Cowboys Aren’t Afraid to Go After LBs and RBs Early

The Cowboys decided against picking up a defensive back in the second or third round this year. They instead went with inside linebacker Bruce Carter from North Carolina in the second and running back Demarco Murray in the third.

ESPN‘s grade for Carter was 84 out of 100, which was slightly below the grade for linebacker Akeem Ayers, who went one pick before to Houston. ESPN rated Murray at 74, which is considerably better than Stevan Ridley, who went two spots later to the Patriots.

Since the Cowboys converted to a 3-4 in 2005, they have not been afraid to use an early pick on a linebacker.  Since 2005, Dallas has selected seven linebackers (including Carter) within the first three rounds. Of course, not all of these have been bad:

2005 – DeMarcus Ware (1st)
2005 – Kevin Burnett (2nd)
2006 – Bobby Carpenter (1st)
2007 – Anthony Spencer (1st)
2009 – Jason Williams (3rd)
2010 – Sean Lee (2nd)
2011 – Bruce Carter (2nd)

Dallas has also had pretty good luck taking running backs, though the team hasn’t found anyone who reminds us of Emmitt Smith or Tony Dorsett. Since Smith left the team following the 2002 season, Dallas has picked the following:

2004 – Julius Jones (2nd)
2005 – Marion Barber (4th)
2007 – Deon Anderson (fullback) (6th)
2008 – Felix Jones (1st)
2008 – Tashard Choice (4th)
2011 – Demarco Murray

According to a DMN poll, slightly more than half think the Cowboys should have picked someone else. Mel Kiper listed the Cowboys as one of his question-mark teams.

Summary: I praised what Dallas did in Round 1, adding Tyron Smith, a guy who certainly should help on that leaky offensive line. But the Cowboys have real needs at defensive end, safety and cornerback, and they added a linebacker and a running back when at both picks they had options to get help at positions where I see more pressing needs. I have needs down for teams, and for the Cowboys, they might not be the same ones Jerry Jones has, but if the Carter pick didn’t seem too peculiar, the Murray one really did based on how this roster looks right now.

Of course, the other question mark team is New England, so this probably means little.