Dallas Cowboys: Reviewing the 2012 NFL Draft
The Cowboys signed a very good cornerback this offseason with the five-year, $50.1 million deal inked for Brandon Carr, but they still lacked a premier playmaker in their secondary. That gave the Cowboys reason and motivation to trade up to the No. 6 overall selection in the draft for LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Claiborne is the best defensive player in the draft class, and he will make a huge and immediate impact on the Cowboys’ defense. That said, was trading up the best move for them to make, and did the Cowboys get the right players with the rest of their picks? Read through the following slides to find out.
Evaluating the Picks
Round 1, Pick 6: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 4
Claiborne is a tremendous cornerback prospect who is ready to step in and start immediately. He is the best pure cover cornerback from this draft class, and he should emerge as a true No. 1 shutdown sideline corner.
Claiborne is a fluid athlete, has great size, plays with physicality and is very instinctive. He has great ball skills, and is a difference maker who can force turnovers and make plays with the ball in his hands. He should be an immediate starter and long-term star.
Round 3, Pick 81: Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 204
Crawford played like a hybrid pass-rusher at Boise State, but he has good size and is bulking up to become a 5-technique defensive end for the Cowboys. He may be undersized and not a natural fit for this position, but he has the potential to be effective as an end, especially in pass-rushing situations.
Crawford was overshadowed by Shea McClellin at Boise State, but he actually led the Broncos in tackles for loss each of the past two seasons. Having watched him more closely, I may not have given him the credit he deserved in my prospect rankings. He was still as a reach as a 3-4 defensive end project, but he could develop into a very productive starter.
Round 4, Pick 113: Kyle Wilber, OLB, Wake Forest
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 156
Wilber is an athletic pass-rusher who is well suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He is a good lateral athlete who can make plays in space against the run, but he also does a very good job of getting into the backfield.
Wilber needs to add bulk and strength, but he should be able to contribute situationally from the beginning with his athletic ability.
Round 4, Pick 135 (compensatory selection): Matt Johnson, SS, Eastern Washington
Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400
Johnson has tremendous measurables as a tall, athletic safety. He is a hard hitter, but needs to become a more consistent tackler and to develop as a cover safety while he makes the transition from FCS football to the NFL.
He has good instincts and ball skills. He is a sleeper pick who is unproven and a reach in Round 4, but has the potential to make a significant impact, especially on special teams.
Round 5, Pick 152: Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 318
Coale is a physical receiver who runs solid routes and has good hands. Coale’s measurable speed is faster than his playing speed, but he is a good all-around who does not stand out in games but is productive. Coale is a high-motor player who should be able to stick as a fourth or fifth receiver as well as a special teams contributor.
Round 6, Pick 186: James Hanna, TE, Oklahoma
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 306
Hanna was not very productive at Oklahoma, but he has big upside. He is not an in-line blocker, but he is a good flex tight end who is a tremendous athlete. He may be a better athlete than he is a football player, but he has the skills to be a dangerous receiving threat if he harnesses his talent.
Round 7, Pick 222: Caleb McSurdy, ILB, Montana
Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400
McSurdy is a solid, instinctive inside linebacker who tackles well, hits hard and has a high motor. That said, he has poor measurables for an NFL linebacker, and could be restricted to playing special teams. He could end up being a very solid special teams contributor.
Evaluating the Trades
The Cowboys traded Round 1, Pick 14 and Round 2, Pick 45 to the St. Louis Rams for Round 1, Pick 6.
If there was one player who would be a perfect selection for the Dallas Cowboys, that player was Morris Claiborne. Claiborne is the best defensive player of the draft class, and he was well worth trading up for. He is going to make an instant and major impact on the Cowboys’ secondary, and he was worth giving up a second-round pick to get.
By simply comparing my overall prospect rankings with the players who were selected at each pick, the Dallas Cowboys had a horrendous draft on value. However, further assessment of their draft picks for this review made me realize that their draft class was not as bad as it first seemed.
Claiborne is a top talent who was worth trading up for. Crawford was a reach as a Round 3 pick, especially since he is truly a projection as a 3-4 defensive end, but I may have underrated him too much, and he could end up as starting-caliber. Wilber was also a reach based upon the rankings in Round 4, but he was actually one of the two best 3-4 outside linebackers available.
The Cowboys did not get any steals in this draft and took some players earlier than they should have been selected, but they could very well end up getting good value out of this draft.
The Cowboys did a very good job of addressing their defensive needs in this draft. The Cowboys needed to add a playmaker in the secondary, a 5-technique defensive end, a pass-rushing outside linebacker and a safety. With their first four picks, the Cowboys addressed each of those needs.
The Cowboys also needed depth at wide receiver, which they got with Coale, and Hanna could end up being a perfect replacement for Martellus Bennett.
One need that the Cowboys failed to address was the interior offensive line, an area where they really could have used an upgrade. However, all of the Cowboys’ selections addressed areas where they could really use another player, so they did a good job addressing needs.
By initial evaluations, I did not like the Cowboys’ draft outside of the Morris Claiborne selection. After closely evaluating their draft as a whole, every pick they made is understandable and could end up being the right selection for them.
While some of the picks were reaches on overall talent, they made sense for what the Cowboys needed to do. Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber were both among the best players available at their positions that fit the Cowboys’ defense. Johnson was a sleeper, but his upside is very intriguing. Coale and McSurdy bring special teams value, which can really be assets to the Cowboys, while Hanna had the most upside as a receiver among available tight ends.
The Cowboys did not get the best value in this draft, but they should end up with one star in Claiborne along with a number of other solid contributors at positions of need from this draft class.
Thanks for reading!
Throughout the month of May, I will be reviewing one team’s draft each day, in the order of the original 2012 NFL draft order.
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