Grading the Draft: Cowboys

Over the next month we will take an in-depth look at the draft, breaking down all the results from the NFC East. Coming out of a good effort in 2002 after several years of poor decisions by Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys looked to keep the momentum going last weekend under the watchful eyes of Bill Parcells.

Round Pick Overall Player Pos College Notes
1 5 5 Terence Newman CB Kansas St  
2 6 38 Al Johnson C Wisconsin  
3 5 69 Jason Witten TE Tennessee  
4 6 103 Bradie James OLB LSU  
6 5 178 BJ Tucker CB Wisconsin  
6 13 186 Zuriel Smith WR Hampton From Kansas City
7 5 219 Justin Bates OT Colorado  

UDFA of Note: Torrin Tucker/G/Southern Miss, Tony Romo/QB/Eastern Illinois, Charles Alston/DE/Bowie St, Chad Lee/OLB/Louisville, Reshard Lee/RB/Middle Tennessee, Keith O'Neil/OLB/Northern Arizona, Aaron Boone/WR/Kentucky

Several options were open to Parcells come draft day; Dewayne Robertson, the player he coveted, would not slip to the fifth selection so a trade up to ensure the big defensive tackle was considered.  A move down draft boards was available as the Saints were desperately trying to trade into the number five slot but nothing could be worked out to the dismay of New Orleans coach Jim Haslett.

In the end Dallas stayed where they were and went with the safe pick in Terrence Newman.  While we are not overly enthusiastic about Newman, this selection makes sense from a number of vantage points.  Parcells will not have a long shelf life as coach of Dallas and bringing Newman into the mix offers the quickest short term gains as the Kansas State product could easily be labeled as the most "NFL ready" player available in the first round. 

Factoring in Newman's game impacting return skills and potential spot duty responsibilities at receiver, this move makes a lot of sense as it allows the team to move young corner Mario Edwards to nickel back, a position he's best suited for.  Don't be surprised if Newman makes a run for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Next was center Al Johnson of Wisconsin.  Selecting Johnson in round two was a little early for our liking but Dallas thinks Andre Gurode (second round choice last April) would be dominant at guard and we agree.  Hence a hole was created after sliding Gurode over and the position needed to be addressed immediately. Dallas did not think Johnson would be available to them in the third frame so pulled the trigger at pick 38.

He's a Parcells type of lineman; mean, nasty and a little crazy.  Johnson should be starting early into his rookie campaign, by default if nothing else, and look for him to have a solid season in 2003.

Getting Jason Witten in the third frame was a steal and made the Cowboys first day of picks rather appealing.  Witten was considered too slow for some teams and not dominant enough as a blocker for other squads.

Regardless, he is a total tight end and very much in the Parcells molds. Never mind the fact he helps fill a void for the offense, Witten should quickly break into the starting line-up and produce for the Cowboys during the upcoming campaign.

Day two started strong when Bradie James was tabbed. Throughout the process our feeling was many overrated James and the fourth round was a perfect spot for his skills.  With a lack of size at linebacker, something Parcells does not like, James could see plenty of action early as a rookie and at the very worst, help out on special teams.

The next two selections were not very inspiring.  BJ Tucker brings a lot of speed to the secondary but his cover skills are marginal and getting beat is a common occurrence for the Wisconsin product.  Zuriel Smith pencil thin receiver selected solely for his potential as a punt returner.

Their final choice, offensive lineman Justin Bates, was great value in the 7th round. A college tackle, Bates projects to guard at the next level and though he may never be a starter, he's an inexpensive back-up who will compete at the next level.

Several notable free agents were signed after the seven rounds with Torrin Tucker being the standout of the group. Tucker can dominate the opposition when focused and moves defenders off the line.  He's an athletic blocker with the skill for either tackle or guard but as we reported last week, turned scouts off with his hothead attitude and propensity to take downs off.  Tucker is a player Parcells liked at the combine and if he gets into his head this will be a great signing.

Chad Lee adds more size to the linebacker unit and should be a good special teams player while a trio of rookie free agents including Tony Romo, Reshard Lee, and Charles Alston all have practice squad potential.

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