Say what you will about how Dallas handled the first round of the NFL Draft — and plenty of people are doing just that, inside and outside the organization — but don’t question the seven players the Cowboys took, starting with Wisconsin center Travis Frederick in the first round.
The Cowboys feel every pick will contribute in 2013, some more than others. They believe all of them have the potential to become starters in the future, so there is a feeling inside the organization that this is the best draft the team has had in a few years in terms of the picks and the value.
“All in all, it was probably the most successful draft we’ve had in a while,” a source said. “We got a guy in the fifth round [running back Joseph Randle] we had on the board in the third. We got good value on guys instead or reaching as we did in the past. Last year, we needed a safety and might have pumped a little air in [fourth-round pick Matt Johnson]. We took him earlier than we needed to. That didn’t happen this year, other than maybe the first round. We got good value.”
While he might have been a reach at the 31st pick overall, the Cowboys truly believe they took a good player in Frederick, who is an immediate upgrade at center and is expected to help the team immensely in 2013.
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The Cowboys did their best work, however, on the second and third day of the draft, starting with tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round. No one questions his talent or potential. He was considered the second- or third-best tight end in the draft, and the Cowboys got him right where he was projected to go.
The best selection, however, might have been Baylor receiver Terrance Williams with the controversial pick they got from the San Francisco 49ers in the third round.
The Cowboys had Williams rated higher on their draft board than Escobar, according to a source. But they felt the potential was greater for him or another quality receiver to be there in the third than Escobar being there.
They turned out to be right. That could be a huge win for owner/general manager Jerry Jones and the personnel department.
No matter how badly they messed up in the first round, it turned out OK when they came away with Frederick and Williams to show for the 18th overall pick they traded to San Francisco.
“That’s how the draft go,” said a defensive-turned-giddy Jones after picking Williams on Friday while trying to make a play on the popular “That’s how baseball go” line made famous by Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington.
The Cowboys had Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox as a third-round pick, and that’s where they took him. Certainly he is still learning the position after playing it just one year in college, but they love his potential and upside.
The Cowboys were also pleased with William and Mary cornerback B.W. Webb in the fourth round. A couple of scouts had him rated as a second-round prospect. The Cowboys say he compares favorably to Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, whom the Atlanta Falcons took in the second round.
The Cowboys believe Webb will pay dividends now and in the future in terms of how it relates to nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
Scandrick graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 43-ranked cornerback in pass coverage last season. His salary jumps to $3.5 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015 and 2016. Webb’s rookie deal will have him making minimum salaries in each of the next four years.
So the Cowboys believe they got value and potential salary flexibility with Webb.
Getting Randle in the fifth round was another coup since they had the former Oklahoma State star graded as a third-round pick.
“He walks in as the No. 2 running back,” the source said. “He has DeMarco Murray traits. Getting that guy in the fifth round was huge. We won’t lose any sleep if he has to start.”
The Cowboys believe they also got good value with South Carolina linebacker Devonte Holloman in the sixth round. They had him graded in the fifth.
The interesting thing is the Cowboys had Arizona State linebacker Brandon Magee rated as a fourth-rounder.
They made the call to pick Holloman and chance that Magee would make it to free agency because of Magee’s smaller size and injury history. They also felt Holloman was a better special teams player.
That’s also why they signed Magee as an undrafted free agent, giving him an NFL-high $70,000 guarantee on his first-year salary. Magee received a $5,000 signing bonus, and $65,000 of his first-year salary was guaranteed to him whether he makes the team or not.