Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are looking for multiple starters out of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Dallas Cowboys fans, welcome to the 2013 NFL draft! After months of anticipation, we're mere hours from learning which young stars will come into Dallas to upgrade the team's roster. After yet another mediocre season in 2012, the Cowboys have a number of holes on both sides of the football. The organization could really follow a vast array of potential draft paths, but it all starts with its selection at No. 18 overall.
I've broken down the five most likely scenarios for Dallas in the first round, including analysis of four prospects and one trade. Be sure to check back here throughout the draft—I'll have immediate reaction to each selection, in-depth analysis and prospect grades.
The Cowboys were in search of an elite offensive lineman to bolster their running attack and pass protection. When none fell to their No. 18 overall selection, they decided to trade back to San Francisco's selection at No. 31 overall. Somewhat surprisingly, the 49ers selected LSU safety Eric Reid.
Despite moving down 13 spots, the Cowboys were able to secure only the Niners' third-round pick (No. 74 overall) as compensation. Based on the historic NFL Draft trade value chart, such a move has traditionally been worth closer to a second-round pick. Based on that fact, the 49ers made out well.
Still, the move wasn't necessarily a poor one for Dallas if they didn't like anyone on the board. Most people were probably rooting for them to draft Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, but teams' opinions on Floyd obviously aren't the same as those from most media members. I didn't have Floyd in my top 10 remaining players when Dallas was on the clock.
Grade: A for the trade back, D+ for the compensation
After trading down to San Francisco's No. 31 overall selection, the Cowboys stunned many by selecting Wisconsin center Travis Frederick. I scouted Frederick earlier this year, and I had this to say:
Frederick has good size at 6-4, 312 pounds. On film, he plays very intelligently. He handles stunts and blitzes well, and he displays outstanding body position nearly all of the time. Frederick doesn’t typically deliver knockout shots, but he gets between his defender and the ball-carrier or quarterback on most plays. For lacking athleticism, he does a fine job of getting to the second level and walling off defenders.
Frederick is very coachable and he’s going to work hard at the next level. He’s the “right kind of guy,” but I’m not sure if he has the right kind of athleticism to really thrive in the NFL. He’s not going to provide flawless pass protection, and there’s a good chance he’ll get eaten up by the league’s quicker interior defensive linemen. Plus, there are questions about how stout he can be at the point-of-attack.
My main problem with Frederick isn't that he can't play, but that I find it doubtful that Frederick would have been off of the board for Dallas by the time they pick again in the second round. This is a guy who ran a 5.58 at the Combine, and while speed obviously isn't vital for linemen, that time is concerning and points to a real lack of athleticism.
I'm going to write a more in-depth review of Frederick and how he fits in Dallas in the next few minutes, so look out for that. In the meantime, my grade:
Pick Grade: D
The Cowboys were ridiculed after drafting Wisconsin center Travis Frederick—a player many analysts had rated in the third round—with the No. 31 overall selection. Their second-round pick—San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar—won’t calm the masses.
In Escobar, the Cowboys are getting a play-making tight end. From my scouting report on Escobar:
At 6-6, 254 pounds, Escobar is a pass-catching tight end who can line up all over the field. He’s got excellent balance and body control, running downfield like a receiver and plucking the ball out of the air. Escobar’s ball skills are excellent, giving him the ability to win in jump-ball situations, especially near the goal line.
Escobar ran a 4.84 40-yard dash at the Combine, so he’s not regularly going to run past defenders. He’s a quick player who gets in and out of his breaks precisely, running great routes to get open. Once he gets his hands on the ball, Escobar is a threat after the catch.
So what’s the problem? Escobar offers little in the running game. With Jason Witten and pass-catching second-year tight end James Hanna on the roster, it’s fair to wonder how appropriately the Cowboys can utilize Escobar’s skill set. This appears to be a true “best player available” selection.
It's worth noting that a number of "value" players at positions of need—Tank Carradine, Kawann Short, and Menelik Watson—were drafted just before the Cowboys' pick.
It's pretty clear that the Cowboys are taking a true "best player available" strategy to this draft, regardless of position. I've explained in the past why I believe uncertainty and position scarcity limit the merits of such a strategy, but Dallas obviously liked what they saw in Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams enough to spend their first third-round pick on him.
Williams is a height/weight/speed combo player; he's 6-2, 208 pounds and clocked in at 4.48 in the 40-yard dash. That size and speed helped Williams break out in a major way in 2012, to the tune of 97 receptions for 1,832 yards and 12 scores.
Plus, wide receiver is probably a bigger need for the Cowboys than you think, especially with Miles Austin's post-2013 future in Dallas uncertain.
I guess everyone gets lucky every once in awhile. In my mock drafts here at Bleacher Report and elsewhere, I argued that the Cowboys will draft Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox. I wrote "there's no mid-round prospect I view as more likely to land in Dallas than Wilcox" because the team showed a lot of interest in him throughout the draft process.
Wilcox is a personal favorite of mine, and I think he'll immediately compete with Matt Johnson and Will Allen for a starting job. Wilcox, who ran a 4.51 at 6-0, 213 pounds, played safety for only one season after switching positions from wide receiver. He's the perfect high-upside selection at this point of the draft.
After going offense with their first three selections in the 2013 NFL Draft, the 'Boys added safety J.J. Wilcox and now Williams & Mary cornerback B.W. Webb in the fourth round. The move is a little puzzling since the Cowboys are set at cornerback with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne on the outside. Nickel back Orlando Scandrick played fairly well in 2012, and he's in the midst of a $27 million contract.
The Cowboys were likely swayed by Webb's return ability. He was an impact returner in college, and Dallas was desperate for help in the return game. Webb will compete with Dwayne Harris on both punt and kickoff returns.
We all knew the Cowboys were going to draft a running back at some point. They went with Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle in the fifth round, a player who can catch the ball out of the backfield and protect Tony Romo on third downs. Randle will back up DeMarco Murray, and the two backs are very similar. Both have an upright running style, which could mean Randle is susceptible to injuries. Randle is also a decisive, one-cut style of runner as well.
Randle totaled 5.5 yards-per-carry during his career at Oklahoma State. His best season was in 2011, rushing for 1,216 yards and 24 scores. Randle also caught over 100 passes over the past three seasons. That ability to add value on third downs surely enticed the 'Boys.
In my mind, the problem with this pick is who was left on the board. I had backs like Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy and LSU's Michael Ford rated much higher. Randle's sub-par 4.63 40-yard dash was a major reason for that. More analysis to come.
The Cowboys added Justin Durant and re-signed Ernie Sims earlier this year, but that didn't stop them from drafting another linebacker to conclude their 2013 draft. The Cowboys just grabbed South Carolina linebacker DeVonte Holloman in the sixth round.
Holloman is a small outside linebacker who will likely compete with the aforementioned veterans at the "Sam" strong side linebacker position. He's a prototypical 4-3 outside linebacker, and a player who dropped because he's not scheme versatile. If he's placed in the right situation, however, Holloman can be a really productive player on the outside. He's good value in the sixth round.