Sports Outside the Beltway

Dallas Cowboys 2009 Draft Grades

In my decidedly inexpert opinion, the Dallas Cowboys did an awful job in this draft.  It’s perhaps as bad as they’ve done in the last decade.   To be sure, late round gems may turn into Pro Bowl players and projected superstars frequently turn out to be busts.  Still, the team took far more players than are likely to make the roster, seemed to reach in multiple spots, and does not appear to have drafted a single player that will start in 2010 for a squad that missed the 2009 playoffs after yet another December collapse.

The irony is that Michael Irvin’s TV show might find a better player for the Dallas Cowboys than this draft.

What the experts are saying:

Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News:

C – After inexplicably opting out of the first day, the Cowboys finished strong with some solid second-day selections. Brewster gives the Cowboys insurance at guard and tackle. Hamlin, Mickens and Smith bolster the secondary.

Todd McShay, Scouts, Inc.

Best pick: DE Brandon Williams, Texas Tech (Fourth round, No. 120 overall)
Worst pick: OLB Jason Williams, Western Illinois (Third round, No. 69)
Bottom line: When looking at Dallas’ 2009 draft you have to consider WR Roy Williams, who the Cowboys traded first-, third- and sixth-rounders to acquire during the 2008 season. His production is not great, but he is their primary receiver. In addition, the Cowboys traded out of the first day and failed to find any players who will make an impact in the future. Stephen McGee is a good developmental quarterback who could turn into a good No. 2. Victor Butler is a nice situational pass-rusher, DeAngelo Smith can be a No. 3 or No. 4 corner, Michael Hampton projects as an in-the-box safety, Jason Williams is a much better athlete than football player and Robert Brewster is big, but lacks toughness and we don’t envision him as anything more than a backup in the NFL.

Mel Kiper, ESPN:

GRADE: D – The Big D gets a D this year. They didn’t get a lot of top-end talent due in part to their not having a pick until the third round, but they then went out and reached on Jason Williams and Robert Brewster. Victor Butler is a decent pick, as is Brandon Williams, but I’m not enamored with any of their later picks. They got players that could help them in terms of depth, but no one who is going to really strengthen this football team.

Dave “Grizz” Halprin, Blogging the Boys – Probably not really an expert but he does spend more time doing this than I do.  He sees method where I see madness.

The Cowboys went with the “Death Match” strategy proposed in this earlier post. After drafting 12 players on the second day, training camp is going to turn into a death match between all these rookies and some veterans who have been on the edges of the roster, and possibly a couple of semi-regulars.

I won’t even try to offer analysis of the skills and value of most of these picks. Many of them I haven’t seen play a down of football, so I can’t give them a true evaluation. I’ll leave that to the draftniks. But you can get an idea of what their roles may be should they make the team and who they’ll be battling in camp for roster spots.

Jason Williams, ILB, Western Illinois – This guy looks like a replacement for Kevin Burnett. Small but very active and athletic, he should battle for the nickel ILB spot. Bobby Carpenter could be in trouble.

Robert Brewster, T/G, Ball State – Played tackle but the talk is he might be better sliding inside to guard at the NFL level. He’ll battle for a backup spot along the line and could replace a player like Pat McQuistan.

Stephen McGee, QB, Texas A&M – If you draft a QB when you have a confirmed starter and a competent backup, you must see something special in him. Otherwise, you can find a third QB in a lot of places and not in the fourth round. We’ll see.

Victor Butler, OLB, Oregon State – With this pick and the following one, Greg Ellis is sure to be whining soon. The Cowboys had Ware, Spencer and Ellis as the options at OLB, which was dangerously thin. Now they have Butler to compete.

Brandon Williams, OLB, Texas Tech – See above.

DeAngelo Smith, CB, Cincinnati – We needed some more bodies in the secondary behind the starters. There’s talk Smith could be better suited to safety. He could also end up being a punt returner on special teams.

Michael Hamlin, S, Clemson - It was no secret the Cowboys needed depth at safety, behind Ken Hamlin and Gerald Sensabaugh we had very little. Pat Watkins and Courtney Brown now have competition.

