The Dallas Cowboys were widely picked to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLV in their very own home in Cowboys Stadium before the season. They weren't even close.
They started the campaign off 1-7, with the final straw being a 45-7 shellacking on national TV by the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
This embarrassment led Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones to do something he hadn't done in more than 20 years of ownership: fire a coach midseason. Wade Phillips was fired after the loss and Jason Garrett was elevated to the top job after being the team's offensive coordinator since 2007.
The NFL Draft is a team's yearly chance to try to close the gap on the league's best teams, and the Cowboys had what a lot of fans and experts called an "average draft."
No secondary help was drafted until the fifth round, and a lot of people were wondering why the Cowboys didn't take a defender in a first round that included Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, LSU's Patrick Peterson and UCLA's Rahim Moore.
Here is why Roy Williams and five Cowboys starters are the most affected by the recent draft.
The Cowboys selected East Carolina's Dwayne Harris in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and in my opinion from what I have seen of the kid, he could challenge Roy Williams to be a cheaper, and most likely more productive No. 3 receiver in his rookie year.
Harris is listed at 5'10", 203 pounds. He will most likely fit as a big possession receiver that can work the short to middle of the field with the Tony Romo-led offense.
Harris will look to be the team's third receiver behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Teams are starting to use multiple-receiver sets and Harris can be a big target for Tony Romo.
The Bottom Line: I believe that Dwayne Harris could possibly overtake Williams and become the team's No. 3 receiver. The trade for Roy Williams was one of the worst in Cowboys history, and I hope that Jason Garrett will give Harris a chance to play and be able to use all of his weapons effectively.
The second-round pick for the Dallas Cowboys, North Carolina LB Bruce Carter was widely expected to be one of the first defensive players taken in the 2011 NFL Draft, but an ACL injury derailed that projection.
The Cowboys have the best linebacker in the game in DeMarcus Ware, but it's an open competition for the other linebacker spots in the Cowboys' 3-4 defense under Rob Ryan. Carter is going to battle with Victor Butler and former first-round pick Anthony Spencer for time.
His ACL injury is projected to be completely healed by the time training camp starts, but who knows when that will be, given the state of the NFL labor situation.
In a 3-4 defense, the linebackers are expected to flow from sideline to sideline and have a nose for the football, if the defensive line can tie up all the run or pass-blocking offensive linemen.
The Bottom Line: I believe that the ACL injury will initially hamper Carter, but I believe with the right coach (Ryan) and the right system that Carter could be a solid outside linebacker in the 3-4, and possibly challenge Spencer for his starting role.
Before selecting Smith in the first round with the ninth overall pick, the Cowboys had not selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 1981.
The Cowboys' offensive line was a sieve last season—as it got both Tony Romo and Jon Kitna hurt—and the team was down to its third quarterback in Stephen McGee by the end of the season.
The advantage of having a decent offensive line is immense: It buys time for the quarterback to make his reads, it opens holes for the running back, and most importantly it keeps your franchise quarterback's collarbone from smashing into the earth with a sickening thud.
Tyron Smith is projected to be the team's starter at right tackle, which could mean the end of the road for Marc Colombo. The team has to get better offensive line play in order to combat the speed rushers of the NFC East.
Smith has shown the ability to be superb at handling speed rushers, as he comes from the Pac-10 and played against top-tier competition during his time at USC.
The Bottom Line: Smith will be the team's cornerstone on the offensive line. He will immediately provide help to one of the league's oldest offensive line as each person on the line is age 29 or older.
Marc Columbo will most likely be done in Dallas as injuries and poor play will finally catch up to him. Tyron Smith will be the first of many upgrades along the offensive line for Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys spent their fifth-round pick on Buffalo's Joshua Thomas to upgrade their woeful secondary that contributed to the team allowing a franchise record 431 points.
The Cowboys' Terence Newman battled injuries throughout the season, Mike Jenkins took a few steps back from his Pro Bowl season of 2009, and they were both consistently beaten by opposing wide receivers.
Thomas could step in and compete with Orlando Scandrick for the nickel corner job.
"In 24 starts for Buffalo, he knocked down 29 passes which is tied for fifth in school history and his 2010 stat line was: 58 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks to go along with one interception." (Bleacher Report, Keith Thomas)
The Bottom Line: The Cowboys' secondary was awful. They were victimized on a weekly basis by some of the best quarterbacks in the league. The exclamation point was when Newman was beaten by Robert Meachem in a last-second loss to the New Orleans Saints for a long touchdown which proved to be the game-winner for the Saints.
Thomas at least brings in some fresh, young blood to infuse some youth on an otherwise overrated Cowboys' defense (yes, they are overrated; I admit it). I believe Thomas could be a solid backup corner, and maybe even find a role on special teams.
The third-round pick by the Cowboys in the 2011 draft was Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray. A lot of people have speculated and even projected Murray to be the second running back on the depth chart behind starter Felix Jones.
People have also speculated that Murray's selection could spell the end of the line for former starting running back Marion Barber, and that Murray could possibly be the team's future at the position.
Here is a portion of Murray's scouting report from B/R's very own Cowboys featured columnist Jonathon Bales:
"Murray has solid agility and start-and-stop ability. His quickness and long speed are both really, really good. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the Combine and he really does possess home run ability." (Bleacher Report, April 29, 2011, Jonathon Bales)
The Cowboys already have a home-run threat in Felix Jones, but the nature of Murray's game is that it seems he isn't afraid to take a hit or lower his shoulder, so he could definitely be a steal as insurance for a Jones injury.
The Bottom Line: Murray will replace Marion Barber. The Cowboys made a mistake giving Barber a contract that was bigger than his production.
If all goes as expected, Murray could supplant Barber and the Cowboys could have a trio of very fast, and very productive, running backs, possibly the best tandem in the NFC East.