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How The Cowboys' 2013 Draft Class Stacks Up

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The Cowboys selected CB Morris Claiborne from LSU with their first-round pick in 2012, but essentially passed on his former teammate and safety Eric Reid in 2013. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.
The Cowboys selected CB Morris Claiborne from LSU with their first-round pick in 2012, but essentially passed on his former teammate and safety Eric Reid in 2013. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

As much as we love to dish out premature grades and snap judgments after the draft, most football fans realize that production across time is the best test of draft class efficacy. The Cowboys’ selection of Wisconsin offensive lineman Travis Frederick at No. 31 was surprising. But it’s only a reprehensible move if you think forfeiting a much-needed, talented safety in LSU’s Eric Reid to the NFC’s best team wasn’t so smart — which it wasn’t.

Dallas really needed a top safety. One year after jumping eight spots at the last minute to tap into the best defensive back talent pool in college football — à la Morris Claiborne — the Cowboys steered themselves away from it when they needed it more than the year before.

Riddle me that.

The trade for a simple third-round pick that ultimately sent Reid to San Francisco was deplorable but, beyond that, it’s too early to label this draft a definitive hit or miss. Frederick represents a general boost to a struggling unit; not a jackpot piece that solves the problem. The next two picks, TE Gavin Escobar from San Diego State and WR Terrance Williams out of Baylor, look like solid receiving options. As Dan Graziano points out in a story defending the Cowboys, their picks exemplify coherence and logic, and reflect the fact that the franchise’s future is squarely in Tony Romo’s hands.

The disastrous class of 2009 is well-documented. The vehemence that surrounds some pundits’ disapproval with the class of 2013 suggests the two are comparable — we won’t go that far. There are too many variables: the inevitability of injuries, the impact of coaching and the array of metrics others use in valuing picks. But this draft class certainly looks like a regression from the last three years. At least then, the Cowboys were savvier early in the process.

Claiborne is a physical corner who should function well in Monte Kiffin’s defense. As for other 2012 picks, DE Tyrone Crawford has yet to find his groove, but OLB Kyle Wilber and S Matt Johnson are sure to see more reps this year. TE James Hanna, the sixth player taken in 2012, now has some competition to incentivize his production.

2010 gave Dallas a can’t-miss receiver in Dez Bryant and a savvy middle linebacker to make the calls in Sean Lee. 2011 saw the Cowboys land Tyron Smith, a respectable blind-side blocker, with their first-round pick. In addition to Smith, they also landed workhorse RB DeMarco Murray and breakout defender Bruce Carter.

On a side note, sixth is an interesting spot. In each of the last three seasons, the sixth man chosen by Dallas has cracked the regular rotation: Hanna, WR Dwayne Harris and DT Sean Lissemore. This year, that player is RB Joseph Randle from Oklahoma State, who represents yet another thin position whose importance was downgraded during draft weekend.

While everybody clamors about late-round picks that wind up contributing, few remember those who fell off. It’s the top picks that have to materialize to keep management’s head off the chopping block. Once Claiborne develops a little more, the Cowboys’ top picks from the 2010-2012 drafts will be completely justified.

2013 is tainted with the squandering of a No. 18 pick. But three full years came and went between two egregious blunders (remember the Roy Williams trade in 2009, which is the reason Dallas had no first-round pick). And let’s not forget, 2009 was the last year the Cowboys made the playoffs. Maybe a lackluster draft class isn’t so foreboding after all.