Reporting Mike Fisher
IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – There is something more than a little fraudulent about media members issuing “draft grades.’’
The pretense is that we know – better than, say, the Dallas Cowboys know – who is the right outside linebacker from Nowhere State who should be selected with pick No. 185.
So instead, I choose to try to learn before the annual NFL Draft who the Cowboys like … and just as important, what was their blueprint to try to acquire those desired players.In other words, I don’t “grade the draft’’; I choose to “grade the execution of the plan.’’I’m giving Dallas two separate grades: An “F’’ for Round 1. An “A’’ after that.
Where the Cowboys goofed in the first round has nothing to do with the chosen player, Wisconsin center/guard Travis Frederick. He is penciled in as an immediate starter on a team needing to beef up its O-line.
No, the “F’’ grade is due to Dallas spending that Thursday night veering from where it was Thursday morning, when Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd was rated a high-first-round value. While on the clock, Floyd shockingly slipped to them at No. 18. The Cowboys personnel department, sources tell me, wanted to pull the trigger on Floyd.
Jerry and Stephen Jones, I’m told, vetoed the thought, engineering a swap down from 18 for too little value: San Francisco’s picks at 31 and 74.
Those two moves equal an “F.’’
“I’m excited just to get out there and show people who I am as a person and as a player,’’ said Frederick, addressing critics of his selection. “I think I’m going to change a lot of you guys’ minds.”
Then came Friday and Saturday, and a successful roll in terms of graded talent and executed plan.
We can fake-argue about second-round pick Gavin Escobar, the San Diego State tight end. But two minutes after the pick, I asked a Cowboys personnel guy if he has a chance to be a stud.
“Are you (bleeping) kidding me?’’ said the excited expert. “He’s the best natural pass-catcher among all the tight ends. We’ll be very ’12 Personnel’ (one running back, two tight ends). Very multiple. Think ‘Patriots.’’’
With the extra pick nabbed in the trade-down-from-18 deal (at 74), the Cowboys believe they stole Baylor receiver Terrance Williams, a DFW native who had a high-second-round grade. Williams, 6-2 and 205, was arguably the second-best wideout in college football last year.
“He’s going to be a star and it won’t take long,’’ a source tells me.
Escobar and Williams won’t be first-day starters (a legitimate criticism of the picks). But they do provide more weaponry for an offense led by Tony Romo – who by the way was part of Valley Ranch draft preparation, studying that pair on tape.
At pick No. 80 in the third, Dallas selected J.J. Wilcox, a safety they pinpointed weeks ago. Wilcox has a linebacker’s build (at 213) and a wide receiver’s ball skills (he played wideout before this past year at Georgia Southern).
Coach Jason Garrett acknowledged that there’s a learning curve here; Wilcox is viewed as an “eventual starter.’’
Next Dallas chose B.W. Webb, a small guy (5-10 and 184) from a small school (William & Mary). The fourth-rounder fits in as a nickel corner.
In the fifth-round, the Cowboys selected 6-0, 204-pound Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle. Execution of a plan? You bet. As with Williams, the spot is a huge value compared to the grade. The Cowboys had a third-round grade on Randle.
“The NFL is a two-back system now, so guys need other guys to come in and you don’t want to drop the tempo off much, so I think we’ll work well together,” Randle said of teaming with DeMarco Murray.
Finally, Dallas used its sixth-round pick on DeVonte Holloman, a South Carolina linebacker. He’s put on weight (maybe “bad’’ weight) to get up to 243 after having previously played safety. Holloman has a 2011 DUI on his record, something the Cowboys evaluated heavily before pulling the trigger.
In total, the Cowboys will have to endure some criticism for selecting seven guys and only one who can be penciled in as a first-day starter. Meanwhile, they deserve the aforementioned two separate “grade-the-execution’’ marks. And in a sense, the apparent first-round goof may have been deodorized in the end: Maybe Frederick was taken “too high’’ but the extra pick allowed Dallas to get Williams, who was taken “too low’’ according to scouts.
The true evaluation won’t really begin, of course, until Randle gets the wish he expressed to Jerry Jones when the Cowboys owner made a pre-pick congratulatory phone call.
“We’re fixin’ to put a star on your helmet,’’ Jones told Randle right before making the fifth-round selection official.
“Man,’’ Randle responded excitedly, “that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Let’s play football!’