coverage are how he can get noticed in his rookie season.  He won’t see time in defensive packages unless there is an injury.

Best Case Long-Term Scenario: I really, really love Thomas’ upside and I think he has starter potential.  He’s obviously nowhere near that yet, but he possesses the size, speed and work ethic to make it on the outside.

Most Likely Scenario: Perhaps more likely than becoming a shutdown guy is playing in nickel packages.  While I think Thomas will surprise a lot of people within a few years, the odds are still against him being a top-flight cornerback at this point.

  • Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina

2011 Impact: This is tough.  Harris will have to prove he is superior on special teams to players like Sam Hurd, Jesse Holley and Kevin Ogletree (the latter shouldn’t be too difficult).  His return ability will help, but he will also have to fight off fellow rookies Murray and Thomas (as well as second-year player Akwasi Owusu-Ansah) to garner return duties.  He’s the Cowboys’ only “true” slot receiver, but he won’t see many offensive snaps outside of Roy Williams being released.  I don’t think that will happen.

Best Case Long-Term Scenario: At best, Harris will be an effective slot receiver.  He doesn’t have the ability to play outside, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a major impact on offense.  Wes Welker’s impact from the slot is monumental, and I see a bit of Welker in Harris’ game.

Most Likely Scenario: I’ve heard Patrick Crayton comparisons, and I think they’re valid.  Crayton should have been in the slot from the beginning.  If true, a Crayton-like career isn’t bad for sixth-round pick.

  • Shaun Chapas, FB, Georgia

2011 Impact: Chapas is probable to make the roster either in place of current fullback Chris Gronkowski or alongside him.  I think it should be the former, as Chapas is a better lead blocker.  I don’t put much stock in receiving ability for fullbacks–they just need to blow people up.

Best Case Long-Term Scenario: What’s the best case scenario for any fullback?  A long career?  You normally wouldn’t say a seventh-rounder has Pro Bowl potential, but so few are selected that the round is really irrelevant.  They’re all low-round draft picks, if they get drafted at all.

Most Likely Scenario: As long as he makes the roster, Chapas should be in Dallas for a few years.  You know the coaching staff likes him.

  • Bill Nagy, C, Wisconsin

2011 Impact: Nagy’s main concern should first be making the roster.  In my initial 2011 53-man roster projection, I predicted he will.  He will almost certainly be inactive on gameday if he makes the team.

Best Case Long-Term Scenario: The best case scenario for Nagy is to be a starter.  There aren’t many expectations for a seventh-round pick, so Nagy has an opportunity to fly under the radar, especially as an interior lineman.

Most Likely Scenario: In my opinion, Nagy will probably be released within a few years.  I know that’s pessimistic, but he’s a seventh-round pick without a ton of upside.  His best bet is to work at center and hope to eventually replace Andre Gurode.

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13 Responses to Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Picks: Their Impact This Season and Beyond

  1. Chris says:

    Good write-up. Pretty realistic

  2. Mark Watkins says:

    I agree, good write-up. I’d be happy if they achieve the status that you suggest JB. Nagy does seems to be a serious long shot to contribute much at all, but I suppose that’s true of almost all 7th rounders.

  3. Rick says:

    Good job, Jonathan.

    Are you sure the team won’t cut Nagy THIS training camp? For now, he’s behind Kosier (assuming he’s re-signed), Gurode, Davis, Costa, Arkin, and Holland. Guys like Robert Brewster and Travis Bright might be ahead of him, too. I think he’s a practice squadder next year.

  4. Vince_Grey says:

    Just a hunch, but if Nagy can make it through one full season without getting cut, I lay odds he makes the team as a starter in a year or two after that.

    He’s just the kind of “never quit” guy who’ll never be a star but will play center at a decent level for 10 years. BUT… he needs a little time to learn the pro game and grow.

  5. Rick–Definitely a chance Nagy doesn’t make it with the guys you mention, but he is versatile, so that will help. I think the Cowboys want Costa to develop at guard, so Nagy would be the only “true” center behind Gurode.

  6. moses says:

    Good write up.

    Given that AOA was out for the year, Teddy Williams never really played, Brewster was out, what do these 2nd yr players have to do to make the squad.

    It is like having 2 rookie classes

  7. moses says:


    What would be a great article would be one that evaluates the draft class after at least 3 years.

    For example:
    What did the draft and free agency choices in 2005 do to help the team?
    Did the decisions pan out?
    Did the Cowboys’ selection out perform the Conventional Wisdom choice?

