Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Dallas Cowboys

Dallas was supposed to be contending for a Super Bowl title in 2008 and instead missed the playoffs entirely. Inconsistencies and drama were prevalent throughout the season. The once proud club, considered by many to be the kings of the league at one time, have not won a playoff game since the 1996 season (December 26th, 1996 to be exact). When that date rolls around in '09 it will have been 13 years. Can "America's Team" end that drought this year?

After having the second best offense in the NFL in 2007 the Cowboys dropped to 18th in that category in 2008. They lost almost a full six points per game. That is a big drop. What happened? No one really knows. The team basically returned in tact but the offense failed to click like they did the previous season. Romo had some injuries - as did the running backs - and T.O. had another meltdown. The offense still ranked in the Top 10 in passing offense but they couldn't get the ground game going which haunted them when Romo wasn't clicking. Statistically the Cowboys had a very good defense once again. They were in the Top 10 in passing yards and total yards allowed per game and ranked 12th in rushing yards allowed per game. Their downfall came in the red zone and on long plays from scrimmage leading to scores. Despite having a very solid defense opponents averaged 22.8 points per game against Dallas last season. That value puts the Cowboys 20th in The League.

Wade Phillips is back for a third year. All indications are this is his last, save for winning a playoff game or two. Even then people wouldn't be surprised to see him canned. Losing to the Giants in the 2007 playoffs and playing so pathetically last season (especially in the season finale versus the Eagles) is inexcusable. The only notable change is that Terrell Owens was released and is now in "lovely" Buffalo. His release may create some harmony in the locker room but certainly hurts the talent level on the offense. WR Roy Williams, acquired last season from Detroit for 1st and 3rd round picks, must step up and become Romo's go to guy immediately.

3/5/69 - Jason Williams, ILB/OLB, Western Illinois
3/11/75 - Robert Brewster, OT, Ball State
4/1/101 - Stephen McGee, QB, Texas A&M
4/10/110 - Victor Butler, DE/OLB, Oregon State
4/20/120 - Brandon Williams, DE/OLB, Texas Tech
5/7/143 - DeAngelo Smith, CB, Cincinnati
5/30/166 - Michael Hamlin, SS, Clemson
5/36/172 -
David Buehler, K, USC
- Stephen Hodge, SS, TCU
6/35/208 - John Phillips, TE, Virginia
7/18/227 - Mike Mickens, CB, Cincinnati
7/20/229 - Manuel Johnson, WR, Oklahoma

  • S - Check!
  • OL - Check!
  • DL - Check!*
  • LB - Check!
  • WR - Check!
  • CB - Check!
Six areas of need for a team that had been hoping to win a Super Bowl. Wow. What happened? They appear to have done pretty good for themselves, filling all six needs as determined by But I starred the DL because they really didn't do anything to provide help there. Yes, they drafted two collegiate DEs but due to their size and the Cowboys scheme, they have to convert to OLBs. So no DL help really. Of all the positions listed that may have been the one that needed the most help too. Ay caramba. They had 12 picks. 12! Teams usually hope to make 6-8 selections, with 7 being the norm. After all, that is the number of picks each team starts with before compensatory selections are handed out. Anyway, they ended up making 12 selections. They traded out of the second round to add picks. Why? What was going on down there in Big D?

GRADE: 90/100

Pick 1 - The Cowboys looked for youth at LB with many picks. Their first pick went towards a collegiate OLB that'll need to play ILB in the Cowboys 3-4 scheme. Not only will he have to adjust to a positional change but also the giant leap in competition. Williams, out of Western Illinois, is a raw prospect who will need a lot of work to become an every down ILB. If the Cowboys desperately needed an ILB (they did not) then they should have gone with Connecticut's Tyrone McKenzie (and spared him his ACL injury in minicamp withe the Patriots). This pick makes little sense needs-wise and talent-wise. Plus it was their first pick of the draft. Certainly not the last though. Grade: 4

Pick 2 - Two picks, two reaches. Apparently that's how the Cowboys wanted to operate. Instead of drafting a more ready OT such as T.J. Lang or Jamon Meredith (both Packers picks) they reached for Brewster. There were a few other OTs that were much more worthy of a third round selection than him. Developmental OTs are almost always good picks but this could have been better. Grade: 6