David Buehler, K, USC – Kind of a surprise, but I guess with 12 picks you can take a chance like this. Nick Folk is a money kicker on FG’s, but is far below average on kickoffs. Buehler could battle Folk but more likely would have to stick as a kickoff specialists. Yes, teams do use kickoff specialists sometimes; it’s not a totally nutty idea. Buehler is also a good athlete and might be able to do some other things, so that might help his cause.

Stephen Hodge, S, TCU – A big safety, he could add depth and could possibly play a hybrid S/LB position in the dime defenses. Similar to what we tried with Roy Williams.

John Phillips, TE, Virginia - It’s a rule that Dallas has to draft a TE every year.

Mike Mickens, CB, Cincinnati – Huge value at corner. I have no idea why he dropped, but he was expected to go much sooner. Did the knee scare teams off? Alan Ball doesn’t like this draft at all.

Manuel Johnson, WR, Oklahoma – Well, they had to draft a receiver at some point.

This draft isn’t flashy and I don’t see anybody here who could immediately challenge the starters for time, but two or three may be playing significant roles in rotations as nickel and dime defenders. The Cowboys also concentrated on special teams and decided they needed an infusion of new blood, especially with the departure of Keith Davis and Kevin Burnett. Some of these guys are special teams aces. Another binding characteristic – good guys, character guys.

Scouts, Inc.

(69) Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland)

The pick: Jason Williams, OLB, Western Illinois
How he fits: Williams is a small-school prospect who carries his 241 pounds very well. He has good speed for his size (6-foot-1). We really like the edge he plays with and he is a big hitter capable of separating the ball-carrier from the ball.

Where he brings: This player will be used to help fill the departure of Kevin Burnett, who was Dallas’ third-down inside linebacker. Williams will also be able to contribute immediately on special teams. He will need some time to develop, but has quality intangibles and top-notch athletic ability. He is somewhat of a processor, but possesses the size, length and aggressive style to play the weak inside position in Dallas’ 3-4 defensive scheme.

(75) Dallas Cowboys (from Buffalo)

The pick: Robert Brewster, OT, Ball State
What he brings: He showed adequate upper-body strength at the combine but it doesn’t show up on film. He needs to develop into a better hand fighter. On the flip side, he moves well for a 325-pounder so there’s a lot to like about his upside.

How he fits: Dallas is being proactive in getting quality depth at the offensive tackle position and hopefully finding an eventual starter as Flozell Adams begins to age. There are some who believe Brewster could move inside and play some guard if he continues to gain play strength.

(101) Dallas Cowboys (from Detroit)

The pick: Stephen McGee, QB, Texas A&M
What he brings: Rarely do you see quarterbacks who started three games and appeared in just six during his senior season go this early in the draft. McGee is an exception. He has good size (6-3, 225), underrated arm strength and above-average mobility. We certainly can’t overlook his durability concerns but he’s tough and an excellent leader.

How he fits: Dallas takes the hometown kid, whom many felt was a sleeper quarterback in this draft. McGee will have time to learn from two savvy veterans in Jon Kitna and Tony Romo. He is going to a situation where he has time to grow as a signal caller.

(110) Dallas Cowboys (from Buffalo)

The pick: Victor Butler, OLB, Oregon State
What he brings: Butler has the size and quickness to line up at the rush-end position in a 3-4 look. His quick first step and explosiveness off the edge makes him one of this year’s most intriguing midround pass-rushing prospects. However, Butler must get stronger at the point of attack and be more consistent as an open-field tackler.

How he fits: This is a pick that will give Dallas some security at outside linebacker as Greg Ellis continues to age and DeMarcus Ware’s contract extension continues to be negotiated. Butler was an undersized defensive end who projects to play the rush linebacker position in Dallas.

(120) Dallas Cowboys (from Tampa Bay)

The pick: Brandon Williams, DE, Texas Tech
What he brings: Williams was a defensive end in college and possesses the versatility to line up as a 3-4 rush end. He has an adequate closing burst to get to the quarterback when coming off the edge as a pass rusher. However, some tightness in his hips brings up concerns about his ability to play in open space.

