2011 Draft

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Consensus Draft Grade for the Cowboys: Around a C

The commentators aren’t exactly impressed with the Cowboys’ 2011 draft. Grades from the Sporting News, CBS, and Mel Kiper were, respectively, C, C, and B-.

Here are the comments.

Sporting News (Grade: C)

They got offensive tackle Tyron Smith in the first round, but a pass rusher out of this draft would have been nice.

CBS (Grade: C)
The Cowboys answered one of their primary concerns with the No. 9 overall in USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith. While Smith’s athletic upside is limitless, I have reservations about his ability to provide the physicality needed to play at right tackle immediately or transition quickly to the left side – a position he never started at while at USC. The Cowboys took a similar gamble on pure athleticism in the second round with workout wonder Bruce Carter (who is coming off a torn ACL). When healthy, Carter has shown the speed and explosiveness to be a playmaker in every phase of the game, but his lack of instincts is a concern. One Day Three prospect who could surprise is East Carolina wideout Dwayne Harris. Unlike the Cowboys’ first two selections, Harris isn’t a phenomenal athlete. He was very productive, however, and is a tough, versatile player who could surprise as a target in the slot. This was a typical Jerry Jones draft — heavy on flashy athletes, but lacking the game-to-game consistency that translates into NFL victories.
Mel Kiper (Grade: B-)
While I thought Dallas might trade down off No. 9 and get more value at the tackle position a little later in Round 1, Smith made a lot of sense at No. 9, and the Cowboys showed conviction with the pick. He could be the solution for them at left tackle if he develops, or perhaps gets moved to the right side for now. After that, it got a little confusing for two rounds. Dallas went linebacker and running back in Rounds 2 and 3 before targeting more pressing needs at corner and guard in the following two rounds. Dallas got good value later, but never took a player that seemed like a steal at the position. Harris is a guy who might continue to develop at wideout.

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.

Surprisingly, There’s No Surprise: Cowboys Take Tyron Smith

The Cowboys were the first team to use the entire 10-minute period to select their player in Thursday night’s draft. With Nick Fairley still on the board, along with other tackles and defensive backs on the board, it would not have been a big surprise if Dallas had done something out of the ordinary.

In the end, though, the Cowboys went with USC tackle Tyron Smith.

Here are a few items.

First, a video showing highlights from last season:

Draft Preview: Tyron Smith by FOX_Sports_Interactive

Second, ESPN‘s analysis:

What he brings: The biggest concerns with Smith are instincts and weight. He misses assignments on occasion and has to show he can maintain the 20-pound weight gain he has had since the end of the regular season. He is coming off a minor knee injury but it does not appear to be a concern going forward, and he has the highest ceiling of any tackle prospect in this class. Smith has excellent foot speed, long arms and good flexibility, and when he becomes more polished he is the hard-to-find player you want protecting your quarterback’s blind side. And it’s important to point out that the reason he did not play on the left side in college is because USC had Ryan Kalil at left tackle, who projects as a future top-5 pick. It wasn’t because the coaches thought he couldn’t handle it.

Third, NFL.com‘s take:

Smith is one of the best prospects on the hoof in this class. Blessed with an ideal NFL frame and has the outstanding feet and athleticism necessary to be a starting left tackle. Does a great job staying in front of speed rushers, locks on and sustains, and can anchor against the bull rush. Shows solid power in the running game and is really productive out in space. Football IQ is lacking. Fails to find his target at times in the running games and is a tick slow recognizing blitzes. Smith could come off the board early in the first round due to his rare physical gifts.

General Consensus at #9: Tyron Smith

Many expect Dallas to take USC tackle Tyron Smith

There are still five or six players who remain on the various mock drafts. The player emerging as the consensus, though, is USC tackle Tyron Smith.

NFL.com’s Mike Mayock predicts Dallas will take Smith. Here are his (paraphrased) comments:

  • Thinks the Cowboys would like to trade down.
  • But if they stay at #9, they could take a corner or a five-technique (defensive line)
  • This kid, Tyron Smith, is so gifted at right tackle. Plug him in. He can stay over at the right side. He improves the youth and athleticism of the line.
  • Dallas hasn’t taken an offensive lineman this high in a long time.
  • Tyron Smith is the answer.

Prince Amukamara is still in mix, as is J.J. Watt. Rafael Vela says that he’s heard that the Cowboys really like Watt and that they aren’t that interested in Smith. However, Bob Sturm of the DMN makes a case for taking Smith.

Part of my feelings about Smith are about the present. I think he was a very strong RT at USC with a pretty good grasp of pass protection, a natural flair for getting to the 2nd level on run plays, and a remarkable ability to recover when he gets beat with an initial move.

We’ll know tomorrow. I just don’t want to see Dallas trying to find any value picks at #20.

Kiper’s First Three Picks for Dallas: OT, CB, S

Mel Kiper from ESPN is one of several commentators who think that Dallas will take USC tackle Tyron Smith with the ninth pick in the draft. Here are Kiper’s comments:

A number of times this year, I’ve noted how Dallas might look to trade down. After all, picking in the top 10 of this draft wasn’t likely to allow them to get full value if they targeted an offensive tackle, something many wish Jerry Jones would have done in 2010. Well, in Smith, they have the option of taking a player who projects as a future blindside tackle, and he’s in a perfect spot in terms of value, having risen all the way to No. 9 on the Big Board. It’s a need pick, and a player who could help Dallas in short order.

Two days ago, Bob Strum at the Dallas Morning News, as have several bloggers.

As for Kiper’s second- and third-round picks, he predictably saw Dallas taking defensive backs. In the second round, he has Dallas taking Miami cornerback Brandon Harris. Kiper’s third-round pick for Dallas is North Carolina safety Da’Norris Searcy.