By Zach Walker
Going against his own usual “smoke and mirrors” misinformation campaign, Jerry Jones was completely transparent with his draft plans. He said that the Cowboys were comfortable with where they were at the running back position, with the four backs that are on the roster, and through all seven, eventually eight picks, and 256 selections, the Cowboys stayed away from the tailback position. But, it wasn’t just the running backs that the Cowboys staff clearly felt comfortable with, because they didn’t draft a wide receiver or a quarterback. The Cowboys draft philosophy was clear, put some talent at the playmaking positions on defense, supplement the loss of the swing tackle and add depth on defense.
1st Round – 27th Overall: CB Byron Jones – I won’t flip the script and say that I thought that Byron Jones was a first round cornerback and that I know that this will work, because I didn’t have Jones in my top 50 players. I thought the guy was a workout warrior, a gold medal underwear Olympian at the combine, and I watched some highlights of his game, and didn’t see flashes of big plays, but I did see consistency. He’s a willing tackler, a player that can be matched up against the offense’s biggest guy and him hang with him well. There isn’t going to be a wide receiver that he’ll line across from that will have a huge gap in athletic ability gap with, and maybe after Dez Bryant takes him to school during practices, Jones won’t have too many of those type of freaks lining up and getting the better of him. His biggest shortcoming is that he missed some games, and that he played in a non-power five conference, though I do believe the talent in the American is very good. His strength will always be his pure athletic talent. His broad jump is an internet worthy search, because it is a world record, and that talent is coming to town. He’s a high-character person, and just the kind of guy that Jason Garrett wants to load his team with. My Grade: B+
2nd Round – 60th Overall: DE/OLB Randy Gregory – Any way that any person spins Gregory, the guy is a top-ten talent, and the Cowboys sacked up and tabbed him at 60. That’s huge value, like finding a fifty dollar bill and a frosty watch in an old jacket, hanging in a closet at your grandparent’s house. Gregory has all the talent necessary to be a full-on stud for the Dallas Cowboys, the twitch that can draw a shaky, frustrated tackle to false start, the burst to blow by an offensive lineman, and the finish that gets the quarterbacks on their backs. It’s all upstairs with Gregory. If Gregory chooses to be great, he can be, if he chooses that other route, he can be out of the league faster than you can say wasted talent. Gregory’s chief motivation should be his slide over the draft weekend, where he couldn’t have free-fallen harder, had he been tied to an office chair and pushed out of an airplane. It isn’t undeserved, however, he is the one who failed a drug test at the Combine, and that just shows his lack of discipline, then dropped weight after the Combine, and seemingly eliminated himself from non-three four defense teams, because of his lean frame. All of those things aside, the value alone, of selecting Gregory at 60th overall is, quite possibly, the biggest steal in the draft. The Cowboys have had pretty much every type of player possible through the hallways of Valley Ranch, and with Leon Lett as his position coach, and Rod Marinelli as the defensive coordinator, with Charles Haley in both of their ear’s, Gregory has the coaching in place to make the impact on the field, and he should reciprocate the feeling back to the Cowboys and Jerry, Stephen, and his head coach Jason Garrett for being the team that can help him, help himself. My Grade: A
3rd Round – 91st Overall: OT Chaz Green – Chaz Green is a different story. Or is it a story that the Cowboys’ are just used to? Chaz Green is a potential player, and a potential stud at-that, but injuries seem to side track the Gator’s progress every time he starts to really put things together on the field. Like most of the Florida offensive linemen in this draft, he’s considered a rotation player for the beginning part of their career. The Cowboys plan for Green, is most likely, get Green healthy, get his confidence under him, and get him working towards eventually replacing Doug Free, who is playing at his highest level of his career, but is on the wrong side of 30, and will need replacing eventually. Jeremy Parnell took a huge boat-load of money to play full-time