The draft was fast and furious this year. The Cowboys came away with the consensus #1 defensive player in the draft. And they managed to find depth at several other key positions. I'm not going to fool myself and say this is the turning point for the Cowboys. Every team got better over the weekend according to the draft experts. We won't really know how good this draft was until we look back a few years from now.
But we can still look at the draft from the perspective of filling holes on the roster. The Cowboys didn't find answers at every area of need but they did address most of the key areas of need. I'm going to look at each pick and discuss how they fit into the Cowboys 2012 plans and beyond.
Morris Claiborne (CB) - 1st round: This is obviously the key move of the draft for the Cowboys. They gave up their 2nd round pick to move from the 14th pick to the 6th pick but the Cowboys got the best defensive player in the draft in return. And Claiborne looks like he will immediately step into a starting role. This helps the Cowboys this year because now they are loaded at the cornerback position. And, long term, this frees up the Cowboys from giving in to the demands of Mike Jenkins and his ridiculous agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
Tyrone Crawford (DE) - 3rd round: The Cowboys need all the help they can get on the defensive line. Marcus Spears is great against the run but rarely gets pressure on the quarterback. Jason Hatcher occasionally flashes some pass rushing ability but never on a consistent basis. Most draft experts had Crawford going in the 2nd round and the Cowboys had him on their draft board as a 2nd rounder so landing Crawford was a steal. Crawford will be on the field immediately in obvious passing situations and could develop into a starter if he improves his size and run defense.
Kyle Wilbur (OLB) - 4th round: Crawford is a little undersized but he has a natural ability to rush from the edge. He should be able to at least get some action spelling Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Ware in passing situations. He'll need to bulk up if he wants to become a strong run defender. He is a potential long term replacement for Anthony Spencer after the 2012 season but it looks more likely that he'll be a pass rush specialist who plays a reserve role for the next few years.
Matt Johnson (S) - 4th round: Johnson is a natural playmaker at safety. The Cowboys need all the help they can get at the safety position. Johnson will immediately provide depth and likely also excel on special teams. He played at a small school so we won't really know if he is a potential starter long term until he gets on the field with NFL talent. Johnson has great ball skills and a good feel for the flow of the game. He is a potential starter down the road but likely won't get much playing time at safety this season unless he surprises a lot of people at training camp.
Danny Coale (WR) - 5th round: Coale looks like a real steal in the 5th round. Watch this guy play and you can see he has a natural ability to get himself open. And he also has great hands and pretty good speed. Coale has a real shot to get on the field as the #3 receiver this year. Either way he will be a good special teams contributor and a potential long term answer in the wide receiver depth chart. I think Coale was the best value pick for the Cowboys in this year's draft.
James Hanna (TE) - 6th round: Hanna was a starter at Oklahoma and flashed some special traits at times. But he also looked terrible at times dropping easy passes and displaying poor blocking technique. The Cowboys need help at tight end now that Martellus Bennett has moved on. Jason Witten and John Phillips will get most of the playing time but the third tight end gets on the field every week for the Cowboys. Hanna will get to learn from the best in the business practicing with Jason Witten. He needs to be ready to play this year.
Caleb McSurdy (ILB) - 7th round: McSurdy was a very good college player. But he played at Montana so it is difficult to judge exactly what he'll be at the NFL level. He seems to have all the traits the Cowboys want at inside linebacker except speed. But he has good quickness and a good feel for the flow of the game. McSurdy probably won't be any part of the depth chart at inside linebacker barring injury so he looks like a special teams player this season. He could be a long term depth player at inside linebacker but his lack of speed will always make tight ends a tough matchup for him in the passing game.
I think most people were probably hoping the Cowboys would come away from the draft with at least two and possible three starters. They definitely found one with Morris Claiborne. But trading away their 2nd round pick handcuffed the Cowboys in terms of finding multiple starters for the 2012 season. But, on the bright side, the Cowboys do seem to have found several players who will be on the field this season making big contributions to the team.