The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2014 draft needing to improve the defense. Dallas picked at #16, right after the top defensive talent dropped off. Dallas hoped to land Ryan Shazier or Aaron Donald but the draft didn’t fall their way and, like you are supposed to do, Dallas went BPA and grabbed Zack Martin. Don’t buy into the Manziel hype; Jerry was just blowing smoke to try and force a trade. Lets begin grading the Cowboys 2014 draft pick by pick.
When I first saw people mocking Zack Martin to the Cowboys in March I was very skeptical. I thought offensive line wasn’t a major need. I also thought that we couldn’t afford to not improve the defense via the first round.
Jerry Jones did everything he could trying to boost a Manziel trade-up, and it seemed like we had a solid chance, but the Browns decided to wait. I was happy about this pick because we didn’t reach and we went with the best player on our board. Pairing Martin with offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, we have a very young and promising offensive line for years to come.
Everyone that was a big Aaron Donald fan needs to also know that Donald dominated every interior linemen at the Senior Bowl except Martin, who held his ground well against him. Martin is very versatile as he has played every spot on the line in his 50+ starts at Notre Dame. He’ll step in and play from day one.
GRADE OF PICK: A
The Cowboys elected to give up their 2nd and 3rd round picks to move up 14 spots and grab Demarcus Lawrence.
While I like the player and the fit, I wonder if we gave up too much to get him. A lot of scouts had a 1st-round grade on Lawrence so that makes it seem worth the gamble. He had one of the top 10-yard-sprint times at the combine and he had the biggest hands out of all of the defensive ends. He could be a very special pass-rusher and, ultimately, our answer on the outside.
I like Lawrence and his skill-set but I can’t help noticing we could have gotten Kony Ealy at #48 who is a big-boom-or-bust guy, and Scott Crichton at #70. Hopefully Lawrence is the real deal. However, I’m going to grade this pick lower because I believe cost was too high.
GRADE OF PICK: C+
With the trade-up for Demarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys had to wait 85 picks until their next pick in the 4th round. It was a long wait to see the first “who is that?” pick.
When people think of an Iowa LB they tend to think of Kirksey and Morris, at least I did. That was until I actually went back and watched Iowa tape on Hitchens, and I must say I was impressed. He’s not an unbelievable athlete and didn’t blow away the combine workouts but he has great LB size and moves well.
In watching the tape he showed off his good ball-skills, he also blitzes well and is an effective tackler. When the pick was made I was a little disappointed but after doing my research on him I think he will contribute right away. That’s what you hope for out of a 4th round pick – a guy who can contribute to your team as a rookie.
My only question is did everyone else have him as high as we did? A lot of scouts had him as 6th-URFA grade. Overall you can’t complain too much after seeing the tape and understanding that Iowa and Penn St. are good places to draft LBs from.
GRADE OF PICK: B-
This is a pick I instantly liked. Devin Street was one of the under-the-radar wide-outs that I was hoping we would target late.
He’s a perfect compliment to Dez Bryant on the opposite side at outside wide receiver. He has nice size and respectable 4.5 speed. When I’ve managed to catch a couple of Pittsburgh games in recent years I was most impressed with his ball-skills. He has very good body control and the ability to go and get it.
I think he rounds out our wide receiver core nicely.
He’s an upgrade over Miles Austin and his worst yards per throw average in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Bottom line is this guy has great upside and was a late pick.
GRADE OF PICK: A
One of my favorite picks of our entire draft. I have watched almost every Stanford game and this guy always jumped out at me. He’s got size and a great motor.
Some scouts had a late 2nd to late 3rd grade on him. Apparently, NFL teams saw it differently. I think the biggest knocks on him were his arm length and quickness. I see him being a great fit in our 4-3 scheme as a rotational guy opposite Lawrence.
Either way you look at it, Ben Gardner is a football player and I’m excited to see what Marinelli can do with him. A 7th round pick that can contribute beyond special teams is all you ask for. I’m stoked to see if Gardner gets on the field in 2014.
GRADE OF PICK: A+
Will Smith is going to be a special teams guy and/or coverage guy on 3rd down. Playing in the Big 12 he was asked to cover a lot of field every week against the various spread offenses.
Overall, he did a pretty good job. His weaknesses are his short arms and not getting off of blocks very effectively. His strengths lie in his ability to run well and cover on 3rd down.
He could be serviceable next year but not a ton of upside with this pick.
GRADE OF PICK: C+
There was a lot of buzz on Ahmad Dixon as the draft process started. As more people watched the film, the buzz shifted toward things not to like about Dixon. I wrote up a report on Ahmad Dixon so I know him quite well. I simply wasn’t a fan but I specifically wasn’t a fan of him in rounds 2-4 like some people ranked him.
I like the value of getting him in the 7th, though.
Dixon has upside. He runs well and can definitely lay the hammer. At the very least, he’ll be a great special teams player for us.
In terms of his ability to play safety in Dallas, I am not sure I like his chances. He has a tough time in coverage and can miss a lot of tackles coming up out of control. The thing I like about him the most is he plays with a lot of passion and is the type of guy that could just simply figure it out in the pros and become a solid NFL player. I am hoping for that.
GRADE OF PICK: A-
First of all, I was a little disappointed that the first time we addressed the defensive interior wasn’t until way back at pick #251.
Bishop comes from a successful program where he was fairly productive in the MAC conference. He’s described as having the right mean-streak and football mentality but was very low on draft boards due to his size and lack of quickness.
As we all know, in the 7th round you’re buying lottery tickets that could cash in. I’m not sure Bishop has the upside of the previous 7th round picks, but he is a big body with a mean-streak so… it’s something to work with at least.
GRADE OF PICK: C+
This is the type of lottery ticket you hope your team takes in the 7th round. Mitchell is a classic case of a guy who came out too early.
Most scouts had a 3rd or 4th round grade on him and I’ve seen numerous Oregon games where I felt Mitchell had a lot of talent. But he can be inconsistent at times and was overshadowed by Ikre at Oregon.
Mitchell had a much better sophomore year than his junior year and that’s another reason for his possible fall. Either way, he has shown signs that he can be a productive NFL starter and I think the value here is top notch.
GRADE OF PICK: A
Things we learned from this draft
- Dallas has a lot of faith in J.J. Wilcox, Barry Church and Matt Johnson at the safety position
- Callahan actually does like Lance Dunbar since we didn’t pick a single RB to help Demarco Murray out
- We were never going to take Manziel!
- The success of this draft hinges on Demarcus Lawrence; if he doesn’t produce then this draft will be considered a failure
At the end of the day, as a fan of the Cowboys and an avid draft enthusiast, I feel that the Cowboys indeed did get better. That’s the whole point, right? Lets hope we can stay healthy this year and see what guys like Crawford and Johnson and this rookie class can do for this team.