After none of the elite offensive lineman fell to their 18th pick, the Cowboys decided to trade back 13 spots and pick up an extra third-rounder. Usually a team would get a second-round pick from such a trade, so the compensation the team received was slightly questionable even in a weaker draft. Their pick was just as questionable and many in the media thought it may have been the worst first-round pick of the draft. Chris Tripodi breaks down how Dallas fared on draft day.
Travis Frederick/C/Wisconsin (Round 1/Pick #31): While we had Frederick ranked higher than many other outlets, we still had him as just a second-round selection. That makes this pick a reach since centers are rarely given a first-round grade, especially when comparable players like Barrett Jones and Brian Schwenke weren’t taken until the 4th round. With that being said, Frederick is a powerful run blocker who will likely start immediately on a Dallas offensive line that needs help. He isn’t the most agile lineman and needs to improve his balance, but his ability to work with teammates and get to the second level will allow him to have an impact this season.
Gavin Escobar/TE/San Diego State (Round 2/Pick #47): Jason Witten is just 31 and shows no signs of slowing down, making this another interesting pick for Dallas. Escobar is an athletic, pass-catching tight end who can produce in a backup role but with Witten under contract for another five years, he’s unlikely to start anytime soon. This pick likely stemmed from Tony Romo’s overreliance on Witten and Dez Bryant last season with Miles Austin unable to stay healthy. Escobar will give Romo another weapon in the passing game but he timed poorly at the combine (4.84) and may be more of an underneath threat, especially while he develops a somewhat raw skill set in his first few seasons.
Terrance Williams/WR/Baylor (Round 3/Pick #74): Dallas obviously felt a need to add more skill players on offense and by drafting Williams, they were able to add a talented player and a potential starter if Miles Austin continues to struggle with injuries. Many questioned whether Williams could repeat his solid junior season without Robert Griffin III but he actually elevated his game as a senior with 97 receptions, 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns. Williams has good size (6-2, 208) and speed (4.5) so while he isn’t a true deep threat, he has proven ability to make plays down the field. He needs to work on his route-running but playing behind Austin and Dez Bryant should give him the opportunity to refine his game before possibly replacing Austin in the starting lineup if the veteran leaves next offseason.
J.J. Wilcox/S/Georgia Southern (Round 3/Pick #80): Wilcox is a developmental prospect with just one year as a safety under his belt, so it’s not surprising that defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said he was “light years away” from starting at the NFL level during rookie camp. A converted running back, Wilcox is a hard-hitting prospect with good range and solid ball skills as a former offensive player. He’s still inefficient and needs to work on taking better routes and angles to the action, but that’s to be expected from a player with his level of experience. He adds experience as a returner to his value and Wilcox has the upside to be an NFL starter, but he will need to learn quickly to help Dallas as anything more than a special teamer this season.
B.W. Webb/CB/Williams & Mary (Round 4/Pick #114): After drafting a small-school safety with their second 3rd-round pick, Dallas took a small-school cornerback with their 4th rounder. Webb was rarely challenged by opposing quarterbacks in college after making 8 interceptions his freshman season and even at just 5-10, 184 pounds, he plays a physical game with receivers and against the run. He has the speed and instincts to be a very good nickel cornerback and, like J.J. Wilcox, is an experienced returner at the college level. Webb should make an impact right away behind Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr in the Dallas secondary and be one of the team’s key rookies this season.
Joseph Randle/RB/Oklahoma State (Round 5/Pick #151): Randle’s statistics at Oklahoma State were very impressive as he turned in consecutive 1,200-yard seasons with double-digit touchdowns. Those numbers overstate his ability as a runner though, as he fails to stand out in any physical aspect of the game but Randle has great vision and instincts, plays bigger than his size (6-0, 204) and shows skill both as a receiver and a blocker in third-down situations. That third-down ability may forecast his ultimate future in the NFL as a straight-line runner with average size and speed doesn’t project to be much of a starter. Randle will replace Felix Jones as the backup to DeMarco Murray and considering Murray’s injury history, may actually find himself in a starting role at some point this season.