How he fits: Williams, like Victor Butler, projects to add depth to Dallas’ linebacking corps. While his combine workout was not super, he has a knack for rushing the passer and projects outside in Dallas’ 3-4 defensive scheme.

Pick Player Pos Ht Wt College
Round 3, Pick 5 (69) (From Browns) Jason Williams OLB 6’1″ 241 Western Illinois
Pick Analysis:The Cowboys pick up an athletic linebacker with outstanding speed and quickness. Williams has the ability to rush off the edge and is a potential playmaker as an outside linebacker/special teams player.
Round 3, Pick 11 (75) (From Bills) Robert Brewster OT 6’4″ 325 Ball State
Pick Analysis:The Cowboys pick up a hulking interior prospect with the selection of Brewster. Though he spent his college career as an offensive tackle, Brewster will likely move inside to guard for the Cowboys.
Round 4, Pick 1 (101) (From Lions) Stephen McGee QB 6’3″ 225 Texas A&M
Pick Analysis:He had a great workout at his pro day. He’s more of a developmental project, but he has all of the physical tools. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said McGee has pro potential, and Sherman should know — he was Brett Favre’s coach for several years in Green Bay.
Round 4, Pick 10 (110) (From Bills) Victor Butler DE 6’2″ 248 Oregon State
Pick Analysis:Butler had a great workout at his pro day and jumped on the radar after starting just one year in college. The Cowboys need to fix their special teams and Butler, combined with the Cowboys’ earlier pick of Jason Williams, will help. Butler is a standout on the kicking units. He has similar skills to the Broncos’ Elvis Dumervil, and he shined in Oregon State’s upset victory over USC this past year.
Round 4, Pick 20 (120) (From Buccaneers) Brandon Williams DE 6’5″ 252 Texas Tech
Pick Analysis:Williams was an underclassman that may have been better served staying in school. Nevertheless, he has pass-rushing potential and is extremely athletic. There are questions as to whether he can be a linebacker, so the Cowboys may use him as a rotation defensive end in their 3-4 scheme.
Round 5, Pick 7 (143) (From Raiders through Falcons) DeAngelo Smith CB 5’11″ 194 Cincinnati
Pick Analysis:The former Bearcat is a zone cover corner with good awareness. Smith has a good feel for reading routes and is an aggressive ballhawk in coverage. The Cowboys may move Smith to safety due to his physical presence on the field.
Round 5, Pick 30 (166) (From Titans) Michael Hamlin FS 6’2″ 214 Clemson
Pick Analysis:The Cowboys add a rangy safety prospect with hard-hitting ability. Hamlin lacks elite speed, but he has the instincts and awareness to develop into a solid player in spite of his deficiencies.
Round 5, Pick 36 (172) (Compensatory selection) David Buehler K 6’2″ 227 Southern Cal
Pick Analysis:The Cowboys increase their competition at the kicking position with the selection of Buehler. Incumbent kicker Nick Folk hit 91 percent of his field-goal attempts last season and was perfect on PATs, going 42-for-42. Still, Buehler is a physical specimen for a kicker and should contend.
Round 6, Pick 24 (197) (From Dolphins) Stephen Hodge SS 6’0″ 234 TCU
Pick Analysis:Hodge is a special teams ace. He played safety at TCU and he will be a backup on defense. Still, he helps Dallas in the kicking game and continues the trend of the team trying to fortify what was a weakness last year in special teams.
Round 6, Pick 35 (208) (Compensatory selection) John Phillips TE 6’5″ 251 Virginia
Pick Analysis:Phillips is a good blocking tight end, who has had some injuries. He’ll always be a third tight end, but he’ll be good there. He won’t get a lot of reps as the backup, but he’s smart and will make the team as a solid role player. He will replace Tony Curtis, who left the Cowboys and signed with the Chiefs.
Round 7, Pick 18 (227) Mike Mickens CB 6’0″ 186 Cincinnati
Pick Analysis:Mickens led the nation in interceptions last season and was a track superstar in high school. He has speed and very good quickness. This is exceptional value for a pick in the seventh round. Mickens has a chance to be the third corner for the Cowboys.
Round 7, Pick 20 (229) (From Bears through Buccaneers) Manuel Johnson WR 5’11″ 189 Oklahoma
Pick Analysis:Johnson has the quickness and speed that teams crave at the wide receiver position. He may have been better than Juaquin Iglesias (Round 3, 99th overall to the Bears) at catching the ball at Oklahoma. Johnson is a small receiver, but he’s got the ability to stick in the NFL.

