The Dallas Cowboys' 2011 NFL Draft is nearly in the books, with just a late seventh rounder left to go for their 2011 draft. It's been an interesting first draft for head coach Jason Garrett - who, likely had some heavy input from Jerry Jones in his selections. While it's difficult if not impossible to fairly judge a draft the day after it's completed (since, you know, the players haven't even played a game for Dallas yet), it's still something worth discussing and looking at.
Dallas' 2011 NFL Draft grade comes after the jump.
Dallas had a few areas of concern headed into this years draft - the offensive and defensive lines and the secondary most notably. It's evident that the Cowboys valued rebuilding the offensive line over anything else in this draft, which was made apparent by selecting Tyron Smith with their first pick in the draft, ninth overall. Dallas continued the trend of Tony Romo protection in the fourth round when they selected offensive guard David Arkin from Missouri State, who was a first team all-MWVC player the past two seasons. For good measure, Dallas selected a primarily blocking back with their first seventh round pick with Shaun Chapas.
Given the state of the NFL today, and how offenses operate through the passing game, protecting the quarterback is a must. You simply aren't going to win in the NFL if your quarterback is getting hit constantly - and consequently injured as we saw Romo go down this year - or if he's given no time to throw. The Patriots lost out on their quest for perfection in the 2007-08 season thanks to not being able to protect Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game (sprained foot) and the Super Bowl. Dallas did the right thing with using their first on the best offensive lineman in the draft, and I do like the Arkin selection a good bit.
Day two is when things went a little off the wagon for Dallas. Garrett and Jones are taking a big risk in selecting Bruce Carter from North Carolina. Carter is coming off an ACL injury, and was originally regarded as a potential mid-first round talent prior to the injury suffered in November.
I do understand taking an OLB, and I certainly understand looking to take a risk and maximize value with a pick - but with an early two I'm just not sure it was worth it for Carter, who wasn't regarded as a premium talent to begin with even prior to the injury. There have been plenty of concerns regarding Da'Quan Bowers' injury, but when Tampa Bay selected him in the second round, it's a gamble for a top end talent on somebody who could have been a top 10 pick. With Carter, I'm not sure there's the potential for a Bowers-esque payoff.
Josh Thomas, selected in the fifth round by Dallas, is a pick that I do like. Thomas is regarded as a good cover corner, with good instincts but just lacks in speed. Given how offenses use the passing attack so much, Thomas could figure to be a solid cover corner in nickel or dime packages.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas' third round selection, is a bit baffling. He doesn't seem to be much different than Felix Jones or Tahsard Choice - a back that is quick and can pick up yards after the catch. Murray does have some explosive capabilities, but he's not a guy that's powerful between the tackles. If Dallas is finally going to do the right thing and ditch Marion Barber and his overpaid contract, then they should have taken a back that could be seen as a Barber replacement. Murray is more like Choice or Jones than Barber, so this pick is a bit strange.
My grade for Jason Garret's first NFL Draft as a head coach is a B-. Dallas did do the right thing with their first round pick, and that's huge. As I've said, protecting Tony Romo is key. I'm not wild on the day two selections with Murray and Carter, but I do think Arkin and Thomas are good picks at the end of the draft.
We'll see how it looks in a year, but for now, I'm giving Dallas a B-.