The Cowboys entered April’s draft with needs on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The expectations were to acquire a player or two which would help the organization take the next step and get deeper into the playoffs. Speculation was rampant the team would look towards the offensive line in round one. Yet when highly desired players at other positions fell in rounds one and two, Dallas moved aggressively to grab both prospects.
When Dez Bryant started to free fall in the first round the Cowboys worked the phones then made a trade to acquire the talented pass catcher. Bryant’s on the field talents are obvious to all. He’s a game controlling wide out with underrated speed, and a dominant player when on his game. His off the field issues have been well documented. In the end Bryant is very much a boom or bust pick; if he hits on all cylinders on the field and matures off of it, Bryant could be the steal of the draft. Yet if the former Oklahoma State junior continues with an immature attitude towards the small details there will be a lot of shoulda, woulda, coulda’s spoken whenever his name is mentioned.
Sean Lee was a player several teams coveted and when the linebacker was still on the board as round two was nearing the end, the Cowboys again made a move to secure a player they wanted. Lee is a talented linebacker who blends physical and mental skills as well as a lot of toughness to get the job done. Prior to the knee injury which shelved him for the ’08 season, Lee was graded as a potential top 20 pick by most. Questions about a separate knee injury surfaced leading up to April’s draft but the Cowboys are confident Lee is fully healthy. Like their first round pick, Lee is a player with a nice upside but also comes with downside risk, this case in the form of injured knees.
The team again went for value, selecting Akwasi Owusu-Ansah in the fourth round. The small school defensive back is a talented prospect with a great deal of upside. He’s not nearly as NFL ready as some are making him out to be and Owusu-Ansah is coming off of shoulder surgery which may keep him on the sidelines until July. At the very least he should be a competent nickel/dime back that can also produce on special teams, something he did well in college.
Sam Young was the choice in round six. We’ve never been high on Young, who we thought underachieved at Notre Dame, but he was worth a roll of the dice in the late part of the draft. He has the size and growth potential scouts want in a developmental right tackle. Young does not possess the strength or killer mentality at this point yet is a guy with a good amount of upside.
Dallas again went with somewhat of an underachiever later in the sixth frame, drafting cornerback Jamar Wall. The Texas Tech senior flashed skill throughout his college career yet never showed NFL-speed for the position. Wall struggled with a hamstring injury in the months leading to the draft, which further depressed his draft grade. He has all the skills necessary to be a quality dime back/special teams player at the next level and we would not be surprised if Wall finds a way onto the active roster.
Sean Lissemore was a bit of a surprise pick in round seven, yet the type of player who has the mentality and work ethic to have a long NFL career. Lissemore needs to improve his functional football strength yet is a defensive lineman who could be an asset on a roster.
Grade (B-): There are a number of ways to look at this draft. From a talent point of view one could justifiably hand Dallas a grade of “A” based on the initial three selections plus the potential of the late round picks. But that would be telling half the story as the players at the top of this collection come with downside risk, as we described. We feel confident this draft will work out for the franchise. Bryant is a young kid (as we all were, or are) and his draft day plunge should be an eye opener. Assuming he has no setbacks, Lee should get stronger and back to prior playing form as time goes by. This is the ultimate “wait and see” draft.