Sports Outside the Beltway

Grading the Dallas Cowboys 2007 Draft

NFL Draft Logo 2007 As those reading my live blog may have gathered, I wasn’t very impressed with the Dallas Cowboys’ 2007 draft. It started off great, with Jerry Jones getting the Cleveland Browns’ 2008 1st rounder in exchange for the rights to draft Brady Quinn and then trading with Philly to get back into the 1st to take Anthony Spencer, the pass rushing OLB/DE they wanted all along. From there, though it went downhill fast, as the team took neither the “best player available” nor players in positions of need. I’d give them a C-, but only because I’m assuming the Cleveland pick will allow the team to draft an impact player next year.

Here’s who the Cowboys drafted:

    1 (26) Anthony Spencer LB, Purdue
    3 (67) James Marten OT, Boston College
    4 (103) Isaiah Stanback WR, Washington
    4 (122) Doug Free OT, Northern Illinois
    6 (178) Nick Folk K, Arizona
    6 (195) Deon Anderson FB, Connecticut
    7 (212) Courtney Brown CB, Cal-Poly
    7 (237) Alan Ball CB, Illinois

Anthony Spencer Photo LSU Uni Dallas Cowboys .comJames Marten Boston College Photo Dallas Cowboys .comIsaiah Stanback Photo Washington Huskies Dallas Cowboys .ocmDoug Free Northern Illinois Photo Dallas Cowboys .com

Nick Folk Arizona Kicker Photo Dallas Cowboys .comDeon Anderson UConn Photo Dallas Cowboys .comCourtney Brown Dallas Cowboys Photo Alan Ball Dallas Cowboys Photo

For the most part, the experts seem to agree with my skepticism.

Dallas Morning News Hall of Fame scribe Rick Gosselin gives the Cowboys a “D” for their performance, and I fear he’s right:

The Cowboys picked up an extra first-rounder in 2008, but that didn’t help them in this draft. Marten and Free are blue-collar blockers and those were two of the better picks. Stanback is coming off a foot injury.

Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is a bit less harsh, giving them a “C+.”

The Cowboys got the player they coveted in Anthony Spencer, and a first-round choice next season to boot. In the process, they passed on Brady Quinn. “I think the way we feel about Tony [Romo] and his potential definitely was reflected in the fact we didn’t draft Quinn,” owner-GM Jerry Jones told reporters. The Cowboys now could have five first-round picks in their front seven.

Mickey Spagnola bucks the trend gives Jerry Jones an “A-.” Now, sure, Jones signs his checks. But he’s a reasonable guy and makes a good case. He gives Jones props for not trading DeMarcus Ware and half this draft to Detroit to get Calvin Johnson or taking the bait and re-setting the quarterback development clock by taking Brady Quinn.

For that, bump a B draft to an A- because not only did the Cowboys not make a wrong turn, not only did they do what they set out to accomplish once the draft clock began ticking at 11 a.m. Saturday, they came away with an extra first-round pick for the 2008 draft.


Look, this was not a particularly strong draft. Not after you got past the first round. Maybe even shorter than that. Come on, tell the truth. You got bored around the middle of the second round. The must-haves of past years suddenly began turning into who-dats. There were few recognizable names to the layman in the third round. By the fourth or fifth, forget it.

Maybe the Cowboys were lucky, and that’s why they didn’t fight this draft. They didn’t try to turn water into wine. They simply said, let’s just grab the best water we can. Who knows, some with refinement just might turn into sparkling stuff. And they didn’t try to out-slick themselves because, as Jones said before the draft, their bases were covered. There just wasn’t anything they had to do, especially with the first pick.

And I think that is exhibited by the array of ideas you guys have been suggesting for the past month. Some of you thought they needed a wide receiver. Some were penciled in for a defensive tackle. Some for a corner. Some for a safety. Some for a pass rusher. There was no consensus pick, and I’m figuring if there was, you guys would have nailed the obvious. Maybe even me, too.

Thus, with no right pick, no reason to fight this draft. Just follow your plans.

So they began Saturday with the idea of selecting a corner or a receiver or a pass rusher in the first round. That is why ending up with Anthony Spencer and next year’s first after trading back into the first round is a really good thing. Sky is the limit next year and maybe the ground will be the future destination for opposing quarterbacks this year if surrounded by enough pressure Cowboys.