DeVonte Holloman/LB/South Carolina (Round 6/Pick #185): A productive player at South Carolina, Holloman is a sure tackler in the running game and a forceful blitzer. His below-average skills in coverage will be a limiting factor to his NFL potential and his lack of quickness hinders his ability to be effective in anything but a straight line. Holloman has enough skill to be a special teamer and situation player at the NFL level, but will struggle to see the field unless he improves in coverage.
Grade: D+. Many blamed Dallas’ struggles last season on Tony Romo but without his efforts, the Cowboys likely wouldn’t have been in position to win as many games as they could have last season. Jerry Jones made it a point to get him some help along the line and on the outside in the draft, but besides Williams those picks came at questionable value to the team. Even that pick can be questioned though, with a fringe first-round talent like Keenan Allen still on the board. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Cowboys draft this season, but productive careers from Travis Frederick and J.J. Wilcox could boost this grade slightly higher a few years down the line.
Peyton Manning helped put the Broncos back into the playoffs again last season yet they fell disappointingly short in January. The Broncos hoped to add the final pieces on defense which would push them closer to the Super Bowl.
Sylvester Williams/DT/North Carolina (Round 1, pick #28): The Broncos entered the draft with needs at defensive tackle and cornerback. They filled the hole at defensive tackle with one of the best players at the position. Williams offers the versatility to line-up in both three and four man fronts, possesses the playmaking skills to get to the quarterback as well as the athleticism necessary to chase the action laterally in pursuit. He has next level size and plays hard for 60 minutes. I felt all along he was underrated and I fully expect Williams to be a day one starter for Denver.
Montee Ball/RB/Wisconsin (Round 2, pick #58): With depth needed at the running back spot Denver came away with more value in round two. Ball possesses all the necessary skills to be a feature runner in the NFL; size, the power to run on the inside and enough quickness to occasionally turn the corner. His senior campaign was disappointing as were his workouts in the lead up to the draft. If he gets his game back together Ball could end up as Denver’s main ball carrier in 2014.
Kayvon Webster/CB/South Florida (Round 3, pick #90): As much as we like Denver’s initial two selections their choice in round three was a major reach. Webster flashed skill the two years he started at South Florida and comes with desired size/speed numbers. But the fact is Webster did not consistently play at a high level in college and better cornerbacks (BW Webb, Sanders Commings) were available at this pick.
Quanterus Smith/DE-OLB/Western Kentucky (Round 5, pick #146): Hall of Fame coach and general manager Bill Walsh made a habit of selecting talented but injured players late in the draft. When asked why he simply responded “injuries heal.” So it is with the Broncos selection in round five. Smith is a pass rushing menace who is effective standing up over tackle or coming out of a three point stance. He was moving up draft boards until his 2012 season was prematurely ended by a torn ACL in his left knee. Smith was great value in the fifth frame and will add depth at defensive end once he’s back to full health.
Tavarres King/WR/Georgia (Round 5, pick #161): Like running back, the Broncos lack depth at the receiver position. Demaryius Thomas is developing into a lethal threat and Wes Welker was a nice free agent pick-up, but there’s not much on the roster after that. Enter King, an athletic receiver with consistent hands and the ability to line up in the slot or on the flank. King lacks great upside yet comes with a polished game and should see significant action as a rookie in 2013.
Vinston Painter/OL/Virginia Tech (Round 6, pick #173): Painter was terrific value in round six. He’s a versatile blocker who can line up at tackle or guard and a late bloomer with a large degree of upside. He’s a developmental prospect with a future in the NFL. We’d be surprised if Painter does not somehow make a practice squad this fall.
Zac Dysert/QB/Miami-Oh (Round 7, pick #234): In a nutshell, why not? Dysert was early second day value but slid into the last round. Depending on how much they like Brock Osweiler, their second round pick from 2012, it may be tough for Dysert to elevate above third signal caller on the roster. Still, he could be future trade bait if he shows anything in the pre-season.
Grade: B. Denver filled needs with value picks in the first two rounds, added depth at pass rusher and receiver in the fifth frame, selected a developmental prospect in round six then finished the draft with future trade bait. The reason we don’t give this draft a higher grade was the selection of Webster in round three. Regardless, the Denver Broncos leave the draft a better team, on paper anyway.
