I posted a few articles on my thoughts regarding the Cowboys’ first three draft selections, but this will be my initial analysis of their late-round picks. After a tremendous start to the draft and a questionable second day, I think the Cowboys found some really talented young players today in rounds four through seven. Here are my grades. . .
Round 1: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
In my initial article on the selection of Smith, I stated how I see him as the future of offensive tackles in the NFL. His athleticism and upside are incredible, and his versatility will be valuable to Dallas. I know some of you aren’t as high on Smith as me (he was No. 6 overall on my board), but I think he has legit Pro Bowl potential. He will be a left tackle sooner rather than later.
Round 2: Bruce Carter, LB, UNC
I was actually going to give this selection a “D,” but Carter’s potential versatility bumps him up a bit. Despite what others are saying, I can’t see how the ‘Boys drafted Carter to start as anything other than an inside linebacker. He has versatility to move outside in certain situations, but after watching more tape of him, it’s clear he does not possess the pass-rush repertoire to make a immediate impact as an edge-rusher. With players like Ben Ijalana, Brandon Harris and Marvin Austin still on the board, I thought the Cowboys missed this one.
Here is my scouting report on Bruce Carter.
Round 3: DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
Let me be clear that I like Murray’s overall ability. From my scouting report on Murray:
Murray has solid agility and start-and-stop ability. His quickness and long speed are both really, really good. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the Combine and he really does possess home run ability. While I don’t like the timing of the pick, I think there are only a few runners in this draft who are better for Dallas than Murray. He’s an insurance policy against a Felix Jones injury, which was really an underrated “hole” for the ‘Boys.
Murray is a really good back with a skill set I covet. The problem is there were a lot of really good backs on the board at the time: Pitt’s Dion Lewis, Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones, Miami’s Graig Cooper, Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter and Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers. Why not wait until, say, the fifth round to grab Lewis and take Kenrick Ellis in the third?
Round 4: David Arkin, OG, Missouri State
The theme of the Cowboys’ 2011 draft was selecting hard workers. Arkin is an extremely hard worker who excels in pass protection. I’ve stated before that I think the talent gap between Division I-A and Division 1-AA (or Division II) players is shrinking, meaning selecting small-school players can often hold value for teams.
Clearly I don’t know a ton about Arkin’s game and I need to find some tape, but I do know he’s a very smart individual with tremendous quickness. Simply for being a small-school player who excels in pass protection at a position of need, I will give this pick a solid grade.
Round 5: Josh Thomas, CB, Buffalo
You guys are going to end up loving this pick. Mark my words: Thomas is going to be a starting cornerback in the NFL. He has average size (5’10”, 191 pounds) but good speed (4.4-flat). Most importantly, he has some of the most fluid hips I have ever seen. His fluidity and change-of-direction are exceptional. He played a lot of zone coverage at Buffalo, but I think he has all the tools to be effective in man coverage at the next level. He needs to work on his press, but the skill set is there guys.
Again, this is another high-character guy who will work his tail off. Jerry Jones has sometimes been criticized for dedicating entire drafts to one trait (the “special teams draft” of 2009, for example). A “high-character, hard-working class,” though, is fine by me.
Round 6: Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina
Many of you are not going to like this pick as much as me. Wide receiver is not an area of need for the Cowboys and Dwayne Harris probably wasn’t on your radar. Harris is a Wes Welker-esque player, however, in that he is not very fast (4.55 speed), but his quickness, hands, and run-after-catch ability are all excellent. With the ball in his hands, Harris is agile and very difficult to bring down in the open field. He also has return ability, making him the third draftee in the Cowboys’ draft class to possess such a skill.
Harris’ largest weakness in my view is sub-par route-running. A large majority of his receptions at East Carolina came on screens. If he can learn to run a few intermediate routes well, however, I think he can be a future asset in the slot for the Cowboys.
Round 7A: Shaun Chapas, FB, Georgia
I have mixed opinions on this pick. In the seventh round, you aren’t going to find an immediate impact player. So why not take one with high upside? That isn’t Chapas. Fullback Chris Gronkowski wasn’t great in 2010, but how about just not putting a fullback on the field at all? It would sure solve the play-calling problems from “Double Tight I.”
On the flip side, you upgrade a “starting” position. Chapas is a good lead blocker who could certainly help the Cowboys in short-yardage situations. He will make the team ahead of Gronkowski, in my opinion. Good player at a position of little value.
Round 7B: Bill Nagy, C, Wisconsin
Upgrading the interior line was obviously a priority for Dallas. The idea is fine, but why not take a player with higher upside? Nagy played his first game at center in 2010 and played in just three games in 2009 due to injury.
Overall Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Grade: C+
The average of the Cowboys’ eight picks turns out to be 82.3 percent, but I’m dropping the grade to a “C” because I think they missed on two crucial selections in the second and third rounds. It isn’t that Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray are bad players, but rather that the options still on the board, at least in my view, appeared superior. It still remains to be seen how both players are implemented.
The main points I will take away from this draft are:
1) The Cowboys drafted primarily for value over need. I’ve explained in the past why selecting the best player available can be disadvantageous to a team.
2) DeMarco Murray’s presence seals Marion Barber’s fate in Dallas. Let’s hope the same is true of Marc Colombo (Tyron Smith), and even Keith Brooking (Bruce Carter).
3) The ‘Boys emphasized hard-working, high-character players in this draft, which is great. This may be a draft class that appears poor in 2011 but turns out to be solid in a few years, as many of the prospects seem like the type to work as hard as possible to become great. Every single one of these players has the potential to be a Sean Lee-like worker and leader.
4) The Cowboys are clearly confident they can acquire a starting free safety in free agency. With the weakness of this draft class, I think passing on a safety was fine.