Then there was there idea of preparing the offensive line for the future. Yeah, even you could see that. I mean, you can’t keep doing what Jones did this year, spending $30 million in signing bonuses for three offensive linemen after spending $13 million over the previous two years for two guys. That’s hurts, but it’s the price of fouling up the past several years. So they went into this draft with an eye on Boston College street-mauling tackle James Marten, and snagged him in the third. Then spent a fourth on offensive tackle Doug Free. Overkill? Like what now happens to Pat McQuistan, last year’s seventh-round tackle they liked so much? Can you say left guard, possibly creating a little inexpensive competition for Kyle Kosier while grooming youngin’s for the future?

Now then, remember, no glaring needs. So they take a flier on a great athlete, this Isaiah Stanback from Washington. He masqueraded as a quarterback at Washington, but man, you should see this guy run. He’s just a ball player; just get the ball in his hands. They will try, throwing it to him. But you could hand it to him. Or you could have him receive kicks. Hey why not, because at that point in the draft this kid had a dimension guys playing traditional positions didn’t have. I mean, you guys were all ga-ga over Woody Dantzler? Well, Woody might become a poor man’s Isaiah Stanback if this Seattle-area athlete’s foot fully heals.

Then throw in a fullback – a real fullback – and two more corners. Remember, you can never have enough corners. Hey, Courtney Brown and Alan Ball basically are here to stare down Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones. They are in their fourth seasons, and scheduled to make $850,000. Well, what if you find better – or better potential – for $285,000?

And that leaves us the kicker, Nick Folk. Someone said it would be a cold day in hell when the Cowboys draft a kicker. (Might have been me.) Hey, we thought it would be a cold day in hell before Jones plucked down a $2.5 million signing bonus for a kicker. Well, in consecutive years he’s done both. Global warming must not be making the down under scene. But again, what would you rather have, the consensus best kicker at the combine or maybe in the sixth round some spare nose tackle or inside linebacker or someone with questionable character and little chance to make the team? Kick that around a tad.

Yeah, yeah, I know they didn’t get a receiver. But amend that to a traditional receiver. I’m guessing Stanback has more talent in his left thumb than any of those remaining receivers at that point did in their entire beings. I know they didn’t get the big bodied nose to back up Jason Ferguson or a safety, which really they didn’t need, or the inside linebacker. But you can’t get everything, and in this draft what you were getting on a shallow second day in a traditional sense might not have been worth your while anyway.

Before you start calling Spags a homer, know that ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper gave the team a “B.”

Purdue’s Anthony Spencer — who I think has a chance to be the rookie of the year — gives Dallas a great pass-rusher opposite DeMarcus Ware. James Marten provides good security behind tackle Flozell Adams, who will be a free agent after next season. Isaiah Stanback will move from QB to wide receiver, and I really liked the pick of tackle Doug Free in the fourth round because he has a lot of talent. Dallas took place-kicker Nick Folk when Mason Crosby was still on the board; Deon Anderson will be an excellent lead blocker at fullback, and Courtney Brown has the necessary skills to be a developmental cornerback.

It’s still early and more grades, including fan grades, will come out in the next day or three. I’ll keep an eye out and add the best to this collection.

UPDATE: USA Today‘s Tom Weir gives the Cowboys three stars out of a possible four.

The bottom line is swap-savvy Jerry Jones manipulated a first-round pick in 2008 by giving up third and fifth-round picks this year. LB Anthony Spencer is a solid pass rusher. But if QB Tony Romo doesn’t rebound from a late-season slide, the Cowboys could regret passing on Brady Quinn.

The Sporting News NFL Expert War Room scouts gave the Cowboys a “B-”. But they are guilty of some serious grade inflation, giving every team a “C” or better!

After two solid picks at the top of the draft in DE Anthony Spencer and OT James Marten, the Cowboys took a number of players who are better athletes than football players at this point.

Former Texas GM Charley Casserly judges without grades.

The Cowboys wheeled and dealed themselves into a first-round pick for next year, which gives them two in ’08.

In the first round they took OLB Anthony Spencer. This might have been a reach value-wise, but if you are a 3-4 defense, you have to have these types of players and they are hard to find. I do not believe Bobby Carpenter is a good enough pass rusher to fit the bill. Greg Ellis was a big loss last year when he got injured and that was the biggest reason the Cowboys defense suffered the second half of last season. Spencer gives them an alternate if Ellis is not ready. Spencer reminds me of Shaun Phillips of the Chargers who has played very well for them. Their next two picks have value too. OT James Marten is someone to develop and Isaiah Stanback, who played QB in college, is a very good athlete who should be tried at DB or WR.

