Written by: Barry Lewis on April 23, 2011
In a year where Team Owner Jerry Jones hosted the 2011 Super Bowl, all of Cowboy Nation was ready to see their hometown team play at home and win the Lombardi Trophy.
What a year makes. QB Tony Romo looked ineffective in part because of a porous offensive line. Former head coach Wade Phillips did not know how to establish a running game as he continued to flip-flop between Marion Barber III and Felix Jones. Add the continued mental errors made by the Cowboys and it led to a draft slot of 9 and in a position to fix the problems this team has from a personnel point of view.
In addition to a offensive line that needed to do a much better job in protecting its quarterback and establish some form of semblence of a running attack that should feature only Felix Jones, the Cowboys could use an upgrade in the defensive secondary, and get possible upgrades at both defensive end positions.
In typical fashion, the Cowboys tried to make a splash by trading their 1st, 3rd and 5th round pick to move up 7 slots and draft LSU CB Patrick Peterson. Peterson is a game changing cornerback who also can add value as a part of the kickoff and punt return game. The price for Peterson ended up being DT Nick Fairley, CB Brandon Harris, and RB Dion Lewis. That is a pricey cost for Patrick Peterson considering the value that Harris has in and of itself, nevermind Fairley and Lewis.
In an attempt to improve their offensive line, the Cowboys selected OG Zach Hurd, UConn, and OT Curt Porter, Jacksonville State. Hurd should immediately compete for a spot on the starting offensive line if OG Kyle Kosier is not retained as a free agent. Porter, who was a standout in college, does not translate well into the NFL and was seen as a free agent after the draft and is not 6th round value.
In the 3rd round, the Cowboys drafted DE Christian Ballard, an undersized end for a 3-4 set out of Iowa. Ballard is a prototypical tweener end. Not quick enough to be labeled as a rush defensive end and is not big enough to play the 5-technique. But, he is a hard worker and may push DE Igor Olshansky into time at right end.
In the 7th round, the Cowboys probably are getting their best value pick in SS Davonte Shannon. While Shannon is rated as a undrafted free agent, his pro day scores are off of the charts aside from his 40 time (4.64). Standing at 6 foot, 211 pounds, Shannon recorded a 41 inch vertical leap with a 10 foot, 6 inch broad jump. He led his team in tackles and looks the part to become a fixture of the Cowboys secondary.
Finally, the Cowboys drafted K Alex Henery, Nebraska in the 4th round and QB Nathan Enderle, Idaho in the 7th round. Henery was drafted as competition and insurance for the ups and downs of David Buehler, who has one of the better legs in the NFL but is very inconsistent. Enderle is a promising prospect who has a big arm, is accurate and represents quality value in the 7th round.
The Cowboys had a solid draft even though they have a number of areas that need to be addressed of which includes the offensive tackle position on the right side. It is my belief that the Cowboys made a mistake in trading up seven slots to get Peterson considering that a talent like Brandon Harris was waiting to be plucked in the top of the 2nd round.
Had they not traded those picks, the Cowboys would have earned a drafted of an A. Because of the trade and the mediocre selections of Ballard and Henery in the 2nd and 4th rounds, as well as OT Porter, I am bumping their draft grade to a B not entirely because of the Peterson trade but because of the value that could have been achieved at picks 9, 40 and 141 considering the potential misses with Ballard and Henery.