Cowboys: Can This Player Change A Bad Trend?


The Dallas Cowboys are hoping that a recent second-round draft choice can change a pattern of wasted picks in this round that never panned out.

The Dallas Cowboys may have their share of talented football players on the current roster, but this is in no part thanks to the team’s drafting in the second round. America’s Team is hoping that this trend has already come to an end and that the proof of that fact is now becoming visible.

The first player to suggest that second-round drafting by the Cowboys has be on the upswing is 2014 selection Demarcus Lawrence, the second-year pass rusher from Boise State that came on strong late last year after missing the first half of the season due to injury.

If you happened to catch the beginning of the Cowboys victory over the Washington Redskins on Week 13, you couldn’t miss the presence of Lawrence. The speed rusher picked up his fourth career sack on the first play of the game and then picked up his fifth just two plays later – the last one caused a fumble that was recovered by Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Lawrence also had a big tackle for a loss in the third quarter of that game on 3rd and 1 that stopped a potentially damaging drive for Washington. Instead of continuing a march that had reached the Dallas 16 yard line for a potential touchdown, the ‘Skins were forced to settle for a field goal and a narrow 6-3 lead.

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Back to those issues in the second round of previous drafts.

Beyond outside linebacker Sean Lee, you can’t count a single player that’s ended up making much, if any, impact with the Cowboys for a very long time. You have to go all the way back to 2002 and the selection of offensive guard Andre Gurode to find a player that made a mark as a starter.

Starting with the new millennium, Dallas kicked things off with cornerback Dwayne Goodrich as their first selection in the 2000 NFL Draft – the Cowboys didn’t have a first-round pick that year thanks to the Joey Galloway acquisition just prior. The Goodrich story ended up being one of tremendous tragedy and I’m going down that road again.

In 2001, still with no first-round pick, the Cowboys went with quarterback Quincy Carter and safety Tony Dixon. Neither player, especially Carter, ended up meeting expectations in any way.

In 2003, then-new head coach Bill Parcells chose guard/center Al Johnson in Round 2 and got little on that investment. Having chosen Gurode the season prior, Johnson could never fend of the eventual Pro Bowler, who was also quite over-rated.

In 2004, Dallas went with offensive tackle Jacob Rogers. Injuries forced his fall in the draft that year and they also limited the former USC star to just a couple of seasons with the Cowboys.

After two strong first-round choices in the 2005 NFL Draft, one of which was franchise sack leader DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys chose quick linebacker Kevin Burnett to man one of the two inside linebacker spots in Dallas’ new 3-4 scheme. This was a future journeyman who was with the San Diego Chargers by 2009.

Now, if you thought that this particular run of six drafts was bad, just wait – it gets worse.

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Despite the presence of future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten, who’s still a cog in the Dallas offense, the Cowboys opted to select tight end Anthony Fasano. By the following season, new head coach Wade Phillips and overly privileged offensive coordinator Jason Garrett decided that Fasano didn’t fit the new offensive scheme. Fasano was with the Miami Dolphins by 2008.

The Cowboys had no second round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, so not to be outdone where useless second-round tight ends are concerned, the Cowboys chose Martellus Bennett in 2008. I think that this name alone tells the story.

In 2009, no second round pick again in what might very well be the worst draft in Dallas Cowboys history – think about that. When you don’t pick until the third round – well, never mind.

The aforementioned Lee was obviously chosen in 2010, which brings us to the selection of Bruce Carter in 2011, a guy who played the 4-3 at North Carolina and was never really a fit in the Dallas 3-4. By the time the Cowboys scrapped the awful 3-4 experiment, Carter neither had done enough nor stayed healthy enough to warrant an extension once his rookie contract was up.

The ridiculous acquisition of cornerback Morris Claiborne in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft cost the Cowboys their second-round selection as well – think about that too.

Finally, 2013 brought us the next in a line of successive and useless tight ends chosen in the second round despite the ongoing presence of Witten, which is pretty stupid – and don’t get me started on this ‘best player available’ crap. Heading into Week 14 of this season, Escobar has all of 26 career catches and has never reached double digits in receptions.

Which brings us back to Lawrence, a player that some felt the Cowboys might have reached for during the ’14 NFL Draft. This may be true, but Lawrence might be starting to illustrate a change in second-round draft quality by the Cowboys.

In addition to his stellar performance in Washington D.C., Lawrence also came up big during last season’s playoff run.

Most will recall Lawrence recovering and then losing a fumble forced by defensive end Anthony Spencer during the closing moments of last season’s wild card playoff win over the Detroit Lions. Eight plays later, Lawrence sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford himself, forced a fumble and recovered it to clinch the win with a minute remaining.

Some may recall that Lawrence had one of Dallas’ two sacks the following week against the Packers during the divisional playoff loss at Lambeau Field.

So, counting last season’s two playoff games, Lawrence actually has seven sacks in his last 13 football games played – postseason stats don’t actually count, remember. Nonetheless, those plays do count literally and it amounts to almost a sack every other game by Lawrence during that stretch.

No, it’s not the stuff of a Pro Bowl defensive end, but Lawrence is definitely on the rise seeing as how he’s sort of a ‘rookie-plus’ given the amount of time he missed during his first season of ’14.

Time will tell whether or not Lawrence proves that the Cowboys draft strategy in the second round has improved. The development of 2015 second-round pick Randy Gregory, another young pass rusher, will do the same in the near future. Like Lawrence at this time a year ago, Gregory has made next to zero impact during his first season, this despite having been projected as a first-round talent during this year’s draft.

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Perhaps the biggest indicator of Dallas’ improvement in this area will be whether or not the Cowboys win the NFC East. If this is to happen over the final four weeks of the regular season, the defense will have to continue playing a major role, and second rounders like Lawrence and Gregory will have to play a major role in that effort.