Despite the months of anticipation and preparation leading up to the three-day NFL draft, the event comes and goes in the blink of an eye. The ramifications of the results however live on for years to come.
It is extremely difficult to fully grade a draft pick in the days, or even months after, as the prospects are yet to play a snap of NFL football. That fact doesn’t deter the industry’s top experts, like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr, from handing out his annual draft grades for each franchise.
The Dallas Cowboys and their 11-man 2021 draft class (the Cowboys’ most picks made since 2009) received a “B” grade from Kiper, while nine clubs graded out higher from the longtime draft analyst. Nine other teams shared a similar mark.
“The Dallas defense was awful last season, even before Dak Prescott was lost for the year in Week 5. This couldn’t be another CeeDee Lamb situation, where they went with an offensive playmaker even with massive holes on the other side of the ball. They had to get the best defender on the board, ideally a cornerback. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, though, the top two corners went in the two picks before them at No. 10, so give them credit for trading back two spots, adding an extra third-rounder and still getting the guy they say they wanted all along.”
Many analysts thought highly of the Day 2 talent in this draft class, so the Cowboys moving from No. 10 to No. 12 to pick up an extra third round selection, while still getting the top ranked defender available, was a win in most draft expert’s eyes.
“The questions now are… where does Micah Parsons (12) fit, and what does it mean for 2018 first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch and 2016 second-rounder Jaylon Smith? I didn’t peg off-ball linebacker as a need for Dallas, but the organization didn’t draft Parsons to sit on the bench. So maybe it will move on from Vander Esch and plant Parsons at middle linebacker. He’ll improve a porous run defense; the Cowboys allowed a woeful 1,758 rushing yards before first contact last season, by far the most in the league. With Rashawn Slater still available, I thought he would have filled a need at guard. They added to the off-ball linebacker group on Day 3 with Jabril Cox (115), who has some coverage traits.”
An argument can be made against selecting an off-ball linebacker this high in a draft, but Parsons ceiling is tremendous and Kiper is right to think Parsons should immediately help with Dallas’ well-known problems with stopping the run.
Some, like Kiper, may not have thought linebacker was a pressing need in Dallas. However, when one considers Leighton Vander Esch’s injury history (plus the fact that he’s entering a contract year) combined with Jaylon Smith’s inconsistency, and it’s easy to see why the Cowboys were eager to add the former Penn State standout.
“The Cowboys continued their attempt to improve the defense on Day 2 and ended up using all five of their picks on defenders. Cornerback Kelvin Joseph (44) has lock-down traits, and the team will hope that he can make the same sort of impact that second-rounder Trevon Diggs did a year ago. Defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa (75) and Chauncey Golston (84) were lower on my board, but they’ll help against the run.”
Following the first round trade back the Cowboys had four Day 2 selections that all went to defense. The club finally filled their biggest need with the selection of Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph, a cornerback with first-round talent who slid due to character concerns.
“I had a late Day 3 grade on Nahshon Wright (99), but he’s a big 6-foot-3 corner who fits the mold of what new coordinator Dan Quinn likes outside. He’s quite confident in his skills, but I didn’t see an NFL starter on tape. Israel Mukuamu (227) is another tall corner, as Dallas showed its commitment to finding guys for Quinn. Simi Fehoko (179) has some speed for a 6-foot-4 wideout, though this team’s receiver room is crowded.”
The Cowboys finished off their draft in Day 3 with a number of high-upside picks. Dallas clearly wanted to add length on both sides of the ball and the club accomplished that goal.
“In total, the Cowboys added eight defenders in this class, though they reached for a couple of them. If Quinn’s corner picks work out, they could have a couple of steals.”
Other NFC East draft grades for those interested:
New York Giants: B+
Philadelphia Eagles: B+
Washington Football Team: B
Credit belongs to: https://ca.sports.yahoo.com