If given the opportunity to look back upon the draft, it is unlikely any NFL team would select the exact same players. By knowing who is left at certain spots, teams would be able to potentially bypass a position of need in order to secure value later, knowing a player they covet will still be available.
In my opinion, this is actually the strongest evidence for my argument that teams should not actually always take the best player available on their board. Given perfect knowledge, a team could obtain optimal overall value by selecting something other than the top player on their board at each spot (although sometimes need, value and position scarcity intersect perfectly, as I believe they did with the selection of Tyron Smith).
One might argue that a change in one team’s pick would have a domino effect that would result in a drastically different draft outcome–that is, each selection is dependent on the ones before it in such a way that no team’s pick can be isolated from the others. The strength of this domino effect is debatable, but the key point is that, at least in theory, NFL teams would generally select different players if given perfect knowledge of how a draft will turn out (or even percentages of how each scenario might play out).
Below, I have given you the “perfect” selections for the Cowboys in each spot. This may not be totally fair to our analysis of the Cowboys’ actual draft–no team can come close to completely uncovering the selections behind them–but it is still fun.
The Perfect Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft
Round 1: Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Yup, I’m keeping the same guy here. Many of you will disagree, perhaps preferring players like Nick Fairley or JJ Watt, but I think the ‘Boys hit a home run with this selection. In my 2011 Cowboys Draft Grades, I gave the selection an “A” because of the combination of Smith’s current skill level and his future upside.
I personally hate the idea of people labeling Smith a “risky” draft pick. The idea is completely erroneous and, ironically, it stems from his upside. For some reason, the media likes to label high upside picks as risky players. Similarly, a player with less skill is often called a “safe” pick.
If you asked 100 media types before the draft if Smith or Wisonsin’s Gabe Carimi was the safer pick, 99 would have said Carimi. Why? Because he is worse? Because he is more limited in his game? The idea is ridiculous. High upside does not necessitate high risk.
Smith is an extremely safe pick. He is very intelligent, possesses great character, and works harder than just about anyone. Add this to his versatility and current overall ability, and you have one of the safest picks in the draft. His incredible upside is a bonus that should do nothing to determine the depths of his downside.
Round 2: Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova
The highest player left on my Big Board after the first round was Gerogia’s Justin Houston, but I am bypassing him for another offensive lineman. The selection of Smith should have done nothing to dissuade Dallas from selecting Ijalana in the second round because he has the versatility to move to guard.
The Cowboys clearly coveted interior linemen with their selections of David Arkin and Bill Nagy in the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively. Ijalana was the 11th rated player on my board.
Note: Miami cornerback Brandon Harris would have also been fine by me.
Round 3: Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois
There is no way Wilson should have dropped to the third round. He has the versatility to play inside or outside in a 3-4 scheme–a trait the Cowboys probably valued in second-round pick Bruce Carter.
It would be interesting to see if the team would have passed on Carter in the second if they knew Wilson was available in the third. I had him rated as my No. 21 overall player, and the fourth-best available after the first round.
Round 4: Buster Skrine, CB, Tennessee-Chattanooga
Skrine went to the Browns in the fifth round, and I loved the pick (and their entire draft). He can flat out fly and, although I generally place little value in the 40-yard dash, it does mean something for cornerbacks. They need to be able to let a receiver get even with them before flipping their hips and chasing them down in the event that the receiver goes deep.
Skrine, like other late-round/undrafted cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and Bryan McCann, possesses that ability. He had a ridiculous 3.9-second short shuttle time.
Round 5: Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh
The Cowboys reportedly had DeMarco Murray so high on their board that they couldn’t pass on him. It would be interesting to see how highly they rated Lewis and what they may have done if they knew Lewis would drop to the fifth round. Jason Garrett clearly wanted a running back who can catch the football, and Lewis can do just that. He was No. 5 in my pre-draft running back rankings.
Round 6: Jerrell Powe, NT, Ole Miss
I was shocked that Powe lasted until nearly the seventh round. At 335 pounds, he’s a pure nose tackle who I thought could easily go in the third round. It appears that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is content with Jay Ratliff in the middle, but I really thought the Cowboys could have upgraded two positions by selecting a nose tackle.
Round 7A: Lawrence Guy, DT/DE, Arizona State
The Cowboys’ defensive line is awfully weak to not even address it throughout the entire draft. Hopefully Dallas has plans to do so in free agency, but I personally would have done do in the draft. Guy is a prototypical 3-4 end who could potentially benefit from the move to a five-technique position.
Round 7B: Deunta Williams, FS, UNC
I am in disbelief that Williams did not get drafted, thinking he would go as early as the third round. He’s a highly athletic free safety with great upside–exactly what you should seek in the seventh round. He should be at the top of the Cowboys’ undrafted free agent wish list...whenever teams are allowed to sign undrafted players.
Which draft do you prefer. . .the Cowboys’ actual 2011 class, or my “dream” draft?