    Does the Scouting Dept and draft performance fall in the middle of the pack?
    Or is it better than we give them credit for.

    I think we have enough info for 2003-2007 and possibly 2008

  8. Ty Jenkins says:

    Ah the draft . . . part art, part science. . .

    The science part – picking those individuals who best fit your team with respect to the actual scheme and have the skill to make the team and contributed to a solid level. Overall, I think that Dallas does fair job w/ the science part. Wtith obvious exceptions of Bobby Carpenter, Jason Williams and Robert Brewster, the last few drafts of picks taken until the 4th round (even 2009) have produced players who either are solid or project to be. Past drafts resulted in picking D Ware, Marcus Spears, Bradie James and Doug Free. 2008 saw the likes of Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, Martellus Bennett and Tashard Choice. 2009 got us Stephen McGee and Victor Butler. This year, the concern isn’t really if the players the drafted can play (most everyone agrees the 1st 3 picks are decent players) but whether or not they were at the positions of need.

    Which leads to the art part – picking players who are of decent enough character to fit in with the team attitude as well as be a position of need for the next few years. Dez Bryant was a draft pickup that saw an increase in production at the KR/PR and WR spots (until he was put on IR) but also some locker room and coachability concerns. But two questions were generated immediately after his drafting – was a 1st round caliber WR needed and whether or not Dez had the character necessary to survive the NFL. At this point, we, the FAN, don’t really know the answer to either question. But, one would hope that Jerry Jones (or Stephen) at least hasa long range plan for the WRs – we all speculate this will mean Roy Williams is eventually cut. To have Roy, Dez and Miles on the team for more than 2 years would be a waste of picks. As far as whether or not his character holds up, that’s anyone’s guess. Still, a risky pick in the 1st round (why else would he have fallen all the way to 24).

    Now, the issue of the team dealing w/ players who are injury prone (Marc Colombo, Sean Lee and now Bruce Carter) and whether these picks will pan out into post season wins and the player contributes at least somewhat is another story. Dallas seems content w/ taking that risk often. Again, jury’s out on that verdict.

    My whole issue is the propensity of the GM staff to continually draft players at positions where a replacement isn’t needed for 2-3 years at times. A RB in the 3rd round w/ FJ, TC and MBIII still on the roster? An injury risk ILB in the 2nd round? I agree that Brooking needs to be replaced but isnt that why Sean Lee was drafted? What part of Bradie James’ game indicates he needs to be replaced next year? Yes, it’s a contract year but he might be willing to sign on for just another 2 yrs at the end of the year. Both the 2nd and 3rd rounds, even though the players may turn out to be solid, were wasted picks.

    And so, the projected impact of Dallas’ picks this year seems fairly positive on one hand and not so positive on the other. With any luck, Carter and Murray both turn out to be solid or better yet elite picks. However, the odds that the TEAM will enjoy late post season success due to the lack of solid play at other positions is low. D Ware is arguably the best OLB in the NFL and how many playoff wins does his team have? Having 3 or 4 or even 5 ELITE players on your team doesn’t guarantee TEAM success, especially when those elite players are located at skill positions. Whenever you fail to draft (or pickup FAs) well for line positions, your team won’t win.

    Look at the Colts draft this year – 1st 2 picks were Costanzo and Ijalana (they actually traded up to get Ijalana after we passed on him).

    I look forward to the day that Dallas has 2-4 elite players on each line – only then will we be talking about how good the RB is, how many tackles the safeties and LBs have and the # of wins the team has on its way to the Superbowl.

  9. JJ says:


    Thanks for the analysis. The only area where I have some consternation is Murray. Part of me believes he’ll be the passing down back but then another feels he may become the starter during the season.

    I am also highly anxious to factor in undrafted Free Agents because you almost have to include them like draft picks. The Cowboys could pull out a few gems that change the complexion of the drafted players like Nagy who may be a practice squad candidate.

  10. Moses–You’re right. I still think T. Williams lack of experience will have him on the outside looking in, but what potential. I have high hopes for Brewster…at guard.

    Tyrone..Love you’re science/art dichotomy. Would you agree that JG did a nice job of selecting high-character players who fit his particular scheme, and thus more appropriately fill out the “art” section of your draft.

  11. JJ–The Cowboys have done such an awesome job with UFAs in the past 6/7 years that I’m always excited to see who they target.

  12. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    JB, agree that Garrett picked good character guys – don’t agree that he picked players of greatest need. Draft might look considerably better depending on FA pickups (need a FS, DE and possibly a OG).

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