As the 2014 NFL Draft approaches, Matthew Postins reviews the Dallas Cowboys last four draft classes
Part 1 of 4: 2013 Dallas Cowboys Draft Class Review
By Matthew Postins
It’s too early to judge the long-term success of the Dallas Cowboys’ 2013 draft. But after one year we can at least judge what the Cowboys got out of each of their six selections after one season. This is the first in a series of article in which we’ll review the last four Cowboys’ drafts, as NFL personnel executives will tell you that a NFL Draft cannot be truly judged for three seasons.
First Round: C Travis Frederick
In 2013: The Cowboys – specifically Jerry Jones – were maligned for all of their draft-day maneuvering to select a player late in the first round that most graded as a second-round pick. Malign the process, but not the result. Frederick started from Day 1, was healthy all season and did exactly what the Cowboys were hoping he would do – solidify the interior of the Cowboys’ offensive line. The Cowboys’ running game improved, running back DeMarco Murray had his first 1,000-yard rushing season and interior protection of quarterback Tony Romo improved. Frederick was selected to two postseason all-rookie teams.
Looking ahead: Jones and company got this one right. It’s hard to envision this offensive line not employing Frederick at center for the next half-dozen years, at the minimum.
Second round: TE Gavin Escobar
In 2013: The Cowboys were dead set on using the two-tight end set to further enhance the passing game and drafted Escobar as a result. It did not work out as planned. Escobar never became a true part of the offense, catching just 9 passes for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns. When it came time to block for the running game the Cowboys employed James Hanna in most cases. Escobar was partially a victim of the rise of one of the Cowboys’ third-round picks. But he never gained enough trust he needed with the coaching staff or his teammates to become a real piece of the puzzle.
Looking ahead: He’s not a bust yet, but he definitely needs to improve in 2014. Even if the Cowboys go away from the two-tight end set, they need a successor to Jason Witten. It’s not clear if Escobar could even be that at this point.
Third round: WR Terrance Williams
In 2013: The best value pick of the draft for the Cowboys, to be honest. Williams overcame a huge hiccup in the season’s third game against San Diego to emerge as the third option in the passing game, catching 44 passes for 736 yards and 5 scores. He became the Cowboys’ top deep threat and made Miles Austin irrelevant in the offense (though Austin’s hamstring didn’t help matters, either). Williams showed uncommon chemistry with quarterback Tony Romo, given that he was a rookie, and pitched in admirably on special teams.
Looking ahead: Williams may have made Miles Austin expendable. Even if Austin returns, Williams should be the starting receiver opposite Dez Bryant when training camp begins.
Third round: S J.J. Wilcox
In 2013: Wilcox impressed during training camp, quickly becoming one of the hardest hitters on the team. The Cowboys liked what they saw so much that they went all-in with Wilcox at strong safety in Week 4 by releasing Will Allen. Wilcox’s first couple games as a starter were promising, but as the season wore on he battled injuries, make rookie mistakes and eventually lost the starting job to another rookie, Jeff Heath. The Cowboys talked a good game about Wilcox’s abilities, but given that Wilcox had played just one season of safety in college there was bound to be a learning curve, and it showed.
Looking ahead: Wilcox will be in the mix for a starting job in 2014. But improvement must be made, especially in the area of pass coverage, where Wilcox had problems. A full offseason of training and development may allow him to harness that talent into something more meaningful.
Fourth round: CB B.W. Webb
In 2013: He came to Dallas with a great pedigree, having emerged as one of FCS’s best cornerbacks while at William & Mary. But he never gained much playing time outside of special teams. Some of that can be blamed on Orlando Scandrick, who had a tremendous season and left little playing time for the rookie. But even with the injuries to Morris Claiborne, Webb made little impact defensively. He defended only one pass and had 16 tackles.
Looking ahead: No one in the organization should give up on Webb just yet. He made a big jump from FCS to the NFL and there was bound to be growing pains. Unlike Wilcox, Webb has four years of college experience to draw from as he prepares for his second season. His pedigree should allow him to improve and make him a credible threat for playing time. The big problem is that the three corners in front of him – Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Scandrick – are legitimately better. Unlike Wilcox, there is less of a pathway to playing time for Webb.
Fifth round: RB Joseph Randle
In 2013: The Cowboys had higher expectations of Randle entering the season. They saw him as a change-of-pace back who could get 10 carries a game. Instead, aside from a couple of starts for an injured DeMarco Murray, he was primarily a special teams performer. He rushed for 164 yards on 54 carries and scored 2 times. His similarity to Murray worked against him when the starter was healthy, as the Cowboys wanted Lance Dunbar to work as the change of pace back. When Dunbar went down with an injury, Randle saw little in the way of playing time.
Looking ahead: It’s hard to say a fifth-round pick was a mild disappointment, but from the Cowboys’ standpoint he probably was. The good news is that Randle has three more seasons, and Murray has just one last season under contract. Should the Cowboys choose not to pursue a new contract with Murray, Randle moves into a competition to start in 2015. No reason to call him a bust just yet.
Sixth round: LB DeVonte Holloman
In 2013: For the most part Holloman was an afterthought. He either played on special teams or was hurt. But he had a revelatory performance in the season’s final game, notching 11 tackles and 2 sacks in a start against Philadelphia.
Looking ahead: You don’t expect to get many starts out of your sixth-round pick in Year 1. But in Year 2 Holloman might just be a contender for the starting strong-side linebacker job, if he can challenge Justin Durant. Even if he doesn’t win the job, Durant has one year left on his contract and Holloman could move into a starting job in 2015. He has much to improve, but the flashes he showed in the season finale caught everyone’s attention.
Bottom Line: Frederick and Williams moved into starting roles immediately and were successful, making this draft an immediate success. In the long-term, you could make a case that every player selected has the talent to be a full-time starter at some point in the next three years. There is a feeling of optimism around this class that the Cowboys have not recently had in the short-term.