2015 Draft in Review: Dallas Cowboys
The NFL draft is over and it suddenly seems like a long time to wait for the next meaningful event on the NFL calendar. But frankly we’re still excited trying to break down what it all means for each team and so we’re going to share some of that excitement.
That’s right every team is going to have each pick broken down as well as a look at their undrafted free agents. Up now? The Dallas Cowboys who won the NFC East last season on a foundation of ball control offense and a much improved defense. They didn’t draft a running back to replace DeMarco Murray, but how did they do with the rest of their picks?
Round 1: Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
The Cowboys invested heavily at the cornerback position in 2012 bringing in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, neither player has panned out well in the three years since. Jones gained notoriety for his workout at the combine in Indianapolis, but did put up some impressive coverage numbers (26.3 passer rating allowed on 28 targets) in limited snaps this season, though he missed some of UConn’s tougher AAC games.
Depth Chart Fit: Will look for outside corner snaps immediately, at least in sub packages when Orlando Scandrick covers the slot.
Round 2: Randy Gregory, ED, Nebraska
Gregory fell for well-documented off-field reasons, but in terms of pure on-field performance and ability, he was one of the biggest steals of the draft. Gregory needs to prove he can add and hold weight, but if he can, the Cowboys have acquired one of the best edge players in the draft. Gregory’s 13.4 Pass Rushing Productivity score was fourth-best in the class against Power 5 opposition.
Depth Chart Fit: At the very least Gregory will look to boost the Cowboys’ sub-package pass rushing, even if his lack of weight prevents him claiming a three-down role in Year 1.
Round 3: Chaz Green, OT, Florida
One of the more puzzling picks of the first two days, Green was the second player taken from an average Florida offensive line. Green missed playing time down the stretch, and didn’t have a single game graded above +1.0 as a run blocker. The Gators gained only 3.1 yards per carry on rushes off right guard and right tackle, the gaps to either side of Green.
Depth Chart Fit: The Cowboys lost Jermey Parnell in free agency to Jacksonville, and Green figures to take his spot as Doug Free’s backup.
Round 4: Damien Wilson, LB, Minnesota
A solid start to the season for Wilson, gave way to a disappointing final four games against the likes of Ohio State and Wisconsin. A threat when he comes after the quarterback Wilson registered four sacks, but his run defense was his Achilles heel down the stretch, with a trio of missed tackles in the Golden Gophers’ bowl defeat to Missouri capping off a difficult finish to the season.
Depth Chart Fit: Wilson split his time between strong side and middle linebacker for the Golden Gophers, and will fight for a roster spot to add depth there for the Cowboys.
Round 5: Ryan Russell, ED, Purdue
A solid pass rusher for Purdue in his final season. Russell was a little underwhelming against the run at times, but registered at least one pressure in every single game last season, and multiple hits or sacks four times. His 11 pressure performance at Illinois was one game to really catch the eye.
Depth Chart Fit: The Cowboys have worked had to upgrade their personnel at defensive end, meaning Russell will be in a packed competition for a roster spot there.
Round 7: Mark Nzeocha, LB, Wyoming
Only playing in the first seven games of Wyoming’s season, Nzeocha at least played against the tougher opponents on their schedule. Nzeocha played well against Oregon in Week 3, but couldn’t back that up against Michigan State, missing two tackles in the Week 5 contest.
Depth Chart Fit: Nzeocha recorded five special teams tackles last season for Wyoming and he’ll need to show well there in the pre-season if he’s to make the roster in a depth position at outside linebacker.
Round 7: Laurence Gibson, OT, Virginia Tech
A strong season as a run blocker for the Hokies saw Gibson squeeze into the seventh round, but issues in pass protection will need to be worked on if he is to make the roster. Gibson surrendered multiple pressures in all but four games for the Hokies last season playing at left tackle, though as a team they did gain 5.2 yards per carry off Gibson’s outside shoulder.
Depth Chart Fit: Will join battle with third-round pick Green for a spot adding depth on the offensive line.
Round 7: Geoff Swain, TE, Texas
An in-state acquisition to round out the draft class, Swain was more of a blocker than receiver last season for the Longhorns. Consistently gaining positive grades as a run blocker, Swain caught only ten passes all season, with only two of those catches gaining more than 10 yards.
Depth Chart Fit: Will the Cowboys carry more than three tight ends? If not Swain may have a hard time beating out any of Dallas’ three tight ends who all graded above zero last season.
Shane McDermott, C, Miami (FL): The Hurricanes gained 6.7 yards per carry on 138 A-gap carries.
Daniel Quave, G, UL Lafayette: Earned his highest run blocking grade of the season in Week 3 defeat to Ole Miss.
Jameill Showers, QB, UTEP: Forced 22 missed tackles on his 85 carries last season for the Miners.
Lucky Whitehead, WR, Florida Atlantic: Gained 2.08 yards per route run from the slot, 11th best in this class among wide receivers.
Joel Ross, CB, Appalachian State: Surrendered 0.84 yards per snap in coverage, tied for 28th best in the class among corners.
Nick Harwell, WR, Kansas: A transfer from Miami (OH), Harwell’s 1.25 yards per route run tied for 106th in the draft class.
George Farmer, WR, USC: Fourth in snaps at wide receiver for the Trojans last season, Farmer caught every target in six of his games last season.
Tim Scott, S, UNC: Played 423 of his 937 snaps for the Tar Heels, either as a strong safety or covering the slot.
Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston: Tied his season-high with two touchdown catches in the bowl win over Pitt, but also dropped two passes to take his season total to nine.
Synjyn Days, RB, Georgia Tech: Gained 2.5 yards per carry after contact after entering the starting lineup in Week 9.
Chucky Hunter, DI, TCU: Earned the ninth-highest run defense grade among interior defensive linemen.
Jason Wilson, CB, Central Michigan: Surrendered 1.14 yards per snap in coverage, tied for 66th best in the class.
Brandon Bridge, QB, South Alabama: His receivers dropped 35 passes, more than any other QB in this draft class suffered.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben