Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Draft Grades. Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the Building.

war cowboysAfter passing on Johnny Football in the first round to select an offensive lineman, Jerry Jones sounded like he may have been suffering some buyer’s remorse today. HERE He compared the electrifying Manziel to Elvis which may say something about Jerry’s age but we get the point.

ESPN reported that Manziel has already sold more jerseys and sports paraphernalia than both RG3 and Andrew Luck after they were picked. Also the Browns are experiencing a spike in season ticket sales. Johnny is like a rock star in Cleveland where the Rock Hall of Fame is located incidentally. Manziel is a marketing dream and Jerry knows that means money. You blew it Jerry, and time will prove it. You married Romo with that big contract and it limited your options on draft day.

Dallas certainly needed to address defensive needs in this NFL draft but were they able to get the guys to turn things around in 2014? In my mock draft, I had them taking a DE in the 2nd- check, then a LB in the 4th -check, and a WR in the 5th -check. Nailed it! I also had a guard in the 3rd but Dallas took care of that in the first. I like the position picks as they picked the positions I ranked as their biggest needs, however I fear not all of the prospects they picked are going to be the answer.

My grades for each pick based on the player ranking, the need, and the cost.

1. Guard Zack Martin: GRADE: B
Martin was a very safe pick as he never missed a game at Notre Dame due to injury. Described as smart and dependable, and of good character. Martin is a tackle with short arms expected to move to guard which is a big need for Dallas. They met a need here at guard as he should be a plug and play guard but this talk of Martin replacing Free in 2015, is premature considering his short arms. Let’s see how it goes. A safe, solid, hard to criticize pick here that upgrades the middle of the offensive line.

Fill Need? YES
Pick matches player rank? YES

Dish the real comment: Passing on “Elvis” keeps me from giving this pick an A. Who does that?

2. DE DeMarcus Lawrence: Grade C
The Cowboys traded up to get the DE they clearly wanted, by throwing in their 3rd round pick to the Redskins. Defensive end was probably the Cowboys biggest need of all coming into the draft so high marks for filling a need.

Lawrence is smaller for a NFL DE weighing 251, and many projected him as a OLB in a 3-4. In college, he got in trouble more than once so he brings character concerns too. However he is very athletic and should prove to be an effective pass rusher. Coach Garrett explained that Lawrence was one of the few prospects who could play right DE so they moved up to get their guy.

Fill Need? YES
Pick matches player rank? YES
COST: Too High (throwing in 3rd round pick) Trading down in first and drafting Lawrence late in the first would have been a better move.

Dish the Real comment: Lawrence must adapt to playing DE in the NFL and there are character red flags. I don’t like the fact they gave up a 3rd round pick that could have been very useful to fix the defense farther.

3. LB Anthony Hitchens: GRADE D
My first reaction was “who”? which isn’t usually a good sign. The Cowboys certainly need depth at LB and I expected them to pick one right here but I thought there were at least three better LBs on the board like Telvin Smith and Kevin Pierre Louis for example. Draft analysts had Hitchens listed as a 7th round pick at best.

Hitchens made a lot of tackles in college play and he certainly is a big hitter. He was an outstanding running back in HS where defenders appeared afraid to tackle the big guy. May provide needed depth at all three LB positions for Dallas however, probably not competing for a starting spot.

Fills Need: YES
Pick matches player rank? NO. The definition of a “reach”. Could have drafted him a few rounds later.

“He has some size and had a whole of production at Iowa. This might be a little early in the draft for him, as I had him further down the board.” — Daniel Jeremiah

Dish the Real comment: OK Jerry, you like this guy. Fine, but draft him where he is ranked and use this spot for prospects that are much higher ranked. No wonder you go 8-8 every season.

4. WR Devin Street: GRADE A
With Miles Austin being cut, I expected Dallas to add a WR here and they may have found a good one in Street. He has reliable hands, solid route runner, nice speed, and good height at 6-3. Street will not have to start right away but I believe he will develop into a receiver that Romo likes to go to. There are some weaknesses as he needs to be stronger to become an effective blocker in the run game.

