Cowboys Staff Talks 2006 Draft

IRVING, Tex. -- The Cowboys have in many ways undergone an "Extreme Makeover: Team Edition.'' But new curtains, fresh paint and expensive flooring can't alter one problem as obvious and troublesome as a toilet that won't flush: what the hell were they doing with that 2006 draft class? huddled anonymously with three members, past and present, of the Cowboys' coaching/scouting department to get a feel for their thoughts on the collection of eight draftees who combined to make virtually no impact on the team in their rookie seasons.

At their most optimistic, the staffers maintain that it is simply too early to make complete judgments on the players, especially now that the Cowboys are under new coaching supervision. At their most frank, however, the staffers mutter cuss words while scratching their heads about players (non-players?) like Bobby Carpenter, Jason Hatcher and Skyler Green.

And none necessarily disagree with a pessimistic prediction that this entire draft might end up producing no Cowboys starters.

We'll break the group down into four categories – Puzzlers, Misfits, Busts and Prospects -- and mix in a few interesting tales to go along with the evaluations:

Puzzlers: First-round linebacker Bobby Carpenter gets cut some slack by two of our experts for being in a rock-and-a-hard-place situation because of the coaching change. Their implication: If Bill Parcells were still here, Carpenter, coming off his only good performance of 2006 in that playoff game in Seattle, might be a starter going into 2007. But our third expert says that is in fact an indictment of Carpenter's ability, that being an instant "Parcells Guy'' is a weakness and not a strength. That expert says Carpenter doesn't win battles at the line of scrimmage, doesn't have the athletic ability to play OLB, and has no "wow! factor'' as an ILB.

"I'm not exactly sure who it was who pulled the trigger on even drafting him,'' says our expert, rather alarmingly.

Misfits: Another rock-and-a-hard-place guy. The experts agree he'll be an NFL-caliber starting tight end. But they again wonder if Parcells' projection of him as "another Mark Bavaro'' was an overstatement. And one of them wonders why scouting boss Jeff Ireland didn't buck Parcells on this pick if only because it represented the furthest thing from a "need pick.''

And again with the coaching change: Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett plan on using more of a traditional fullback, Fasano won't help there. And with Jason Witten as the starter and a focus on getting the ball to Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, Fasano isn't likely to help much there. Thus the conclusion that the second-rounder is a misfit.

Even worse off in this department: Jason Hatcher, the third-round defensive end. It's not that he's not athletic, or that he lacks size. Nor is it that defensive ends are anything but a hot commodity in the NFL, even with Marcus Spears and Chris Canty ahead of him.

No, say two of the experts in dissing the scouting decision on Hatcher, the problem is that come from Grambling, he is extremely unpolished and, as of the end of last year, anyway, no where near ready to contribute regularly in this level.

"Maybe with this this will change,'' says one of our experts who is no longer with the team, "but picking him when we did just seemed like the wrong guy at the wrong time.''

Busts: You could go with offensive lineman E.J. Whitley here, but heck, he was only a seventh-rounder. No, the Cowboys football guys concede that the pure definition of a bust is Skyler Green, the fourth-round wide receiver who, it can be revealed now, didn't have a chance of making the team even BEFORE he'd signed his contract.

A couple of eyebrows were raised when discussing Ireland's (apparent) involvement in this selection of a kick-return specialist who appeared to be a little overweight. But the biggest shocker came when one of the men revealed the truth about Green's rapid dismissal from the team.

The way it was described to us, the club decided so quickly that Green couldn't play that Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones' contract offer to the player included a signing bonus that was $100,000 lower than the slotted expectation. Green's people engaged Jones in a screaming match that bothered the executive not one bit because he really didn't care whether Green signed it or not.

Because either way, Skyler Green's bags were pretty much being packed for him – never a good sign for a fourth-round pick who'd just rolled into town.

Prospects: We suggested that the fifth-round safety Pat Watkins deserves a pass here if only because so many people thought of him as fourth-round-worthy. Oh, and he did get a cup of coffee as a starter. Our Cowboys staffers didn't argue that Watkins is a "prospect,'' but as one of them said, "There's a reason we went and got Kenny (Hamlin).''

We got even less agreement on sixth-round nose tackle Montavious Stanley, who's done nothing. But he's big. And he's here. "He promising,'' insists one of the staffers.

That leaves seventh-round offensive lineman Pat McQuistan, whose presence delivers both the good news and bad news about the Cowboys' 2006 NFL Draft.

"Oh, we love him,'' says one of the Cowboys staffers, who adds, "especially for being a seventh-round guy.'' And, we would add, especially for being a backup. It really sums things up: The Cowboys are hoping that the entire draft class might be salvaged by an end-of-round selection who has a good chance of being the team's sixth offensive lineman.

"A lot of it adds up to depth, and we think we have a very deep roster,'' says one member of our Cowboys panel still with the club. "Of course, that's not exactly what the plan was.''

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