Pick 3 - I'm not going to get all over Dallas for taking a QB when they just signed Romo to a huge extension. McGee wasn't taken to be the heir to him. Let's face it, it is assumed the Romo has at least 5-6 years left which would make McGee 29 or 30 by the time he'd take over. Sure he'd have little wear and tear but he would have past his peak. No, McGee was drafted to be a developmental third guy and eventually a solid back up. You can't have too many good QBs. While I don't blame the Cowboys for taking someone like that, if they really wanted a backup then someone like Rhett Bomar or Nate Davis makes more sense since they are better players. And QB really wasn't a "high need" position. Grade: 5

Pick 4 - Another LB. Butler was an OLB at Oregon State and was a solid run stuffer but was a liability in coverage. Butler's size means he may shift inside, much like third round pick Jason Williams. Another curious pick; why are they overloading on LBs? Wouldn't WRs and DBs be better? Grade: 4

Pick 5 - The Cowboys got a nice value pick in Brandon Williams who really should have gone in round three. Unfortunately for them (and him) he has to become an OLB in their scheme. Not many converted DEs contribute as early as fellow Cowboy DeMarcus Ware. With the Cowboys depth at the position Williams doesn't have to be rushed. But they have Ware, Greg Ellis, 2007 first round pick Anthony Spencer, and (from just 10 picks earlier) Victor Butler, unless he shifts inside. Value wise good, need wise not so good. Grade: 6

Pick 6 - A CB, finally! It's very surprising to see Smith go before teammate Mike Mickens. In fact, Smith was considered a 6th or 7th round selection while Mickens was believed to be a 2nd or 3rd. Anyway, it's a reach. There were plenty of other DBs available, like Mickens, that would have been more likely to contribute as a nickel or dime back this season. Smith will not. Grade: 4

Pick 7 - Another DB, good for them. And a relatively nice selection, finally! Hamlin went right around where it was believed he'd go. He will be a standout on special teams and is most likely the heir to Ken Hamlin's spot. This is their best pick so far as it wasn't a reach and fills a need. Success! Grade: 8

Pick 8 - A specialist, really Dallas? And a position you didn't need at all? Nick Folk hit on 91% of his FGs in 2008 and which shows improvement from his 84% in 2007. Unless they want Buehler to play another position - or handle kickoffs - this was a wasted pick, and not just because it's a specialist. It wasn't needed! Grade: 1

Pick 9 - I have no idea where Hodge fits in the Dallas scheme. He was a hybrid OLB/SS at TCU and is way too slow to be a DB in the NFL but not big enough to be an OLB in a 3-4. He has the bulk for ILB but not the strength. He fits nowhere. Basically will be a glorified special teams player. Awesome. Grade: 2

Pick 10 - A new third string TE. OK, it's the late sixth round. I guess it isn't an awful pick. Jason Witten won't be around forever and Martellus Bennett has made some questionable decisions during his one year in Big D. And Phillips is a good value at this juncture. I'll stop the hate. Grade: 6

Pick 11 - Mickens in the 7th? What were NFL teams thinking?!?!? This is Dallas' best pick, by far. Mickens should compete with Orlando Scandrick as the nickel back and is, at worst, a dime back. Good picking Dallas... but 10 selections too late. Grade: 10

Pick 12 - They certainly needed some young WR depth and they get it in the serviceable Manuel Johnson. He isn't flashy but is tenacious and reliable; he's a fighter. Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton probably have positions locked down. Miles Austin is a good bet to get the third slot. Johnson will be competing with Sam Hurd and UDFA Kevin Ogletree for the 4th and 5th spots. Isaiah Stanback is an interesting players as well, someone that could a "wildcat" type option and is able to serve as an emergency QB. He can't be forgotten either. So Johnson has his work cut out for him. It was still a solid pick. Grade: 7

GRADE: 63/120


Wow, that was a lot of picks. And, honestly, not a lot to show for it. They got some depth and a lot of special teams help. Maybe that's all they need? Special teams was crappy for them in 2008 but was there a need to spend 12 picks in that area? If I were a Cowboys fan (close, my dad is), I'd be upset that the team didn't get any impact players to help this year.


WHY: No impact players. A lot of developmental guys that could become something in 2010 or 2011. Some guys don't even fit at all. Very strange draft. Maybe Jerry Jones wants to fire Wade Phillips so badly the draft was sabotaged by him? I have no idea. The team should have been packaging a bunch of these picks to move up and get a guy who can contribute early, not in two years.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Mickens
Worst Pick: McGee
Sleeper: Hamlin
Instant Impact: None
Developmental: A lot

CBS Sports (Prisco): D+
CBS Sports (Rang): C
ESPN (Kiper): D (Brooks): C- (Fan's): C
Walter: C-



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