Grading The Cowboys’ Draft: Rnd 1 – Morris Claiborne

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When evaluating a CB you have to look at the support the CB had from his front 7. A top notch front 7 can make an average CB look like Revis. A bad front 7 can make Revis look like Alan Ball. Most people couldn’t tell you the names of the NYG CB’s, but everyone knows their pass rushers. In reality, the Giants were projected to do well last year. Injuries played a major role in their struggles early in the season. Once they had all of their pass rushers healthy, they began to dominate the competition.

The Cowboys secondary was less than desirable in 2011. In fact, it was horrific by most standards. But, I also have to ask myself, what did they have for a front 7? I look at things like the fact that in the Cowboys last 6 meetings with the NYG, they sacked Eli Manning only 4 times, but in the last meeting with the Giants, Tony Romo got sacked 6 times. Yes 6 times in just 1 game! What happened? I will tell you, the Cowboys were unable to get any push up front and Eli was able to step up in to a nice solid pocket and wait for Nicks or Gonzalez to get open. We all saw the impressive passing stats Eli had against the Cowboys. Is Eli as good as Tom Brady, Drew Brees or even our own Tony Romo? Absolutely not!  But, if you give any NFL QB a solid pocket to step up in to they will pick you apart!  (even Moore, Grossman, and Skelton did this to them). A Defense has to be balanced.

When it comes to considering the value of trading that pick at 45 to move up, I have to look at the front 7 of the other CB’s who came in with slightly lower grades. I also have to look at the overall needs of the Cowboys on both sides of the ball.

I will take a guy like Jamel Fleming as an example of another CB in the draft. In 24 starts, he had 168 tackles (73 more than Claiborne), 7 int’s, 24 PBUS (twice as many as Claiborne), 2 TFL’s, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, and he never allowed a single touchdown while in man coverage. When I consider the fact that not 1 of his front 7 got drafted prior to the 4th round (Frank Alexander), its obvious that he must be pretty good. Then I consider that he was voted All-Big 12 1st Team by the Coaches and the AP, and that confirms my opinion of his draft value. Then I have to consider the level of competition: well, he was covering guys like Justin Blackmon and Kendall Wright ( 2 of the top 5 Receivers in the nation).  At this point, I am pretty confident he is capable of being a solid starter at the NFL level.

Now let me explain my grade of C for value.  As the old saying goes ” Hindsight is 20-20″ so I will approach this as though I don’t know what happened in the rest of the draft.

When I was preparing my 2012 Mock draft for the Cowboys, I took several things in to consideration.

A. The necessity to protect Tony Romo.

B. The lack of pass rush

C. The problems in the secondary.

The key to having a championship team, is having a balance on both sides of the ball. The offense and the defense work hand in hand. One of the biggest problems with the Cowboys in 2011 was the Dallas offense would start out strong and get an early lead, but with the weak offensive line, Jason Garrett put all of the pressure on Tony Romo by continuing to call pass plays because the Cowboys couldn’t run the ball. With opposing defenses knowing it was going to be pass, pass, pass they keyed in on a pass defense which allowed them to force a lot of 3 and outs.  The Cowboys inability to maintain possession and rest the defense, meant that the defense was on the field too much: by the 4th quarter, the CB’s were wore out. The lack of depth in the Cowboys secondary, matched up against the other teams ability to rotate different receivers in and out, meant the Cowboys DB’s were winded late in games when trying to cover fresh WR’s.

In a recent press conference on the Dallas Cowboys web site titled  “A Romo Friendly draft” ,  Jerry Jones talked about the need to do whats best for Tony Romo. In a recent article I wrote titled,  Should Tony Romo Ask To Be traded?  I not only showed how thankful the fans should be that we have Romo, but also why he is not the problem, and then I concluded by contemplating what things would look like from Tony Romo’s perspective.

After looking at the results, this was in no way a Romo friendly draft.  Now let me explain why.

Since I am doing a round by round breakdown of each pick, I will only consider rounds 1 and 2 for now.

Looking at the needs I listed above, I had the Cowboys taking David Decastro at 14. Granted, many people, myself included, weren’t even sure he would still be available there.  DeCastro came in to the draft with a grade of 92.5. This is actually a higher grade than Claiborne had. The question becomes, what would DeCastro bring?

If you look at the fact that Tony Romo was sacked a career high 36 times last year and took 82 hits, one of which resulted in broken ribs and a punctured lung, David DeCastro would bring insurance to the teams most valuable player as a solid anchor next to Tyron Smith for years to come. He would also immediately improve the running game. DeMarco Murray put up great numbers while in space and he could run to daylight, but he only had 2 TD’s. In fact, all of the RB’s combined had a record low of 3 rushing TD’s. Why? Because the offensive line gets no push in goal line situations to punch the ball in. The Cowboys lost most of their games by 4 points or less. It doesn’t take a Rocket scientist to see that all of those times the Cowboys got down inside the 10 and ended up kicking a field goal because they couldn’t run the ball in, it cost them 4 pts.

DeCastro would also have helped the defense. How? By enabling the Cowboys to not only better protect Romo from sacks and hurried throws, but also by opening up running lanes for Demarco Murray. How does this help? Late in games when the Cowboys have the lead, they can keep the ball in play and burn the clock. This helps keep the defense off of the field and rested. When I take all of this in to consideration and weigh it all out, it makes more sense to take DeCastro at 14.  Why? Because I get a player with a better grade in the 1st round and still have my 2nd round pick to get a solid corner back like Fleming. (and to think he actually fell to the 3rd round). To be honest, I really don’t think Claiborne is much better. In fact, I think I get much better value with a bigger, stronger CB, who has better numbers in most categories, even though he had a weaker front 7. ( I still got a blue chip player in DeCastro and filled another need as well). Your entitled to your opinion, but the fact remains, I got much better value than Jerry Jones.

When you have as many holes as the Cowboys do, you can’t sacrifice two starting players for one. Whats worse is, now using hind sight, they could have traded down a few spots and not only got DeCastro, but more picks as well. If you look at the overall picture of the draft, I didn’t see much improvement in the pass rush department. That being taken in to consideration, will the CB’s be able to play to their full ability when the QB can stand in the pocket and wait for them to get beat?  In my next story on round 3, I will address that as well.

"When it comes to building a championship team,  you can’t take flash over value!"

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