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NFL Draft: The media grades for the Dallas Cowboys picks

Well, Cowboys Nation, the NFL Draft has come and gone, and now we must wait once again for more Dallas Cowboys football. Voluntary team activities will be in three waves: May 22-24, May 29-31, and June 4-6. Mandatory minicamps are from June 12-14. Lastly, training camp will start in July.

Before we get into all of that, we should dive in and take a look at how the Cowboys did over the weekend when it came to their selections. Some draft trades were made and after all the dust settled, it seemed like a lot of the media felt like the moves the Dallas Cowboys made didn’t truly address their needs.

Ryan Wilson (Dallas Sports Fanatic)

I do like the Leighton Vander Esch pick, but felt the Cowboys could have traded back in the draft and still scooped him up, while collecting an additional pick in the trade perhaps. For those (David Akers is weird) that felt the Philadelphia Eagles pulled one over on the Cowboys by trading up and selecting before them in the 2nd round, I’ll leave you with this.

I like the pick up of Connor Williams to help shore up that strong offensive line even more. I didn’t see a ton of tape on Michael Gallup but after watching some more film, he could definitely be day one starting threat. While Dalton Schultz is no Jason Witten, he has good hands, ability to make plays after the catch, and was one of the better blocking tight ens in the draft, which is one of the Jason Witten specialties. The Cowboys then traded one of their two sixth round picks to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Tavon Austin, who let’s just say, has that speed that the Cowboys receiving corps desperately needs. One move I’m not crazy about was giving up on Ryan Switzer after just one season. They landed Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Jihad Ward. Grade: B+

Yahoo Sports

The Cowboys’ draft might be remembered for what could have happened. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the first-round pick, is a good player but the Cowboys passed every receiver in their post-Dez Bryant world to get him. It seemed they were primed to grab tight end Dallas Goedert at No. 50 overall, but the Eagles traded to No. 49 and took him. The Cowboys took offensive lineman Connor Williams instead. The third round netted receiver Michael Gallup, a good prospect who will be under a lot of pressure because of the Cowboys’ need at the position. Stanford tight end Dalton Schultz became a necessity in the fourth round due to Jason Witten’s reported impending retirement, but he’s not a dynamic receiver. At some point the Cowboys are going to have to seriously invest in premium targets for Dak Prescott (and trading away slot receiver Ryan Switzer and trading for Rams bust Tavon Austin doesn’t meet that need). Grade: C-


Vander Esch is a talented off-the-ball linebacker who can move on the outside and slip tackles inside to find the ball. The Cowboys needed to bolster the position, but should they have found a pass-catcher here instead given their dire need at the position and having their pick of the best? It’s a good pick — if his neck truly is not a problem. Williams will likely play guard for the Cowboys. He’ll join a nasty group up front and has the talent to make Pro Bowls. They found a future starter at receiver with Gallup. His progress as a rookie will have a large effect on how the passing offense performs in 2018. Jason Witten‘s expected retirement forced the team to find a tight end, and Schultz should be a move-the-chains guy for years to come. White was picked up in the fifth round to be a strong backup to Dak Prescott, but he has starter qualities. Covington is another coverage linebacker with great potential as a special-teamer, as well. Scarbrough struggled to become “the man” at Alabama, but he’ll be a worthwhile seventh-round pick if he can lower his pads and run hard consistently. The trade with the Raiders to acquire Jihad Ward at defensive tackle met the only need left on their board. Grade: A-

CBS Sports

I love the pick of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round. He has a chance to be a special player. I won’t say he’s the next Luke Kuechly like some scouts told me, but he will be an impact player for a long time. They plan to play second-round Connor Williams at guard after he was a tackle at Texas. Some scouts said he lacked toughness. Third-round receiver Michael Gallup has good size and made a lot of plays, but he doesn’t solve the speed problem outside. They did trade to get Tavon Austin from the Rams, which does add speed. Fourth-round tight end Dalton Schultzcould be a steal.

Walter Football

Dallas certainly addressed the front seven with its first pick, taking Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall. Charlie Campbell was the first to report that teams had medical concerns with Vander Esch, and one NFC franchise even medically flunked him. The Cowboys had a different medical evaluation of him, as they weren’t concerned enough to pass on him in the first round. Vander Esch, if healthy, will be a tremendous upgrade in the linebacking corps, but he obviously carries some risk with him.

The Cowboys found help for their other big holes with two of their next four picks. Michael Gallup was a nice choice in the third round, as he could be one of Dallas’ starting receivers by Week 1. Dalton Schultz, chosen at the very bottom of Round 4, was a nice bargain as a replacement for the newly retired Jason Witten.

The other selections didn’t seem very good, however. Connor Williams was a major reach in Round 2, as it was a panic move when the preferred choices – Courtland Sutton, Dallas Goedert – were both taken. Williams drew fifth-round grades from some teams, as they deemed him not lengthy enough to play tackle and not strong enough to play guard. Elsewhere, defensive end Dorance Armstrong seems like a poor fit in the 4-3, while Mike White seems like a wasted pick, given that the Cowboys are already set with their No. 2 quarterback.

I wouldn’t say that this was a horrible draft for the Cowboys, by any means, but it definitely was a risky one. Vander Esch may not be healthy; Williams doesn’t have a fit up front (and didn’t even fill a need); and Armstrong’s transition to an NFL 4-3 is questionable. Dallas took some promising players, but there could end up being many busts in this class. Grade:C+

Sporting News

Vander Esch was a tremendous first-round get by Jerry Jones to round out the Cowboys’ linebacker corps. The next best pick was Schultz, a potential starter soon with the Jason Witten retirement thoughts becoming a reality. Other than that, including the trades for Tavon Austin and Jihad Ward, it was a mixed bag that didn’t reflect the Cowboys’ status as a contender in the NFC East. Grade: B

SB Nation

The Cowboys got players at positions of need for good value. They earned the first Joe Flacco-caliber grade of the draft from Pro Football Focus. Grade: B+

Bleacher Report

The first-round selection of Leighton Vander Esch was a disappointment since Courtland Sutton was still on the board. Wideout Michael Gallup is decent, but there were other receivers who had higher ceilings when the pick was made. Grade: C

Sports Illustrated

Dallas’s biggest need was wide receiver—even before Dez Bryant’s release—but even with every WR still on the board, the team drafted Leighton Vander Esch with the No. 19 pick. He doesn’t fill an immediate need, as today’s nickel-package-driven NFL demands you have only two quality linebackers, so the Cowboys must really love him. Jaylon Smith wasn’t quite as dynamic last season as hoped, but if there’s still optimism for him in 2018 and beyond (and there should be), it reasons that Vander Esch is here to supplant Sean Lee. Though still elite, Lee is nearly 32 and has a long history of injuries.

Third-rounder Michael Gallup has a chance to start right away, mostly due to the paucity of quality Cowboys receivers. Overall, this draft gave Dallas a lot of talent, but it did little to immediately improve a team that is ready to compete for an NFC East title right now. Grade: C+


Dallas Cowboys address needs in hometown NFL Draft

Photos: Day 2 at 2018 NFL Draft, Cowboys select Connor Williams

Ryan Wilson founded Mavs Fanatic (Now Dallas Sports Fanatic) in January of 2012. He had a vision of starting something new and different. A place where fans of the Dallas Mavericks and fans of writing could come and be heard. A blog "Run By Fans For Fans". He is also a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago WhiteSox (His hometown team). Mavs Fanatic is now known as Dallas Sports Fanatic, a blog that covers all of the major Dallas pro sports teams.    

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