"They" say it takes two, three, however many years to properly assess a team's draft class. But we're impatient. We were already issuing grades just hours after the Dallas Cowboys and their 31 NFL counterparts made their picks last April, and now that one season is in the books, we're ready to reassess things in regard to the seven players the Cowboys suited up as drafted rookies in 2013.
Round 1, Pick 31: Travis Frederick (C, Wisconsin)
Do you remember the vitriol regarding this pick? With a talented defensive lineman like Sharrif Floyd still available when they were originally on the clock with the 18th pick, the Cowboys instead opted to trade down, grabbing a center who many graded in the third or fourth round.
Here's what yours truly wrote the night the pick was made:
I find it hard to believe Dallas felt this guy was the best player available, and there's no way center was the biggest position of need on the roster. Now I wonder how long it'll take before this becomes yet another one of the Cowboys' infamously bad early-round picks.
I thought it was too early to give up on Phil Costa and that trading back for a center they could have had a round or two later was silly. I thought Floyd could have helped them more.
Ultimately, though, Frederick emerged as one of the best centers in the NFL, while Floyd failed to stand out with the Minnesota Vikings. By trading down, Dallas also picked up an extra third-round choice, which was used on Terrance Williams.
So the trade paid off in a big way, and so did the pick. Frederick started all 16 games and was graded by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) as the seventh-best center in football. He can definitely improve as a pass-blocker, but PFF deemed him the strongest run-blocking center in the league.
|PFF's top run-blocking centers, 2013|
|Center||Run block grade|
|1. Travis Frederick||17.9|
|2. Chris Myers||16.5|
|3. Jason Kelce||11.8|
|Pro Football Focus|
Not bad for a guy who was being painted as a massive reach just eight months ago.
Round 2, Pick 47: Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
I understand the desire to get hip with two-tight end sets and all, but this continues to be a baffling pick for me. Escobar wasn't good enough to maintain a full-time role with San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference, and Jason Witten and James Hanna were already on board. They had bigger needs, and it's not as though Escobar was known as a good blocker.
He made only nine catches as a rookie, although two went for touchdowns. It's too early to declare that this was a bad pick, but when you consider that Dallas continued to ignore needs at defensive line in order to pick him, and when you also take into account the fact that Jordan Reed was still available at that position, it doesn't result in a positive review.
Round 3, Pick 74: Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor)
It was weird seeing them take a wideout for the third straight season. I wasn't impressed at the time, writing that "Williams could compete for the No. 3 wide receiver spot, but Dwayne Harris will be hard to beat out for snaps on the outside opposite Dez Bryant."
Of course, I was dead wrong.
Williams stood out from the pack immediately and wound up not only earning the No. 3 spot but also having a much better season than the football ghost many remember as Miles Austin.
Among rookies, only Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins had more receiving yards than Williams, who also scored five times in 15 games.
|Most receiving yards by rookies, 2013|
|1. Keenan Allen||1046||76th|
|2. DeAndre Hopkins||802||27th|
|3. Terrance Williams||736||74th|
|4. Kenny Stills||641||144th|
|5. Robert Woods||587||41st|
|Pro Football Reference|
He's already become a reliable deep threat and an ideal complement to Bryant moving forward.
Round 3, Pick 80: J.J. Wilcox (S, Georgia Southern)
Wilcox missed only three tackles and didn't give up a touchdown in coverage while starting five games and playing a total of 530 snaps, per PFF. He'll still likely have to compete to retain a starting role opposite Barry Church in 2014, but I'd say he's off to a decent start for a third-round selection.
This is a kid who entered the draft after starting only one year in the Sun Belt Conference, so there's lots of room for improvement. This filled a need, and Wilcox did more good than harm in 2013.
Round 4, Pick 114: B.W. Webb (CB, William & Mary)
Another small-school cornerback who looked overmatched early. Eventually, Dallas realized he wasn't improving fast enough and Webb was benched. By the time we reached Week 17, he was inactive.
Webb was beaten on 11 of the 13 passes he was targeted on, according to PFF, surrendering three touchdowns in the process. That's not acceptable.
Since he wasn't used as a kick or punt returner, it's hard to argue he made a positive impact in any way.
Round 5, Pick, 151: Joseph Randle (RB, Oklahoma State)
This was DeMarco Murray's year in the Dallas backfield, but even when Murray went down and Randle had an opportunity to prove his worth, he failed.
He was only 21 and wasn't supposed to be a stud right away, but Randle averaged only 3.0 yards per carry on 54 attempts in two starts and 13 appearances. He also caught eight passes for 61 yards, but it was still a disappointing season on paper.
Plus, Randle struggled in pass protection and as a blocker in general, which was a big reason why, according to PFF, he played only three snaps during the final three weeks of the season.
Round 6, Pick 185: DeVonte Holloman (LB, South Carolina)
When it happened, I was pretty fired up about this pick:
The versatile, instinctive defender is strong in coverage and could be a long-term answer at the strong-side linebacker spot. He's a great guy to have growing behind Justin Durant, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.
Holloman, though, didn't earn his chance on defense until injuries forced him into the starting lineup in December. It's a tad disappointing that he didn't emerge to get a chance earlier in the year considering the amount of injuries at linebacker, and it's not as though he did anything exceptionally well when he was on the field for the lion's share of the snaps in Weeks 15, 16 and 17.
Ultimately, he missed 20 percent of the tackles he attempted and earned the third-worst defensive PFF grade on the roster.
Still, there were a few signs that Holloman could have a bright future in this league, which isn't bad when you consider that he was learning a new position as a rookie sixth-round pick.
Frederick and Williams together have saved this draft class, and don't be surprised if that continues to be the case. It would have been nice if this draft could have given the Cowboys one decent pass-rusher, but there's still hope for everyone involved, especially Wilcox and Escobar.
OVERALL GRADE: B-