While the 2018 NFL Draft has concluded, the evaluations of each teams’ haul have only just begun. The hosts of the NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys, are the focus of this evaluation. The Cowboys’ nine selections and two trades over the weekend are highlighted below:
First round, 19th overall: Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State
Second round, 50th overall: Connor Williams, guard, Texas
Third round, 81st overall: Michael Gallup, wide receiver, Colorado State
Fourth round, 116th overall: Dorance Armstrong Jr., defensive end, Kansas
Fourth round, 137th overall: Dalton Schultz, tight end, Stanford
Fifth round, 171st overall: Mike White, quarterback, Western Kentucky
Sixth round, 193rd overall: Chris Covington, linebacker, Indiana
Sixth round, 208th overall: Cedrick Wilson, wide receiver, Boise State
Seventh round, 236th overall: Bo Scarbrough, running back, Alabama
On Saturday, Dallas also traded their sixth-round, 192nd overall, pick for Los Angeles Rams running back/wide receiver, Tavon Austin. The Cowboys were searching for running back who would add speed to the offence and be a threat in passing situations. Once the targeted players for the Cowboys were drafted, they pulled the trigger on acquiring the former top 10 selection. In 2017, Austin carried the ball a career-high 59 times and averaged 4.6 yards-per-carry. Austin has never fully made the impact he was drafted for but has always remained a threat in space. The Cowboys will look to utilize his game-breaking ability in 2018.
Similarly to the wide receiver and linebacker position, the Cowboys double-dipped on trades during the draft. In a surprising move, Dallas sent 2017 fourth-round wide receiver, Ryan Switzer, to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for 2016 second-round defensive tackle, Jihad Ward. With the selections of Gallup and Wilson, the Cowboys felt Switzer was expendable. Ward was a top 30 pre-draft visit in 2016 for the Cowboys, and with an unfulfilled need at defensive tackle, Dallas made the decision. Despite being selected in the second round two seasons ago, Ward has only accumulated one career sack and 17 tackles in 21 games.
Cowboys 2018 Draft Grade: 8.5/10
Dallas Cowboys 2018 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Leighton Vander Esch
Not only is Vander Esch the Cowboys best selection, he is also able to fill the greatest need and has the highest ceiling. The Cowboys have dealt with countless injuries at the linebacker position and Vander Esch helps alleviate that issue. Vander Esch will be given the opportunity to make an immediate impact as the Cowboys will be deploying a three-linebacker approach often in 2018.
Vander Esch’s career at Boise only featured one season of starting production, yet the performance he displayed showed the influence the former Bruin can provide. His athleticism, size, and coverage ability bode well for the once thin Cowboys linebacking core.
The Head-Scratcher: Dalton Schultz
The actual selection of the Stanford tight end was not head-scratching in itself, but shocking because of who was left on the board. The very next selection after Schultz featured Michigan defensive tackle, Maurice Hurst. Hurst had fallen in the draft due to health concerns, yet still remained on the Dallas board.
The selection of Hurst not only would have filled a glaring need, but Hurst would have provided first round talent at a premium. All those associated with the Cowboys will be keeping a close eye on Hurst and what they may have missed out on. Nonetheless, Schultz is a talented blocking tight end who presents a big target and soft hands. Schultz will look to continue the trend of successful Stanford tight ends in the NFL.
The Surprise: Mike White
With Dak Prescott and preseason star Cooper Rush on the roster, the selection of Mike White came as a surprise. White is a quality quarterback prospect who also was one of the winners of the Senior Bowl. At Western Kentucky, White posted one of the nation’s top passer ratings and a 67:14 touchdown-interception ratio in his final two seasons.
With many of the Cowboys needs already filled, Dallas added to its talented and youthful quarterback room. White was considered one of the top sleeper prospects and the Cowboys took advantage of his fall. As many NFL fans are aware, teams can never have too many quality quarterbacks.
The Steal: Connor Williams
Once regarded as a top-five pick in this years’ draft, Connor Williams fell to number 50 overall. The Texas left tackle received skepticism as a 2016 injury impacted his junior season. Fortunately for Williams, he will have the opportunity to play with four first-round calibre offensive lineman in Dallas.
For Dallas, a left guard was among the targets entering the draft. Williams presented himself as an option in a stage of the draft that few saw him reaching and Dallas took advantage. The Cowboys now have a plug-and-play left guard to take their offensive line to an even higher level.
Most Likely To Turn Heads in Training Camp: Michael Gallup
Prior to the draft, saying the Cowboys needed help at receiver was an understatement. With the addition of Michael Gallup, Dallas found a day two receiver who can make an enormous impact on the offense. Gallup presents a strong and physical target, similar to Dez Bryant. In his senior season, Gallup hauled in 100 catches for 1,418 yards and seven touchdowns.
The third-round receiver has the ability to high point catches in the red zone and is an impressive route runner. The attributes Gallup possesses will help the Colorado State receiver make an impression in training camp and ultimately compete for a starting spot. It appears, for now, the Cowboys have found a solution to their lacklustre receiving core.
There were reports following the end of the third round that the Cowboys considered moving back up for a prospect. Miraculously, in the fourth round, they still got their guy. Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr. fits the mold the Cowboys highly covet for their defensive ends. Despite being a part of a losing team, Armstrong Jr. displayed relentless hustle and the physical traits to make an impact. He will be a rotational player with the opportunity to see increased repetitions throughout the year.
In the off-season, the Cowboys lost key special team players. In the fifth round, they added Chris Covington from Indiana who will provide linebacker depth and contribute on special teams. According to Pro Football Focus, Covington ranked ninth in tackling efficiency among linebacker prospects. His high tackling efficiency and above-average athleticism will bring much-needed support for the Cowboys.
Along with the addition of Austin for a sixth-round pick, Dallas also selected Cedrick Wilson in the sixth round. The second Boise State player selected in this draft is another big bodied receiver who is able to locate the ball in the air and go get it. The Cowboys have moved towards receivers who can create after the catch to support Prescott’s strengths. Wilson’s senior year featured a career-high 83 receptions for 1,511 yards and seven touchdowns. Similar to Gallup, Wilson was extremely productive in college and will look to make an impact from lower on the depth chart.
The last selection of the Cowboys draft came as surprise as they selected Alabama running back, Bo Scarbrough. Scarbrough is a physically intimidating runner as he stands at 6’2” and weighs 235 pounds. Unfortunately for Scarbrough, he was vastly underused at Alabama, hurting his production and draft stock. Despite the lack of production, Scarbrough displays elite size and moves well for being a running back. To go along with his feature, Scarbrough will have the opportunity to bully defenses behind the league’s top offensive line. The Cowboys have formed a stable of very capable and dangerous running backs who will impose their will on defense for four quarters.
Overall, Dallas finished the NFL Draft with one of the best hauls in the league. Not only were they able to fill gaping holes on the roster, but they found value with each selection. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cowboys were one of three teams to earn the grade of “elite”.
The rookie class of 2018 will look to be successful, similarly to the 2017 Class, Dallas put together. The Cowboys utilized their 10 selections to add high-ceiling and high-character players. Dallas values their draft selections and allows them to compete for an opportunity to make a difference. Look for the Cowboys to deploy at least two rookie starters this upcoming season as they gear up for another run at the postseason in Big D.
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