As ever, each pick between the 2008 and 2010 draft classes get a grade between +2.0 and -2.0 (in 0.5 increments) that depends upon:
• Where they were drafted
• Their performance
• Their contribution (how many snaps their team got out of them)
• Other factors such as unforeseen injuries and conditions that could not have been accounted for
Let’s take a look at how Dallas drafted.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
They didn’t need to, having already made the most out of undrafted free agent Tony Romo.
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
Not in these drafts.
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Dez Bryant, WR (24th overall pick in 2010): Though he fell short of a 1,000 yard season (largely due to the amount of snaps he played), Bryant emerged as one of the league’s top receivers in 2011, ending the year with our 12th-highest receiving grade of all wideouts. Excellent hands and an ability to make defenders miss after the catch, he’s primed to break out.
Sean Lee, LB (55th overall pick in 2010): Flashed talent as a rookie and then set about using that as platform for greater things in his 2011 campaign. Our fifth-highest graded 3-4 ILB in run defense, Lee also made a number of plays in coverage (four picks and three break ups) while generating 16 combined hits and hurries of quarterbacks. Room to get better but already a productive player.
Sean Lissemore, DT (234th overall pick in 2010): Earned the coaches praise at the end of the season for turning 283 snaps into some absolutely stellar run defense whether lined up at end or on the nose. Despite the low snap count posted the third-best score of all 3-4 DE’s against the run.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Mike Jenkins, CB (25th overall pick in 2008): It’s hard finding starting caliber corners, so landing one is always a positive. Jenkins hasn’t quite built on his breakout 2009, but it’s clear the talent is there. You’d still like to see a little more from him, though, especially in regards to being a more consistent performer.
Martellus Bennett, TE (61st overall pick in 2008): So Bennett never developed into the athletic mismatch at the tight end position the Cowboys thought they drafted. Stuck behind one of the greatest tight ends of our generation, Jason Witten, that was always going to be tricky, with Bennett only running 679 pass routes in four years. Still, he did contribute and turned into one of the best blocking TEs in the league and a competent No. 2 to Witten.
Orlando Scandrick, CB (143rd overall pick in 2008): While not a cornerback you’d feel overly comfortable starting for a prolonged stretch, Scandrick is a decent slot corner who can fill in outside. Good value in the fifth.
Victor Butler, LB (110th overall pick in 2009): While he has found opportunities hard to come by, Butler has got better year after year and had his best season to date in 2011, turning 126 pass rushes into 16 combined sacks, hits and hurries. Also helped out with 20 special teams tackles. Fate appears linked to Anthony Spencer in that the Cowboys have seen enough of Butler not to commit long term to Spencer, but not enough that they’re prepared to let him go.
John Phillips, TE (208th overall pick in 2009): A capable blocker, we didn’t see the best of Phillips last year, but his ability to line up in the backfield and at the tight end spot make him a decent pick up.
Josh Brent, DT (Seventh round pick in 2010 supplemental draft): An able backup, Brent may have seen less playing time in 2011, but he still showed a flare for making plays in the run game. Great depth guy to have who can really lighten the load on starters and with his ability to two-gap offers something different.
0.0: It could have been worse
Felix Jones, RB (22nd overall pick in 2008): Jones has always looked a talented runner, but his inability to hold up under even a moderately strenuous workload limits him to being the kind of back that you don’t have faith in as a starter. Telling that his least impressive performances (2010) as a runner came when he got more touches of the ball. A useful player, but has not surpassed/ delivered on expectations to a high enough degree.
Tashard Choice, RB (122nd overall pick in 2008): Choice made some healthy contributions for the Cowboys, but never saw the field enough (939 snaps) to be anything more than just another guy.
Erik Walden, LB (167th overall pick in 2008): It’s very possible Walden would have found a place on the Cowboys’ practice squad after they cut him, but the Chiefs picked him up on waivers.
Stephen McGee, QB (101st overall pick in 2009): Something of a flyer, the more McGee gets on the field the less you become convinced he could one day take over for Tony Romo.
Michael Hamlin, S (166th overall pick in 2009): Saw limited (16 snaps) time on defense and contributed little on special teams despite hanging around the team for a season a half.
David Buehler, K (172nd overall pick in 2009): If you spend a fifth round pick on a kicker, they should really end up being more than a kickoff guy. Still at least Buehler is a very good kick off guy though with the new rule changes this was somewhat less important and he found himself waived.
Stephen Hodge, S (197th overall pick in 2009): Never seemed to recover from knee surgery two months after being drafted. Spent a year on I.R. before being cut.
Mike Mickens, CB (227th overall pick in 2009): Taken off their practice squad as a rookie by the Bucs, Mickens was always something of a low risk, high reward prospect that never seemed to overcome knee injuries that surfaced in college.
Manuel Johnson, WR (229th overall pick in 2009): Got on the field for 42 snaps in 2010, but didn’t help his cause by dropping one of the five balls thrown his way (and only catching one).
Sam Young, T (179th overall pick in 2010): Dropped after spending a year as a backup swing tackle.
Jamar Wall, CB (196th overall pick in 2010): Claimed off waivers by the Texans after a disappointing rookie camp.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Jason Williams, LB (69th overall pick in 2009): Waived mid way through his sophomore season with the Cowboys, it’s weird to think that Dallas got just 14 snaps on defense from their first pick of the 2009 draft. A far-from-productive special teamer, Williams was a waste of a pick.
Brandon Williams, LB (120th overall pick in 2009): 30 snaps in 2010 and one special teams tackle just aren’t a great return on a fourth round pick.
DeAngelo Smith, CB (143rd overall pick in 2009): Waived by the Cowboys as a rookie, Dallas got nothing back from this fifth-rounder.
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB (126th overall pick in 2010): Cut after a year, Owusu-Ansah was supposed to bring some speed to the Cowboys’ return game. He struggled to make much of an impact and was cut a year later.
-1.0: What a waste!
Robert Brewster, T (75th overall pick in 2009): Missed his rookie season on injured reserve, and a large part of year No. 2 on the practice squad. Not what you expect out of a third round pick.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
Nothing overly terrible here.
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
No Russell/ Leaf hybrids in theses classes.
The Cowboys, after two drafts to forget, salvaged some pride by finding a number of starters and contributors in their 2010 draft class, including managing to turn a seventh round supplemental pick into the underrated Josh Brent. The problem is, those 2008 and 2009 classes brought with them a real lack of quality, with 2009 especially bad as Dallas coped with the fallout of the trade for Roy Williams. Judging by 2010–and the early signs from the 2011 class–the Cowboys have taken a leap forward with their drafting over the previous two years.