By Zach Walker
Personally, I love this haul of players. This isn’t a draft that can be graded today, tomorrow, or even a year from now. This draft was a long-con thought process. They drafted the heir apparent to perhaps four current Cowboys, it’s a stretch in some cases, but the sentiment is there. Current contributors from this crop might be at a 2009 draft low, and that’s really, really not positive. However, two years from now, this could look like an all-time Jerry/Stephen/Will/Garrett draft. What Cowboys’ fans need to take from this draft and this offseason as a whole, is that the brain trust that runs this turkey, believes that the team that won only four games was one player from being that 12 win team from the 2014 campaign. That SHOULD send good vibrations through the entire organization, knowing that this has been placed on them to return back to where they all know they can get back to. Now, let’s look at the pieces selected in the 2016 NFL Draft.
1st Round: RB Ezekiel Elliott: This blew me away. I have no idea what the offense is going to look like, but Ezekiel Elliott is going to be involved and should be. This isn’t a pick the Cowboys can have mess up. Elliott is a five-tool back and like I stated in my position breakdown, I believe Elliott is a ten thousand yard back. I love it. He’s a jersey mover, he’s a selling point, and he’s a producer. But, having picked up Alfred Morris in free agency, and how productive Darren McFadden was in 2015, adding another set of capable hands ready for a handoff isn’t bad, just confusing. How many plays are the Cowboys going to run on offense? After 2016, Darren McFadden won’t be around, his contract will be up. Elliott is a tide changer, a game-swinger, a great player, but in my opinion… a confusing pick.
2nd Round: LB Jaylon Smith: Alright, this is a savvy pick. This is not a player that is going to play in 2016. He had a really crappy injury happen to him after the whistle during the Fiesta Bowl, if that injury doesn’t happen, it reshapes this draft, because someone drafts him HIGH in this draft. Apparently, the Cowboys team doctor performed the surgery on Jaylon Smith’s knee, and that Rod Smith, the running back that’s been on the team since midseason last year is his older brother, so they had some inside medical information and a pipeline into the Smith household. Smith is a supreme athlete, a truly dominant player, of course when healthy. This pick is for 2017, and that’s not going to make a ton of fans happy, but this is the replacement for when the Cowboys part ways with Rolando McClain after the 2016 season. A move for the future, not the here and now.
3rd Round: DT Maliek Collins: This is a high-motor player that will be a force for the Cowboys young rotation along their defensive line. He’s a master with his hands, and likes to frustrate interior offensive linemen with his hand placement. He’s undersized, but that keeps his base low and power planted, where he can help generate power. He’s going to play a lot like Tyrone Crawford with a quicker three technique.
4th Round (Pick 101): DE Charles Tapper: The Cowboys had to continue to add players along the defensive line. Charles Tapper plays a strong point of attack game, and tracks running plays very well. If anyone were to watch footage of Tapper’s game, it would appear that he REALLY likes to play the run. He has great size, at six foot three and 275 pounds, he looks the part of a 4-3 defensive end. Tapper and Collins are going to have opportunity to showcase their stuff, with the defensive line having two pass rushers suspended.
4th Round (Pick 135): QB Dak Prescott: The Cowboys visited with Prescott a boat load of times over the course of the draft season, so no big surprise that he was their guy, but still, it isn’t like anyone can say that they knew it would actually happen. The Cowboys have drafted two quarterbacks in the 21st century before taking the Mississippi State product. There’s a ton to like about him. Plays bigger than he is. He respects the need for a working run game. Can take off himself, if the play opens up for him. He also really worked to show off his arm talent, during his senior season. The biggest and best thing about him is the fact that he is allotted to fail. If he were to be thrust into game action for any reason, before the reins were officially handed over, his successes and mistakes come with his development. In contrast with a veteran, where when a player like Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel don’t succeed, they won’t learn, they’ve already worn in their style. However, with a new product, peaks and valleys make for building blocks towards getting better within his operation. And with a peek at what Prescott actually worked at, going from his junior to senior year, it’s abundantly clear that this is a player that can identify hitches in his own game and work to get them corrected. Whether he’s actually THE guy that will be taking over, is a down the road adventure, but getting a quarterback that can really bring something is a hell of a thing.
6th Round (Pick 189): CB Anthony Brown: Brown is a hot and cold corner. If he stays within his technique, he can be very effective, however, things don’t often go how a defensive back wants it to go. Solid size, with great speed, I’d have to say that Brown is likely a special teamer.
6th Round (Pick 212): SS Kavon Frazier: I like a player that likes to play sloped field football. Frazier plays a nose-first brand of football. He’s a keep the game in front him player, but plays a true strong safety game. That is, he isn’t very good at playing the ball in the air, and likes to shake it up in the run game.
6th Round (Pick 216): RB Darius Jackson: He truly made the most of his draft-season, crushing his pro day measurables, and now going to have to make some room for himself in a running back room that has blown the doors off with its influx of talent. Jackson played special teams during his time at Eastern Michigan, and that’s likely where he’ll try and make his money.
6th Round (Pick 217): TE Rico Gathers: This is a fantastic pick. Every player that’s six foot four or taller always gets the ‘Just throw the ball up, and out rebound the defense’. Well, this IS a rebounder. A six foot eight inch tall, 275 pound athlete. Now, does anyone out there think that this is the next Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates? That’s a not likely, but not impossible. But, ask yourself, is it possible that he can play better than Gavin Escobar? That’s pretty likely.