The Dallas Cowboys came into the 2013 NFL draft with major holes to fill at a variety of positions, the most pressing of which seemed to be guard, running back, safety, offensive tackle and defensive tackle. Through three rounds and four selections, the 'Boys have addressed exactly one of those needs. And that player, Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox, was chosen with the team's final pick on Day 2. Let's recap the other three draft choices.
Round 1: Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin
Frederick has some versatility to play guard, but it initially appears as though the Cowboys will play him at center. That's surprising. Current center Phil Costa is hardly a Pro Bowl player, but he was decent in limited 2012 action. The real problem was on the right side of the line, primarily with guard Mackenzy Bernadeau. It makes all of the sense in the world for Frederick to replace Bernadeau and play alongside Costa, with the overall quality of the unit improving substantially as compared to a Frederick/Bernadeau pairing.
And while the Cowboys grabbed a third-round pick in their first-round trade with the Niners, it's still baffling that they drafted Frederick in the first round. Most experts graded Frederick as a third-round prospect. Even if the 'Boys liked him, why not wait until at least the second round?
Round 2: Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
While certainly a talented player, it's worth wondering how much Escobar can really contribute in the next season or two. Jason Witten obviously runs the show in Dallas, and the team drafted promising tight end James Hanna just last season.
Furthermore, Escobar can't block. He's basically the same type of player as Hanna, albeit a small upgrade, but the opportunity cost of selecting him in the second round was monumental. The Cowboys bypassed all kinds of other options who could have improved the team starting in 2013 without sacrificing upside.
Round 3: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
I like the Williams pick for a variety of reasons. I think he's a talented player with a unique skill set, and he dropped too far. When a big, physical wide receiver runs a sub-4.50 40-yard dash and posts more than 1,800 receiving yards in a major conference, he usually doesn't drop to the third round.
Having said that, there were players on the board who could have potentially made a bigger impact for Dallas this season. Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive tackle Terron Armstead went just one pick later, for example, and there were still a number of talented running backs available. I'm not necessarily knocking the pick, because he was high on my board as well as the Cowboys' board, but Williams, like this entire class, probably won't put the Cowboys over the top in 2013.
Is Best Player Available Really Worth It?
Look, you always want to take the best possible player for your team, but that doesn't mean he has to be the highest-rated on the board. It seems as though the Cowboys are using a true "highest-rated player" strategy, but I'm not sure it's paying off. I'd never advocate bypassing a player who is rated far higher than everyone else, but it's not necessarily a bad thing to bypass a top-rated player for one ranked just behind him at a major position of need.
The main reason for that is uncertainty; teams seem to fail to factor uncertainty into their rankings, acting as if their boards are flawless. The truth is that when a team drafts a player, that player was necessarily an outlier on their board, meaning the team probably had him ranked higher than most or all teams.
That means that teams end up thinking the players they draft are a lot better than they are. That isn't a knock on the teams; it's a necessary consequence of the draft process, but teams should still understand the phenomenon. After incorporating uncertainty into rankings, most teams likely wouldn't draft the highest-rated player quite as often.
For the Cowboys, the only uncertainty the organization didn't ignore is that which will surround the potential 2013 contributions of their draft class.