in Jacksonville, so the swing tackle position is vacant and Green looks to be the man to fill in. From everything I’ve seen and read, Chaz is an outstanding tactician, and really wipes away a pass-rusher’s first move. Watching Max Garcia, I caught a glimpse of what the Cowboys potentially see in Green, a guy that, with the help of a good guard, can be very solid for a lot of years. My issue is that this was a sort-of luxury pick, that the Cowboys wanted to refill their swing tackle position more than take any other position on the board: Defensive tackle, running back, safety, or a linebacker. At this point in the draft, Paul Dawson was still on the board, Grady Jarrett, Gabe Wright, Jay Ajayi, Xavier Cooper, but the Cowboys chose the swing tackle instead. The Cowboys offensive line draft picks have worked over the past five years, and they should hope that this one works too, or they could be looking back wondering. My Grade: C+
4th Round – 127th Overall: LB Damien Wilson – Though there were still running backs on the board, the Cowboys decided to take out some insurance instead. Let’s face it, the Cowboys shouldn’t expect Sean Lee or Rolando McClain to stay healthy over the grind of the season, because they’ve proven that they just can’t stay off the trainer’s table. Damien Wilson has great vision, solid instincts, and good pursuit from the middle linebacker position. Wilson should be viewed as this year’s Anthony Hitchens, a player that shouldn’t be expected to play a ton, but should be ready to fill in at the drop of a linebacker. Wilson plays like a bullet, at times he’ll over pursue the play, lose the ball with over aggression, but Wilson has a knack for keeping the play in front of him. My Grade: B
5th Round – 163rd Overall: DE Ryan Russell – Watching Russell play for Purdue, I saw some vintage bad guy traits, and allow me to elaborate. A good Hollywood bad guy is just always imposing himself on the protagonist and I saw this from Russell. He isn’t quick, that’s not too bad, but his lack of initial burst is completely forgotten when he starts to push. Russell has serious low-end torque and supreme power from the edge. It’s ironic that he played for Purdue, because he plays like a train. His moves aren’t fancy or fast, but he just gets the push. My Grade: B
7th Round – 236th Overall: LB Mark Nzeocha – From everything I’ve read about Nzeocha, he’s a project player all the good measurables and testing, but that his instincts just aren’t as sharp as other players. Nzeocha is a German-born player, who played club football because high school over there apparently doesn’t have American football, who knew? But Nzeocha appears to be a special teams linebacker. My Grade: C
7th Round – 243rd Overall: T Laurence Gibson – A player doesn’t reach this position in the draft if they have a rounded game. Gibson is a great tester and has supreme big man movement skills, but is said to need to add strength. But, Gibson does have talent and upside. My Grade: B
7th Round – 246th Overall: TE Geoff Swaim – Giving up a sixth rounder in next year’s draft bothers me, and then drafting a need position like tight end (obvious sarcasm) is really a frustrating pick. Swaim isn’t coming in to catch passes, he’s being brought in to block. Must say, I hate this pick, not the player, the selection of trading back in, ten picks before the end of the draft, is just eye-twitchingly frustrating. My Grade: F
Undrafted pickups: The Cowboys picked up two wide receivers that I, at one point, mocked to the team in Baylor’s Antwan Goodley and Houston’s Deontay Greenberry. Goodley is built like a mini-tight end, but can play outside, possibly return kicks and punts. Greenberry was said to have attitude problems, an entitlement complex, where he thought he better than everyone on the field, but to his credit, he was often the most talented player on the field whenever he was out there. These are two supreme undrafted pickups, and seriously, both could make the team if they work at it. My Grade for these two: A
The 2015 NFL Draft was an overall success for the Dallas Cowboys, they stuck to their guns, trusted their people, their board and filled the roster will impact players and developmental ones. The Cowboys overall get a B+, for what these players can become, a corner/safety, a pass rushing phenome, Doug Free’s eventual successor, another instinctual linebacker for when things get thin, a pocket collapsing end, two roster ready wide outs, and three developmental players to round out the roster.