Continuing the ongoing series of Grading the Dallas Cowboys 2012 NFL Draft, I will now examine and assess round 4. The first article covered rounds 1 and 2, the second covered round 3, and the 3rd article was about the undrafted free agents; you can read all of them here. As previously stated, when I prepared my 2012 Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft, there were 3 primary needs that I felt the Cowboys needed to address: A. Protecting Tony Romo. B. Improving the pass rush. C. The problems in the secondary. I frequently get asked questions by readers VIA my email. I have decided to start answering some of the ones that pertain to what I am writing about at the time. Feel free to email me any football related questions/comments you may have about the Cowboys at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Round 4 pick 18
Kyle Wilber, OLB Wake Forest
6-4 249 4.86 40 25 bench reps
Grade entering the draft: 60.5
My Grade: Player potential/impact C- Draft value D.
Wilber was a top recruit out of Florida. He has good size and speed for the position. He is my idea of a ‘poor mans outside linebacker’. He has a good motor. He didn’t play much on special teams in college because of the teams needs, but he should be able to contribute immediately on ST for the Cowboys.
The 4th round is too early to draft projects. Wilber’s grade of 60.5 indicates that he was projected to be a late round pick. I know Jason Garett is looking for the ‘right kind of guys’ and Wilber has all the right character traits, but I still fail to see the logic in using a 4th round pick to draft a special teams players who might eventually be a starter.
One of the biggest problems the Cowboys linebacking corps had in 2011 was an inability to cover opposing receivers. Wilber was the 12th ranked OLB in the 2012 NFL draft. The one thing that immediately sticks out about Wilber’s performance in college, is that he isn’t very good in coverage; he also struggled getting off of blocks. He wasn’t playing against top tier OL at Wake Forest, so the question is: how will he fare against NFL linemen?
He is also lacking in his ability to ‘read and react’ to plays as they develop . He is unnecessarily hesitant at times, almost as if he is unsure of what to do; it looks like he has to consciously think about what his assignment is, rather than just responding to what he sees. NCSU doesn’t have an elite OL: when I watched that game, it seemed like the only time Wilber got in to the backfield was when he went in untouched. He wasn’t able to apply any type of pressure consistently. This is obviously a huge red flag – NFL linemen are much better than what he was facing.
“Strengths: Smart, instinctive player always around the ball. Has smooth hips to turn and run in coverage. Good at using long arms to disengage from blockers and make plays. Is quick off the snap and an effective blitzer. Covers a lot of area in zone and uses long frame to defend passes. Good athlete for frame.
Weaknesses: Is neither a great edge rusher nor good at anchoring against OLs on running plays, and hence does not project well as a 3-4 OLB. High cut and long legged, and does not possess elite acceleration. Has not demonstrated good ball skills in man coverage. NFL Comparison: Ben Leber – Minnesota Vikings” –Brad Noel
I have to say I was perplexed by the Dallas Cowboys decision to pick Kyle Wilber. There were a lot of solid players still on the board at that point in the draft. Based on the NFL grading system, the range of 50-69 means: Draftable Player 4th-7th round; a prospect with the ability to make a team as a backup/role player, but needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category “might” have long-term potential.
If the Cowboys wanted an OLB, they should have drafted Ronnel Lewis who was still available and had a grade of 83.5, which is a late 1st to 3rd round grade. The Cowboys have been lacking an effective pass rush; that is Lewis’ specialty. They nicknamed him “The Hammer” for a reason. He brings more speed (4.68 40), more upper body strength (36 bench reps), and a whole lot more nasty. Most experts had him ranked as one of the top 5 OLB’s in the nation. My mock draft didn’t expect Lewis to get out of the 2nd round.
Lewis can play OLB in a 3-4, and he could play DE in a 4-3. He would be a solid special teams contributor too; he was a beast covering kicks in college. There were questions about his academics in college which affected his stock, but Claiborne had the same label. The Cowboys drafted a project in Wilber when Lewis was a day 1, solid pass rusher, who dominated the competition in college. The film doesn’t lie, you will see for yourself.
"All you need to do with a guy like Lewis is say, “Get the QB!”"
When you consider that other players like Jared Crick (a solid pass rusher with a grade of 83.7), CB’s Ron Brooks and Brandon Boykin were still on the board, I have to give the Cowboys 113th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft a D for value.
Now I will move on to a readers question:
"Jake from Chicago wrote: Is the first game of the season a must win? Where do all the expectations go if they get blown away and how will the team react? Will they finally quit talking about how good they are if they do choke again?"
I think the biggest problem with all of that is the media. The Cowboys are constantly under a microscope. All that the fans hear is the media talking about all of the talent the Cowboys have. But, you never hear them talking about the weak offensive line etc. It’s much easier for them to throw all the blame on Romo and/or talk about all of his weapons. Even the most dangerous weapons are not of much use when Tony is running for his life all of the time. The expectations are high for Dallas every year because of the Landry era and the early 90’s.
I think it is imperative that the Cowboys beat the NYG week one. They need to get some momentum early. It seems that when the Cowboys start out slow, it continues for a while. I am afraid JJ may just find out how important addressing the OL was when they face the Giants pass rush in Week 1. Every year since Romo got sacked 6 times in the playoff game against the Vikings, I have been waiting for Jerry Jones to fix the OL. As much as I hate to say it, maybe the Cowboys need to get dominated in the trenches in week one (to send Jerry a message) while their is still time to get a couple decent players via trade, free agency or whatever works. If the Cowboys get beat for the 3rd straight time by the NYG, I would hope that’s enough to stop all the hype. This team needs to come down to earth and get hungry.