Grading the draft: Dallas Cowboys

Possessing two first round selections and three of the initial 42 picks in April's draft, the Dallas Cowboys had plenty of ammunition to retool the defense. Seemingly, Bill Parcells is coaching his last team and has just a few seasons left to reach another Super Bowl. A strong draft was needed to point the team in that direction.

Dallas made Troy State defensive end DeMarcus Ware their initial selection in round one and plan on playing him at outside linebacker in the Cowboys new 3-4 alignment. Ware immediately gives the Cowboys a forceful presence. A pass rushing terror in college, Ware also displayed great skills in pursuit on the football field and his outstanding workout at the combine helped him soar up draft boards.  Shawne Merriman of Maryland was a player the team rated a smidgen higher then Ware yet off-the-field issues that surrounded the Terrapin junior scared Dallas away. Marcus Spears is another prospect who perfectly fits the Cowboys new defensive scheme. The LSU defensive lineman has great size and possess the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield on a consistent basis. He was one of the best two-gap linemen in this draft and should immediately see playing action.  Tennessee linebacker Kevin Burnett will likely be the teams third rookie defensive starter. Possessing sideline-to-sideline range, Burnett has shown steady improvement throughout his career. Had he not sustained a serious knee injury early in college Burnett would've likely landed in the first round.  Dallas then tabbed yet another terrific prospect; Marion Barber in the fourth round. The former Minnesota tailback could be push Julius Jones for the teams long term starting job and at the very least, should be a solid short-yardage back. Virginia defensive end Chris Canty is another big bodied defensive end that immediately strengthens the Cowboys defensive line. Canty, like Spears is a perfect fit as a left side defensive end. Tearing up a knee ligament early in his senior campaign, this was yet another value pick by the franchise.  Pittsburgh tackle Rob Petitti is a big bodied blocker that could start for the team down the road. Known as a lazy player who was plagued with inconsistency, Pettiti will either be a starting NFL tackle or a washout under Bill Parcells. He was worth the risk of a late round selection.  Ball State safety Justin Beriault could be a special teams standout for the Cowboys. Lacking the top athletic numbers, his instincts and football knowledge are top notch.  Jay Ratliff was probably an afterthought for most teams but could turn out to be one of the draft's better bargains. The smallish Auburn defensive tackle had one of the best weeks during the Shrine game practices and somehow was left out of the combine. Ratliff is yet another two-gap lineman for the Cowboys new defensive alignment. 

Quite simply the Dallas Cowboys had one of the best drafts in recent memory. With as many as four defensive starters and two potential offensive starters to come out of this draft, Dallas has not only strengthened it's team as they prepare to switch to a 3-4 defense but has also added quality depth. With a defensive front seven featuring Ware and Spears, Dallas could be the NFC's most improved defenses team in 2005.

RD   Pick Player Pos School
1   11 (11)   Demarcus Ware *   OLB   Troy State  
1   20 (20)   Marcus Spears *   DE   LSU  
2   10 (42)   Kevin Burnett *   OLB   Tennessee  
4   8 (109)   Marion Barber, III *   RB   Minnesota  
4   31 (132)   Chris Canty *   DE   Virginia  
6   34 (208)   Justin Beriault   S   Ball State  
6   35 (209)   Rob Petitti *   OT   Pittsburgh  
7   10 (224)   Jay Ratliff *   DE   Auburn 

UDFA Signings: RB Tyson Thompson, FB Jonathan Evans, WR Reggie Harrell, WR Jamaica Rector, TE Duncan Reid, TE Tony Curtis, OT Sam Wilder, OT Harvey Dahl, C Matt Tarullo, DT Thomas Johnson, DT Marlon Tickles, LB Mike Goolsby, LB Roger Cooper, LB Claude Sanders, S Dominique Price, PK Brett Visitainer, LS Joe Condo

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