Fills Need? YES
Pick maches player rank? YES
Cost: OK. Dallas did trade a 7th round pick to the Lions to get Street. They had plenty picks to spare in 7th anyway.

Dish the Real comment: Last draft Dallas found a good young WR in Terrance Williams and with Devin Street, I think fans will soon forget about Miles Austin and his pulled hamstring.

5. DE Ben Gardner: GRADE C
Gardner played DE in Stanford’s 3-4 defense and I think he would be better in a 3-4 than a 4-3 so the pick is a bit of a head scratcher for me. Does Jerry realize they play a 4-3 now?

Perhaps D-line coach Marinelli plans to use him as a DT? Gardner plays with a nice motor and hustles to the ball. I think he will be good guy to work into the rotation eventually as an effective run stuffer at either DE or DT.

Fills Need? Perhaps. Wait and see.
Pick matches player rank? YES

Dish the Real Comment:Expectations should be kept low with this pick until we see what Marinelli has in mind. I wouldn’t expect him to contribute a lot in his first NFL season.

6. LB Will Smith: GRADE C+
Smith appears to be capable of playing MLB when Sean Lee goes out with his usual obligatory injury. He makes plenty of tackles and moves to the ball well. Clearly Dallas needed to improve depth at LB and Smith will help.

Fills Need? YES
Pick matches player rank? YES

Dish the real comment:Looks like a decent pick for the 7th round. No one should expect him to start in 2014, but late in the year Dallas may be glad they picked this guy.

7. SS Ahmad Dixon: GRADE C-
The Cowboys may have passed up on some Texas home boys earlier in the draft like Manziel and Jeffcoat, but they do pick Dixon. Dixon is an in the box safety that defends the run well but no so much help in pass coverage, which is actually what Dallas needs. He seems a lot like Wilcox already on the Cowboys roster. I thought Jonathan Dowling (in my mock draft) would be a better pick here as a safety, but the Raiders took him with their pick right before Dallas.

Dixon has been arrested but cleared of charges. He may be a contributor on special teams and add depth to safety.

Fills Need? NO. Need a FS who can cover.
Pick matches rank? YES

Dish the Real comment: Just what the Cowboys DIDN”T need. Another in the box safety that can’t cover. We are left to hope Wilcox or Heath improve this season.

DT Ken Bishop: GRADE B
For a late pick, I think Bishop could help the Cowboys defensive line in the middle. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher and will be a one technique for sure, but he could prove to be a poor man’s Timmy Jernigan as an effective run stuffer. Bishop uses his hands well to get off blocks and at 300 lbs, is not easy to move.

Fills need? YES
Pick matches rank? YES

Dish the real comment: Marinelli is trying to put together a rotation of defensive linemen and I think Bishop can be in that rotation and help stop the run. I like the pick.

CB Terrance Mitchell: GRADE B
Dallas held off drafting a CB until their very last pick an indication that they are committed to the current secondary. Terrance Mitchell may offer some depth and special team contribution. Mitchell had a good performance at the combine with the best time among CBs in the 3 cone drill and the 20 yard shuttle. Clearly he is quick and changes direction well. Last season he had 5 INTs at Oregon.

Fill a need? YES
Pick Matches rank? YES and actually there is value here as he was expected to go sooner.

Dish the Real comment: The Cowboys haven’t found Mo Claiborne’s replacement in Mitchell, but they may have found B.W. Webb’s.

Final GRADE: I like that Dallas found a plug and play guard (Martin) and a DE (Lawrence) that should be able to get after the QB. Also like the WR (Street) they found in the middle of the draft.

As far as LB goes, they attempted to add depth but I fear they missed on those picks. I don’t like that they gave up a 3rd round selection and I think there were some missed opportunities to improve the defense more. They also passed on Elvis who may have proven to be their future QB and would have at least put a lot of butts in the seats.

Overall, I expect them to have a very solid offensive line in 2014 and an improved but young, inexperienced, defensive line.

I’m giving Dallas a final grade of C+. That’s right, about an average draft. What else for a team stuck at 8-8 and picking in the middle of the rounds?


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