As Philip Rivers struggled through the 2012 season, so did the Chargers. Placing the blame on Rivers is shortsighted though, as his offensive line struggled to keep him upright, his receivers disappointed or got hurt and the San Diego running game couldn’t get going all season. The Chargers did their best to fix those issues in April’s draft but will it be enough to bring them back to the playoffs in 2013? Chris Tripodi is back to break down San Diego’s draft.
D.J. Fluker/T/Alabama (Round 1/Pick #11): With the top left tackle prospects coming off the board in the draft’s top four picks, San Diego had to settle for the draft’s best right tackle prospect in Fluker. The Chargers may still struggle to protect Philip Rivers’ blind side, but Fluker is a huge prospect (6-4, 339) with the strength and agility to be a dominant force on the offensive line. He will need to work on finishing blocks in the NFL and containing speed rushers off the edge, but his talent level is impressive and Fluker has the upside to be one of the league’s best on the right side. The Chargers would be wise to leave him there and not toy with the idea of moving him to left tackle, despite a gaping hole at the position.
Manti Te’o/LB/Notre Dame (Round 2/Pick #38): A horrible performance in the BCS Championship Game is being partially blamed for Te’o’s fall into the second round, but it’s possible that was just a national display of the weaknesses that NFL evaluators already knew existed in his game. Nonetheless, the Charges jumped at the opportunity to trade up for Te’o, giving Arizona their fourth-round pick to move up from pick 45 to take the Heisman Trophy finalist. Te’o’s lack of speed should be masked in San Diego’s 3-4 defense and playing next to Donald Butler should help him adjust to the NFL. His ball skills earned him plenty of accolades in college and the former Irish star has a good chance to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL as long as his speed doesn’t hurt him in coverage. He’s a better tackler than he showed against Alabama and landed in a good spot for his talent to be utilized.
Keenan Allen/WR/California (Round 3/Pick #76): A lingering knee injury cost Allen dearly in the draft process, as he was once considered the top receiver available but fell all the way to the 3rd round. The Chargers were more than happy to stop Allen’s fall and while his slow recovery brought on questions about his work ethic, quieting those doubters will make Allen one of the draft’s best value picks. With Robert Meachem proving to be a free agent bust and only injury-prone receivers Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown entrenched on the depth chart, Allen could emerge as Philip Rivers’ favorite target if he proves healthy. A very solid possession receiver with good size (6-2, 206) and playmaking ability after the catch, Allen would be a great complement to a big-play threat like Alexander on the outside.
Steve Williams/CB/California (Round 5/Pick #145): Standing just 5-9 and 181 pounds, Williams’ greatest asset is his sub-4.4 speed but he is more of an athlete at this stage of his career than a football player. He plays strong against the run despite his small stature but is unlikely to be much of a contributor to San Diego’s defensive backfield in 2013 and will need time to develop better coverage instincts. If he does, Williams can be an effective nickel or dime back for San Diego down the line.
Tourek Williams/DE/Florida International (Round 6/Pick #179): A defensive end in college, Williams will transition to outside linebacker in the NFL and is faster and more athletic than his 4.92 40-yard dash at the combine would lead you to believe. Williams is quick off the snap and around the edge, shows good ability in pursuit and can drop into coverage as well. His size (6-3, 260) makes it difficult for him to shed blocks quickly, but he should be a solid backup in San Diego if his talents translate quickly to the NFL from the small-school level
Brad Sorensen/QB/Southern Utah (Round 7/Pick #221): Sorensen has the size (6-4, 229) and arm strength to be an intriguing NFL prospect but while his college production was consistent, he was essentially the same player as a senior that he was as a sophomore. He saw his completion percentage drop from 68% to 62% in his final year at Southern Utah and has consistent issues overthrowing receivers and making them adjust for passes. His footwork and ability to read the field also need a lot of work for Sorensen to stick as an NFL quarterback. He can be a productive backup if he puts it all together, but Sorensen’s lack of development at the college level makes that scenario unlikely.
Grade: B+. What San Diego’s draft lacked in depth it more than made up for in top-shelf talent. The Chargers got three players who were in first-round consideration at one point and took advantage of red flags from the pre-draft process to get good value on Manti Te’o and Keenan Allen, both of whom should be important contributors now and in the future. This draft was a step in the right direction for a team looking to finally move on from the A.J. Smith and Norv Turner era.