Michael Lombardi, National Football Post/CBS Sportsline:

DALLAS: Looks like a special teams and depth draft to me. If I were a pro guy in the NFL, I might want to watch the ‘Boys this summer and make sure I know all these picks before they play in the preseason. They can’t keep all of them.

Ross Tucker, SI: gives Dallas a “Hated It” and observes,

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys traded down and drafted a bunch of players who won’t even make their roster. What is the point of that? Out of their 12 picks, maybe two of them will contribute in 2009. Not good.

Don Banks, also of SI, does like one aspect of the Cowboys’ draft:

I really think the Cowboys made a wise move in making Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee the fourth quarterback taken in this year’s draft, with the first pick of the fourth round (101st overall).  I look at McGee as sort of the Matt Cassel of this year’s draft. Due to a torn labrum in his shoulder, he didn’t play all that much in 2008 (three starts, six games total), which is usually a death sentence when it comes to creating any draft interest. But give McGee a couple years and let’s see what develops. He’s a big (6-3, 225-pound), tough-minded kid with strong leadership skills and an underrated arm, and there’s a reason he went before more well-known prospects like Nate Davis of Ball State, Graham Harrell of Texas Tech and Chase Daniel of Missouri.

As a senior at A&M, McGee got a taste of playing in the West Coast offense of new Aggies head coach Mike Sherman, the former Packers head coach. It’s a style he seemed to be well-suited to, and it should aid in his understanding of NFL offenses. I’m not saying he’ll push Tony Romo out of Big D in two years, but just keep an eye on McGee. He might turn up somewhere in the NFL as a starter in the not-too-distant future.

Pete Brisco, SI again, gives the Cowboys a D+, which scores them just above the Oakland Raiders (D) and below the other 30 teams.

  • Best pick: I like quarterback Stephen McGee in the fourth round. He’ll be a backup, but a good one.
  • Questionable move: Why use a pick on kicker in the fifth round when Nick Folk is so good? It makes no sense.
  • Second-day gem: Fourth-round defensive end Victor Butler is a speed rusher who has a lot of athletic ability. He fits in their 3-4 scheme.

They had a lot of picks, but what did they get? And trading the first- and third-round picks for Roy Williams last year is questionable.

Rob Rang, SportsLine, gives them a C grade.

With their first-round pick already invested in wide receiver Roy Williams, the Cowboys weren’t scheduled to be part of the action until late in the second round — and then elected to trade out of that spot. With their first pick the 69th overall, the Cowboys focused on the defensive side of the ball, adding pass-rushing specialists Victor Butler and Brandon Williams and one of the top non-Combine prospects in the draft, Western Illinois linebacker Jason Williams, in the middle rounds. The Cowboys kept the most intriguing developmental quarterback in the draft in-state with the selection of Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee, and got exceptional value in the seventh round with cornerback Mike Mickens.

Larry Weisman, USA Today gives Dallas a D.

No primo picks after last year’s deal for WR Roy Williams, then had 12 choices on Sunday. Not a team with a ton of holes, though. LB Jason Williams does everything at top speed, including making mistakes. But he brings athleticism and hustle on every snap. OT Robert Brewster is big (6-4, 325) but a little short on strength and power. QB Stephen McGee could be a find in the fourth round. Career at Texas A&M derailed by coaching change and injury. Grabbed a couple of DEs in fourth round to offset loss of Chris Canty.

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