DALSportsNation
Football fans love to read articles and listen to analysts evaluate how their team did in the draft, and the sooner the better. On draft night, experts roll out letter grades pick-by-pick suggesting they have predicted a player’s future success almost before the player has donned his new team’s cap.

In the NFL, though, where the game is faster, the players are bigger, and the learning curve can be steep, it seems unfair to the players (and the general managers) to grade a draft before seeing them play one down.  Perhaps it goes against every fiber of our being where we want everything today right now, but it makes more sense to WAIT,  yes wait, and evaluate a draft class after some time has passed. With that, I am going to dive in and evaluate the Dallas Cowboys draft classes from 2010-2016.


2010

  • (1) Dez Bryant, WR
  • (2) Sean Lee, LB
  • (4)  Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, DB
  • (6) Sam Young, OT
  • (6) Jamar Wall, DB
  • (7) Sean Lissemore, DT

Bleacher Report Grade: B+

The Cowboys’ first two selections were successful, but the other four made little to no difference at all. Dez Bryant should have/would have been a top ten pick if it weren’t for his off-field issues. Dallas took the Oklahoma St. wideout with the 24th pick and you can argue that it was the best value pick based on that draft position. Bryant turned out to be a star receiver who quickly became one of Tony Romo’s favorite targets. If you take away the injuries (or really even with the injuries), Sean Lee is in the discussion of an all-time great Cowboys linebacker. When he is healthy and playing, the Cowboys defense (until the arrival of LVE, who looks like a bigger, faster Lee) is a completely different unit.  The rest of the picks did not turn out, but when looking at the first two selections, Dallas’ class should be deemed a success.

Grade: B


2011

  • (1) Tyron Smith, OT
  • (2) Bruce Carter, LB
  • (3) Demarco Murray, RB
  • (4) David Arkin, OG
  • (5) Josh Thomas, DB
  • (6) Dwayne Harris, WR
  • (7) Shaun Chapas, FB
  • (7) Bill Nagy, OG

Bleacher Report Grade: C+

This class is easily at least an A- if the Cowboys retained more of these players (especially Murray whose second-half career may have been completely different had he stayed). Tyron Smith is arguably the best-left tackle in the league when healthy, Bruce Carter was solid, Demarco Murray won a rushing title and was instrumental to the team’s ascension in 2014, and Dwayne Harris was a valuable special teams contributor. Only one of these guys still plays for the Cowboys. Tyron Smith is still a beast and seems to make the pro bowl every year, so the grade of C+ easily improves.

Grade: B+


2012

  • (1) Morris Claiborne, CB
  • (3) Tyrone Crawford, DE/DT
  • (4) Kyle Wilber, DE/LB
  • (4) Matt Johnson, DB
  • (5) Danny Coale, WR
  • (6) James Hanna, TE
  • (7) Caleb McSurdy

Bleacher Report Grade: A

Ouch.  This was a whiff. Dallas traded up to select Morris Claiborne at number six overall, which turned out to be a terrible decision, as Claiborne failed to live up to that draft position (or really any first-round position). Tyrone Crawford has been good, so that salvages this class.  He still starts on Marinelli’s defensive line and is effective, especially alongside Demarcus Lawrence. Wilber was the very definition of OK and it feels like Hanna has been on the roster since I was born.

Grade: In honor of Tommy Callahan III, D+.


2013

  • (1) Travis Frederick, C
  • (2) Gavin Escobar, TE
  • (3) Terrance Williams, WR
  • (3) JJ Wilcox, DB
  • (4) BW Webb, DB
  • (5) Joseph Randle, RB
  • (6) DeVonte Holloman, LB

Bleacher Report Grade: B-

The selection of Travis Frederick, questioned at the time, is an A+, but Dallas followed that with the selection of Gavin Escobar . . . there simply are no words.  Terrance Williams was a good second option behind Dez and made big plays here and there, until he was arrested for drunkenly falling off his scooter. JJ Wilcox was another OK selection and Joseph Randle was a solid backup running back until he got in trouble for stealing a package of underwear and a bottle of cologne from Dillards, which begs the question . . . what happened where you need a new pair of boxers and smell goods so desperately?

Grade: B-


2014

  • (1) Zack Martin, OG
  • (2) Demarcus Lawrence, DE
  • (4) Anthony Hitchens, LB
  • (5) Devin Street, WR
  • (7) Ben Gardner, DE
  • (7) Will Smith, LB
  • (7) Ahmad Dixon, DB
  • (7) Ken Bishop, DT
  • (7) Terrance Mitchell, DB

Dallas Morning News Grade: B-

This was the infamous draft where the Cowboys nearly took Johnny Manziel with the 16th pick. At the time, the Zack Martin selection was perceived as boring, but it turned out to be one of the biggest bullet dodges ever. Obviously, Demarcus Lawrence turned out (even though it took a few years, proving the point of this very exercise), and Anthony Hitchens was a great value pick for Dallas.  You can argue that his back, or Matthew Stafford throwing the ball into his back, is the reason the Cowboys beat the Lions in the 2014-15 playoffs.  I barely recognize the rest of the names, but if you come away with two franchise players, great work.

Grade: A


2015

  • (1) Byron Jones, DB
  • (2) Randy Gregory, DE
  • (3) Chaz Green, OT
  • (4) Damien Wilson, LB
  • (5) Ryan Russell, DE
  • (7) Mark Nzeocha, LB
  • (7) Laurence Gibson, OT
  • (7) Geoff Swaim, TE

Dallas Morning News Grade: B+

Byron Jones is the only consistently solid starter (and, again, it took him a few years).  Last offseason, he made the switch from safety to cornerback and became a pro-bowler. Randy Gregory is still battling personal issues but there still seems a chance he could be a contributor off the edge.  In some alternate dimension, Chaz Green is still being beat by Adrian Clayborn Groundhog Day-style.  Geoff Swaim was a good value pick in the seventh round, but this class was nothing special.

Grade: C+


2016

  • (1) Ezekiel Elliott, RB
  • (2) Jaylon Smith, LB
  • (3) Maliek Collins, DT
  • (4) Charles Tapper, DE
  • (4) Dak Prescott, QB
  • (6) Anthony Brown, DB
  • (6) Kavon Frazier, DB
  • (6) Darius Jackson, RB
  • (6) Rico Gathers, TE

SB Nation Grade: B-

Home run.  More than half of these players have started a game and contributed for the Cowboys, and chief among them, Zeke Elliott, Jaylon Smith, and Dak Prescott. Zeke already has two rushing titles and is arguably the best at his position.    Jaylon Smith was a risk due to his terrible knee injury, but he has since come back and proved his value as a top ten pick. However unlikely, Dak was a genius selection, and the rest of them have made contributions in some fashion . . . although the apparent obsession the Cowboys have with Gathers is running a bit thin.

Grade: Easy…A++


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