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2011 Draft Rewind: Cowboys begin pursuit to build league’s best rushing attack

Photo: Michael Lark/Dallas Sports Fanatic

2011 Draft Rewind: Cowboys begin pursuit to build league’s best rushing attack

2011 Dallas Draft Class:

RD 1, Pick 9 – Tyron Smith, T

RD 2, Pick 40 – Bruce Carter, LB

RD 3, Pick 71 – DeMarco Murray, RB

RD 4, Pick 110 – David Arkin, G

RD 5, Pick 143 – Josh Thomas, DB

RD 6, Pick 176 – Dwayne Harris, WR

RD 7, Pick 220 – Shaun Chapas, RB

RD 7, Pick 252 – Bill Nagy, C

Michael Akelson (Bleacher Report) Grade: B+

Dallas definitely didn’t have a bad draft this year, but I don’t believe it was a great one either. Tyron Smith should be a starter in the NFL, but he’ll never be elite, which is what you look for at ninth overall. Still, he fills a need, so Cowboy fans should be content with that pick. They also brought in UNC OLB Bruce Carter, who should be groomed into a great rush-linebacker by DeMarcus Ware. Solid draft for Dallas overall, but not spectacular.” – Akelson 

Thursday we looked back on the Cowboys’ 2010 draft and saw they were able to knab two future All-Pros in Dez Bryant and Sean Lee. However, they failed to find a suitable offensive lineman to compete for one of the starting tackle spots. 

And, unfortunately, it was a missed block that led to quarterback Tony Romo suffering his first major injury of his career, which led to him missing the final 10 games of the regular season and the team getting the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft.

The team learned its lesson and chose USC product and Morris Trophy recipient Tyron Smith in the first round. He was given a 7.5 draft grade, which is given to players deemed “future All-Pros.” He was also said to have “rare physical gifts.” He was taken with players like J.J. Watt, Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn and Mike Pouncey still on the board. 

Similar to 2010, the Cowboys found themselves with another chance to draft a highly-talented linebacker in the second round who fell to them due to injury. Bruce Carter was an uber-athletic linebacker who tore his ACL in November of 2010.

Carter turned in a productive four years for Dallas, but couldn’t consistently be the linebacker the team and fans hoped he could be. His best year came in 2014 where he recorded 68 tackles, one sack and five interceptions, which resulted in a solid payday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following offseason.

In the third round, Dallas found their second future All-Pro (fourth in two years) DeMarco Murray. Murray followed Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma and turned in 50 rushing touchdowns and 3700 yards in four years. He was the sixth running back taken in the draft and perhaps the most productive during his time with the Cowboys.

Dallas continued to try to beef their offensive line with guard David Arkin who never seen the field in his three years with Dallas.

Josh Thomas was selected in the fifth round. Since 1969, Ed Ellis (125th pick in 1997) and Khalil Mack (5th pick in 2014) remain the only other Buffalo players selected sooner. He was waived on September 3 of that season. He spent time with six different teams over the years before he returned to the Cowboys in December of 2015 because of injuries to cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety Barry Church. Dallas signed him to play in the last game of the season against the Washington Redskins.

On August 29, 2016, he was placed on the injured reserve list with a left thumb injury he suffered in the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. On November 22, the Cowboys moved Thomas to the Non-Football Injury list. He wasn’t re-signed in 2017.

Sixth-round pick Dwayne Harris made a name for himself as a special teams phenom for the Cowboys from 2011-2014.

It has been an area lacking a dynamic playmaker since his departure. He also caught 33 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns during his tenure with Dallas. He left following the 2014 season in search of a bigger receiving role with the New York Giants. The last three seasons with them where he caught 37 passes for 409 yards and three touchdowns.

Continuing with special teams, Dallas continued to find success in that area in undrafted free agents Chris Jones, punter, and kicker Dan Bailey. Running back Phillip Tanner also turned in a productive career tailing DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. Current kicker Kai Forbath also headlined their list of UFAs.

Draft Grade: A

Reasoning: It would’ve been hard to mess up in the first round with so much talent still left on the board, but it still says a lot to draft the best left tackle in football for the majority of his career and a future Hall of Famer. 

Though he never reached the ceiling, at least consistently, that many hope he would, Carter was a solid linebacker. DeMarco Murray was an All-Pro and was the driving force behind the Cowboys 2014 run. 

Dwayne Harris is probably the best punt/kick returner the team had last decade. And, though a UFA, Dan Bailey was the most accurate kicker of all-time at his peak with Chris Jones eventually becoming one of the most reliable punters in the league. 

Staff Writer covering the Dallas Cowboys | Madden Legend | SFA Alum | Fascinated by Success

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