LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne was easily one of the best cornerbacks to come out of college in a very long time. When he fell in the draft, Jerry Jones and company made a bold move and traded up to bring the talented cornerback to Dallas. Claiborne has been very good for the Cowboys during his rookie season. Outside of his poor play against the Philadelphia Eagles, Claiborne has been a welcome addition to the Dallas secondary.
But what about the rest of the Cowboys' draft class of 2012? It's fairly obvious that Claiborne is playing at a high level and holding his own as a rookie, so let's take a closer look at the rest of the rookies.
With no second-round pick, the Cowboys didn't pick again until the third round. Claiborne was well worth a second-round pick, so there should be no beefs with losing that pick. The Cowboys chose to add more depth to the offensive line when they drafted Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford with the 81st overall pick.
Crawford hasn't offered the Cowboys a lot of production so far in 2012. He only has registered 12 tackles, but he had his first career sack against the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving. Let's hope we see a lot more of that in the future from Crawford. The main reason behind Crawford's lack of statistical production is due to the fact that he is very inexperienced. He's a gifted athlete who possesses superior size and strength, but he is just beginning to learn technique.
With Kenyon Coleman on injured reserve, Crawford joins the Cowboys' defensive line rotation. Be patient with Crawford, this kid has a bright future with the Cowboys. At worst, expect him to develop into a Jason Hatcher type of defensive lineman. In time, Crawford could become a big part of the Dallas defensive line.
In the fourth round, the Cowboys drafted Wake Forest outside linebacker Kyle Wilber 113th overall. This was a smart pick for the Cowboys because Wilber has experience playing in a 3-4 defense. At Wake Forest, Wilber started off playing in a 4-3, but he also made a successful transition to the 3-4.
Wilber hasn't offered the Cowboys any production in 2012. He has been inactive four times and has only played nine snaps so far this season. With DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler ahead of him on the depth chart, it's hard to expect Wilber to offer much production this season.
When I first put Wilber's tape on, I saw a lot of Anthony Spencer in him, and that is a very good comparison for him. Wilber is going to be a player that will pay dividends for the Cowboys long-term. He has the skill set to develop into a starting caliber outside linebacker, but he will have to become a consistent pass rusher.
For the past few years, the Cowboys have ignored the safety position in the draft. They finally decided to pick up a free safety with range this year in the fourth round. Matt Johnson comes from a small school (Eastern Washington), but he was very productive during his career there. Depending on what NFL draftnik you listened to, Johnson was either a terrible or great pick. Some never heard of him, but others thought he was a little known sleeper who could be a mid-to-late round steal.
The Cowboys could really use Johnson on the roster right now. Earlier this season, Barry Church tore his Achilles tendon and was lost for the year. Danny McCray is a great special teams player, but he is suspect in pass coverage. Johnson suffered multiple hamstring and back injuries that finally forced the Cowboys to place him on the injured reserve.
If Johnson can come back healthy, granted that's a big if, then he can come in and compete for a starting job next season. His athleticism and ball skills are top notch, but he needs to get healthy in order to get and stay on the field.
The 154th overall pick from Virginia Tech had an amazing college career. Unfortunately, Coale never could make it on the 53-man roster. He's a possession receiver who has good size and hands, but he isn't a dynamic athlete. Coale suffered a variety of injuries during training camp and his brief time spent on the Cowboys' practice squad.
Coale suffered a torn ACL on November 17th and will have a difficult road ahead of him. I don't know if Coale will ever make it with the Cowboys, but he does have the talent to play somewhere in the NFL as a possession type of wide receiver who can move the chains. Once again, the Cowboys received no return on their investment.
When Martellus Bennett signed with the division rival New York Giants, the Cowboys needed to address a hole at tight end. Jason Witten is going to get all of the playing time, but Jason Garrett is a big believer in utilizing both of his tight ends. The Cowboys answered Bennett's departure by drafting Oklahoma tight end James Hanna with the 186th overall pick.
The Cowboys haven't played Hanna much this season. Hanna has only played 51 snaps while tight end John Phillips has played 260. Hanna is the perfect project for the Cowboys to develop behind Witten. Hanna ran a 4.49 40 yard dash at the 2012 NFL Combine. With that type of speed, you can create a lot of problems for opposing defenses.
Hanna is more of a receiving tight end that can be utilized in the passing game. The NFL is beginning to look for these types of tight ends. While Hanna hasn't provided the Cowboys a lot of production in 2012, he could develop into a great weapon for the offense in the future.
McSurdy was a seventh-round pick that never really had a shot of making the team. He tore his ACL in August, but the Cowboys moved him to injured reserve. Obviously the Cowboys see something in him, but I doubt McSurdy ever makes the 53-man roster and offers the team any sort of contribution other than special teams duty
It's hard to say this draft class looks like a great one, but take former scout Gil Brandt's word for it. He believes that this is one of the best draft classes the Cowboys have had since 2005. A lot of these rookies won't offer the Cowboys a lot of help this season, but they do have the potential to grow into very good football players down the road.