CBS SportsLine’s Pete Prisco gives ‘em a “B“:

Best pick: I love Anthony Spencer. Wade Phillips will turn him into another Shawne Merriman, especially teaming with DeMarcus Ware.

Questionable move: Using a third-round pick on converted quarterback Isaiah Stanback is something that will be watched closely. Is he another Antwaan Randle El?

Second-day gem: Fourth-round pick Doug Free is a quality tackle who will push Flozell Adams to play better.

Overall grade: B. I like Spencer and Free, but third-round pick James Marten probably went a round too high.

Sports’ Illustrated‘s Paul Zimmerman, aka “Dr. Z,” admits to “the generally low level of the grades for the 2007 draft.” He attributes it to the lack of talent in the pool rather than poor drafting. He gives the Cowboys a “C.”

Now you tell me what kind of sense it made for Philly to trade with the Cowboys, so they could move up and take a wicked pass-rushing wingman named Anthony Spencer who already has Donovan McNabb’s picture posted with a bullseye on it. The audacity of the move gives Dallas its partial grade. Second rounder James Marten, a mean-spirited tackle from the hard-bitten turf wars of Boston College, rounds it off.

Grizz of Blogging the Boys gives the Cowboys a B-, although he doesn’t explain why on the site. He apparently did on a radio show.

John Czarnecki of gives the ‘Boys a “C.”

This draft was basically about grabbing Purdue pass rusher Anthony Spencer in the first round and acquiring Cleveland’s first-round pick next year while helping them land quarterback Brady Quinn. New head coach Wade Phillips compares Spencer favorably to San Diego’s Shaun Phillips. Spencer did give Wisconsin’s Joe Thomas trouble. Boston College’s James Marten has a chance to make the team as an offensive tackle as does fourth-round pick Isaiah Stanback, who figures to be a receiver in the NFL. Stanback played quarterback at the U. of Washington. The rest of the draft appeared pretty shaky.

Mike O’Hara of Detroit News gives ‘em a “C-“:

Owner/GM Jerry Jones has trades involving eight draft slots. LB/DE Anthony Spencer fits the 3-4 defense, and OT Doug Free of Northern Illinois is a good fourth-round prospect. There was more smoke than fire.

Tommy Moss,

Analysis: Though there was some thought that the Cowboys would take a wide receiver with their first-round pick (which they had to re-obtain from Philadelphia after dealing the No. 22 selection to Cleveland), Dallas filled a less headline-grabbing need at pass rusher instead. Spencer is seen as a natural fit in the 3-4 defense, and should help right away. Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips also addressed the offensive line, taking a couple of undersized talents in Marten and Free in order to possibly halt the team’s revolving door at tackle. The only pass-catcher the club took was not a pass-catcher at all apart from his freshman year in college, but Stanback is expected to make a smooth transition into the role at the next level. Folk could make the team as a kickoff specialist, Anderson will challenge Lousaka Polite at fullback, and Brown and Ball will be fortunate to make the team.

Bottom Line: Did not properly address problems in the secondary or the future at receiver, but Spencer and the tackles should be of assistance.

Grade: C+

UPDATE: Mickey Spagnola rounded up several more. There’s plenty of duplication with the above list but it’s just a down-and-dirty table:

Outlet  Grade  Points, Mel Kiper Jr. B- 2.8, Paul Zimmerman C 2.0
USA Today, Tom Weir B 3.0
The Dallas Morning News, Rick Gosselin D 1.0
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Charean Williams C+ 2.4, Mickey Spagnola A- 3.8, Pete Prisco B 3.0, War Room Scouts B- 2.8, Greg Rosenthal B+ 3.4, Charles Robinson B 3.0
Chicago Tribune, Don Pierson B- 2.8
Detroit News, Mike O’Hara C- 1.8
NFL Class, Kyle Trembley B 3.0 C 2.0
Newark Star-Ledger, Paul Needle C+ 2.4, John Czarnecki C 2.0
NFL Draft Central C+ 2.4
Your Grade - -
Consensus C+/B- 2.6

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