Dallas Cowboys: Ridiculously Premature Final Draft Grades

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State poses after being picked #19 overall by the Dallas Cowboys during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State poses after being picked #19 overall by the Dallas Cowboys during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Grading the Dallas Cowboys draft picks before they ever even see an NFL field is crazy, but since post-draft grades are a staple of Hangover Sunday, let’s do it anyway!

As the oxymoron-esque title indicates, this is the Dallas Cowboys’ admittedly premature, yet final, grades for the 2018 NFL Draft. How these players actually perform at an NFL level remains to be seen, but this isn’t really about that.

If we’re really being honest, post-draft grades are about value just as much as they are about speculation. When teams inevitably reach for “need”, they leave behind bargains that slip through the cracks. When a high-value player falls and a team picks them up in a later round – they are awarded positive grades. Similarly, when a team reaches and selects a player BEFORE they were slotted to go, that team is penalized with negative grades.

All of this assumes, of course, the football community is correct in their overall assessment and draft board positioning of said players. And as we know, assuming that is what we’re doing, even though we know every single year we’re wrong. But why should we let logic and reason rain on our parade?

Reserving judgment may be the mature and responsible thing to do but that’s just plain old boring. So let’s act irresponsible and apply some wild speculation, bold judgments, and value-based grading, shall we?

Day 1

From the moment the Dallas Cowboys made their first pick at draft slot no. 19, our local boo-birds were out in force. Yours truly was overcome by an erupting sense of “meh” when Dallas picked linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (LVE).

For those who have been following the draft, LVE was hardly a surprise. He was heavily linked to the Cowboys for weeks now. While the national media thought receiver was the target, Cowboys Nation knew otherwise.

For as uninspiring as adding a third linebacker is, it’s a position of need and a player with high-end potential. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the second best linebacker in the draft (behind Roquan Smith), LVE was a beast last season at Boise State. He has the size and ability that translate to the next level and he could be a core player in the not-too-distant future.

While better options were on the board at or near when the Cowboys were picking, LVE doesn’t look like a totally blown pick. He’s a true high-risk/high-reward type guy and if the defensive line can’t keep blockers off this free-running ‘backer from Boise, he may be ineffective.

Grade: C+

Day 2

While Day 1 disappointed most of Cowboys Nation, Day 2 appeared to make up for it. I think Harry said it best when he told Lloyd:

"“Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you do something like this… AND TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!”"

Offensive lineman, Connor Williams, a man I once mocked to Dallas in the first round, inexplicably fell to the Cowboys at pick 50. As PFF’s No 2 OT in the draft and 15th best player overall, Dallas got an enormous bargain in the second round. He’s an instant starter and potentially makes the Cowboys running game unstoppable in 2018.

Joining Williams in the Day 2 win column is Michael Gallup. Considered by many as the most polished receiver not named Calvin Ridley in the draft, Gallup has an impressive track record of success (100 receptions last season) and ability to play all three receiver spots including outside at the now-vacated X spot.

Grade: A

Related Story: Michael Gallup - Year 1 starter for Cowboys

Day 3

Dallas is known for making some curious moves and finding tremendous bargains on Day 3 of the draft. Figuring out which are exactly which is often debatable. But getting QB Mike White from Western Kentucky constitutes a pretty big bargain. Dallas absolutely loves White, both on and off the field, and when the guy with a third round grade fell into the fifth round, they pounced. Day 3 QBs rarely pan out in the NFL but it’s nice to see the investment considering it’s the most important position in football.

If QB is the most important position, pass-rusher is the second most important position. Dorance Armstrong Jr appears to be a DeMarcus Lawrence clone based on some measurables.

He fell because his ’17 film isn’t nearly as good as his ’16 film but he has the skills and production that make him a good traits player with sub package potential in 2018. Tight end, Dalton Schultz, plays a position of need and is as well-rounded of a TE as there is in this class. With Witten likely retiring, this 4th round pick has TE1 potential in 2018.

WR Cedric Wilson is known to be a solid route-runner with position flex along the receiving ranks. He’s played his best when matched up against better competition and it stands to reason the jump to the NFL will not be too big for the 6’3” receiver out of Boise State.

Day 3 Grade: B

It’s not only possible, but it’s likely, the Dallas Cowboys will have four 2018 starters when all is said and done (LVE as a top-3 LB, Williams as starting lineman, Gallup as a top-3 WR, and Schultz as the top TE).

Next: Tavon Austin joins the Cowboys

It would have been nice to have found a free safety and a 1-Technique defensive tackle but it’s possible the Cowboys just didn’t see the value in that and have plans for players already on the roster. Only time will tell how these kids really pan out for the Cowboys but based on value and wildly irresponsible assumptions, this looks like a pretty darn good draft class.

Final Grade: B+