What Could Have Been

Sep 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick (72) and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) blocks against New York Giants defensive tackle Mike Patterson (93) at AT

Few would disagree that Travis Frederick was a good pick for the Dallas Cowboys. After one full season, his exceptional blocking and remarkable hustle have made him look like a mainstay. With that being said, many still wonder whether it was necessary to take him in the first round. After Frederick, the next true center in the draft was not grabbed until the 4th round.

If you recall, the ‘Boys traded away the #18 pick in order to acquire #31 and #74 from the 49ers. This article examines the players that the Cowboys could have taken between their original first and second round picks. Essentially, if we in fact could have waited on Frederick, who might we have gotten with #18?

In the interest of keeping things concise, we only look at the Safeties and Defensive Tackles taken during that span, as these were the positions of need at the time. Yes, offensive line was also a major need, but we are operating under the assumption that Frederick was the best O-line choice we could have made – so no need to evaluate the other possible selections.

Dec 1, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers free safety Eric Reid (35) watches a play develop against the St. Louis Rams in the second quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the six Safeties / Defensive Tackles taken between picks 18 and 47 in the 2013 NFL Draft:

Pick 18 (49ers from Cowboys): Eric Reid – FS, LSU

Even Cowboys fans who knew little to nothing about Eric Reid questioned why we let him slip away. An LSU product and athletic freak, Reid just looked like the solid safety we were searching for. As it turns out, he’s had a pretty great year for San Francisco. It’s possible the ‘Boys were taken by surprise; Mel Kiper even had J.J. Wilcox being taken before him. Regardless, it just hurts to see your very own pick, spent on a player who fills a need and looks to be solid, sent to another team.

Pick 23 (Vikings): Sharrif Floyd – DT, Florida

Floyd was actually graded as the top Defensive Tackle coming into April’s draft. A year later, the jury is still out.  The first of three 1st round Minnesota picks, Floyd found himself on a defensive line already solidified by popular veterans. That combined with some early injury struggles meant limited playing time going forward.

Many were surprised when the Cowboys didn’t jump on Floyd with the #18 pick. Granted, it was thought that Jay Ratliff would be back, but Jason Hatcher was playing in the last year of his contract and the depth was shallow behind him. It’s impossible to say whether or not passing on Floyd was a good move, but the thinking behind it remains curious.

Pick 28 (Broncos): Sylvester Williams – DT, North Carolina

Like Floyd, the jury is still out on Williams, who many had the Cowboys taking in their mock drafts. Williams played in the Broncos first two games of the season and then sat out for a while when the Coaches decided he wasn’t quite ready. In late November, however, the North Carolina product was called to duty when veteran Kevin Vickerson suffered a season-ending hip injury. In his absence, Williams has performed well, but is still a bit raw.

Pick 32 (Ravens): Matt Elam – FS, Florida

Elam was quoted recently as being very critical of his game, remarking: “I don’t think I played good at all [this season]”. While Elam’s numbers are nothing to jump about (76 tackles, 1 Int, 3 Passes Defended), they’re perhaps more indicative of a raw talent than anything else. Only 22 years old, the ceiling is plenty high for the former Gator.

Pick 33 (Jaguars): Jonathan Cyprien – FS, FIU

Jonathan Cyprien is your typical small-school climb-up-the-ranks players. After a successful four years with the Panthers of Florida International University, Cyprien’s talent shined through in a draft not loaded with secondary defenders. He continued his success at Jacksonville, as FIU’s all-time leading tackler brought his high motor to the NFL, amassing 98 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack and 1 interception in his rookie campaign. If it weren’t for a surge in popularity in the weeks leading up to the draft, there’s a good chance the Cowboys would have selected Johnathon Cyprien in the 2nd or 3rd round last April.

Sep 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive tackle

Kawann Short

(99) sacks New York Giants quarterback

Eli Manning

(10) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Pick 44 (Panthers): Kawann Short – DT, Purdue

Down in Carolina, Short has been living in the shadow of fellow rookie DT, Star Lotulelei. However, a closer look at his numbers reveals one of the more dominant pass rushers in his class.  Pro Football Focus credits Short with 10 hits on the QB (7th in the league) and 24 total pressures (16th in the league), as pointed out by Brian Beversluis at catscratchreader.com.  Alongside Jason Hatcher, it’s not crazy to suspect Short could have replicated, if not bettered these numbers with Dallas (as he would have gotten more playing time).

In retrospect, the Cowboys should be pleased with their selection of Travis Frederick. While a Reid or Williams / Frederick combo would have been nice, wisdom dictates that when you really like a player, you don’t risk missing out on him. Also, it should be noted that the #74 pick acquired in the trade with San Fran netted starting Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. The move made on draft day was a good one.

A year later, what are your thoughts on the 2013 Draft day trade?  Was it the right move?  What are you hoping for this year?  Sound off in the comments below!