The Cowboys ended up picking 6 players in the draft and addressed all of the perceived pre-draft needs. Drafting players at each position of need is good but a good draft gets players who actually have a chance to get on the field. Some of the players drafted are ready to get on the field this year and some of them are considered projects. I'm going to take a look at the Cowboys draft from several different perspectives.
- Pre-Draft Needs
Most writers and draft experts were in agreement on the needs of the Cowboys going into the draft. They needed help at safety, offensive line, inside linebacker, cornerback, punt and kick returner, and defensive tackle. They hit every one of those needs. That doesn't mean all of the players drafted can get on the field this season to provide immediate help at their respective positions, but the Cowboys at least added options to the roster at each position of need. Based on pre-draft needs the 2010 draft was a clear success.
- Quality of Picks
What I am looking at hear is the bang for the buck that the Cowboys got for each of their picks. It is easy to have a successful draft when you have multiple first and second round picks but the Cowboys entered the draft without many high picks.
Dez Bryant was projected as a top 10 talent and most expected him to be the first receiver off the board in the first half of round 1. The Cowboys got a steal getting him at pick #24. And besides just playing receiver, Dez can also return punts and kicks so the Cowboys addressed multiple needs with their first round pick.
Sean Lee was considered the top inside linebacker on many of the experts draft boards. Playing through his ACL surgery recovery during his senior year dropped his stock a little but the Cowboys stole a first round talent if the knee is back to full strength. Like Kevin Ogletree last year, Lee's talent level was much higher than his perceived value due to injury concerns.
Another player dropped to the Cowboys in round 4, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (AOA), because he is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. He will be ready for training camp but brings free safety and returner skills to the table. Again, if he regains his pre-injury form, the Cowboys have a potential starter down the road. His returns at the college level were ridiculous but he was playing at the division II level so you have to consider that when you watch his highlights.
Sam Young was picked to provide tackle depth in the 6th round. He is a potential replacement for Marc Colombo in a few years. Starting at Notre Dame for four years shows you that this guy has a chance to be a player at the NFL level.
Jamar Wall was a steal in the 6th round. He was second team all Big 12 in 2008 and has played against top receivers during his entire college career. He is a big hitter who can provide depth at cornerback and will be great on special teams.
And finally, potentially the biggest find in the draft, is Sean Lissemore. He is a phenomenal athlete for his size and will provide immediate help at defensive tackle. He athleticism is similar to what Jay Ratliff brings at defensive tackle and should allow Ratliff to get more rest this season so he is fresh in the 4th quarter of games.
- Immediate Impact
When you have visions of a Super Bowl run like the Cowboys do this season, you are looking for players who can get on the field now not two or three years down the road. Dez Bryant will get time at receiver, punt returner and kick returner. He could even take over for Roy Williams during the year if Roy can't get it going this season. Sean Lee is going to take over Bobby Carpenter's nickel linebacker spot immediately and will be able to step in for Keith Brooking to start if necessary. Sean Lissemore will see plenty of playing time providing depth at defensive tackle. Jamar Wall should help on special teams if he can make the final roster. Sam Young is probably viewed by the staff as a long term project at right tackle but he could provide depth if Colombo is injured again this season.
- Long Range Impact
What excites me about this draft is the number of players the Cowboys drafted who look like long term players. Dez Bryant could start and play receiver for the Cowboys for 10-12 years. Sean Lee is going to take over for Keith Brooking in the near future and could also be a fixture in the defense for the long term. Sam Young has the build to be a mauling lineman in the league for a long time. And Sean Lissemore might end up being the next Jay Ratliff in the middle of the defense. I think the Cowboys found 2 definite future starters and 2-3 potential starters in their six picks. I like this draft class much better than the 2009 draft. Last year most players picked projected as special teamers but this year you can see that several of the players drafted have the talent to be long term starters. Having picks in the first two rounds makes a big difference in that regard.
The only knock on the draft has to be the fact that the Cowboys didn't find immediate help at safety and offensive tackle. The Cowboys must believe that Doug Free is the answer at left tackle or I think they would have made tackle more of a priority. There are still some players available in free agency at both tackle and safety so the Cowboys can still find some immediate help if they feel it is necessary. Overall, I view the draft as a success. Picking at the end of the first round with just six overall picks I'm not sure how the Cowboys could have come away from the draft with much more than they did. The Cowboys were unable to find good value for any of their players on the trade block so they had to maximize their draft value using just their picks. I think Jerry Jones and the rest of the staff should be congratulated on their work in the 2010 draft.