Per usual, the Cowboys are taking a lot of heat. What else is new? The Cowboys almost always have a target on their back that haters aim their criticisms at; it comes with the territory of being America's Team.
The Cowboys' draft received a “C” grade from experts, due in part for taking a chance on two players. They took Jaylon Smith in the second round, in spite of his knee injury that may prevent him from seeing the field until next season. They also drafted Rico Gathers who hasn’t played football since middle school. The Cowboys expect him to play Tight End.
History is in the Cowboys' favor when it comes to draft picks such as these. For example, when I think of a player that's unable to suit up the season they’re drafted, like Jaylon Smith, I think of another Dallas Cowboy, Roger Staubach.
Roger Staubach was drafted in 1964 by the Cowboys, and although he is in the Hall-of-Fame now, he was a considered a risk for any NFL front office on draft day.
Staubach, at the time, owed the Navy five years of military service – a deal he made when accepted into the Naval Academy. He would not begin playing professionally until 1969, as a 27-year-old rookie.
He would practice and train with the Cowboys during his leaves from the Navy. When Staubach had served his five years, he went to work in Dallas.
Even though he missed four seasons, he made up for it with five Super Bowl appearances and two championships. So going a year (or five) without playing football, does not mean a player forgets how to play football.
When I think of draft picks who've never played football, like Gathers, the list of successful players is very long. There have been many players to make the switch, especially from basketball to football.
For example, after being told by scouts that he wouldn't make it in the NBA, Antonio Gates arranged a workout in front of NFL scouts. This year Gates scored his 101st career touchdown reception and signed a 2-year contract extension to remain with the Chargers.
Other success stories include, Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas. The switch from basketball to football can be done, and done successfully.
Besides, this isn’t the first time the Cowboys have drafted a player in this situation. “The Bullet” Bob Hayes had his finest hour as a sprinter in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. First, he won the 100m, tying the then world record. This was followed up with a second gold medal in the 4×100 meter relay, which also produced a new world record.
After being the fastest man on the planet, the Cowboys drafted him in the 1964 NFL Draft to play wide receiver. Hayes' first two seasons were his most successful, during which he led the NFL both times in receiving touchdowns with 12 and 13, respectively.
So what that Jaylon Smith must take a year off? Who cares that Rico Gathers didn't play college football? Sure, there’s a risk with both Smith and Gathers but let’s be clear, every pick is a risky pick. It’s a crap-shoot either way. There's no sure fire way to know a player's full potential. There’s room for an incredible payoff for these rookies like there have been in the past with similar Cowboy picks.
These players could be blessings and in two or three years, experts could look back and say that the Cowboys got these guys at great deals. I look forward to watching Smith's and Gathers' careers unfold, because it will be a great story when they do.