Landing Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray and Bruce Carter in the first three rounds is the foundation for a very good draft. The Cowboys added to that impressive group with Dwayne Harris in the sixth round and Dan Bailey as an undrafted rookie free agent. It’s tough to be critical of the Cowboys’ 2011 class, but here are 10 players that could’ve made their haul even better.
10. Stefen Wisniewski, OL, Penn State / Drafted 48th overall by the Oakland Raiders / The Cowboys could’ve had their center of the future two years before using a first round pick on Travis Frederick. Wisniewski has started every game that he’s played in for the Raiders over the last three seasons (45 total). It would’ve been a tough call at the time because he would’ve had to been taken instead of Bruce Carter. While Carter struggled in 2013, he showed promise the previous two years.
9. Jason Kelce, C, Cincinnati / Drafted 191st overall by the Philadelphia Eagles / Kelce has been rock solid for the Eagles, starting every game in 2011 and 2013. He missed 14 games in 2012 with a knee injury. The Eagles obviously weren’t too concerned with the injury, because they made him one of the top paid centers in the league in February, signing him to a seven-year, $37.5 million deal.
8. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin / Drafted 11th overall by the Houston Texans / Rob Ryan wanted Watt when the Cowboys were on the clock but Jerry Jones chose to address a poor offensive line. It’s hard to argue with Jones taking Tyron Smith. He has the ability to be one of the NFL’s best left tackles. But Watt is a game-changer on the defensive line. The two-time Pro Bowler and 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has not missed a start and has recorded 36.5 sacks in three seasons.
7. Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky / Drafted 64th overall by the Green Bay Packers / A broken leg caused Cobb to miss most of last season, however, when he’s on the field, he’s one of the league’s most electric playmakers. A receiving tandem of Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cobb would be one of the best in the league. Cobb caught 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. He has also scored on three returns (two on punts) during his career.
6. Cecil Shorts, WR, Mount Union / Drafted 114th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars / Another player that could make for a nice secondary receiving option if he was on the roster. Instead of taking offensive guard David Arkin four spots earlier, Shorts could’ve given Tony Romo another quality option in the passing game. Over the last two seasons, Shorts has 1,756 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
5. Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State / Drafted 129th overall by the Denver Broncos / Some will say that Peyton Manning has made Thomas. He had only one reception heading into the 2013 season. But last year Thomas blew up, catching 65 balls for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Cowboys have been looking for another pass-catching option at tight end and they could’ve had a solid one with this fourth round pick.
4. Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland / Drafted 58th overall by the Baltimore Ravens / Smith is the last receiver but probably the most valuable on this list. Pairing him with Dez Bryant would be a dream for Tony Romo. Yes, Smith’s touchdowns declined last season to only four, but he caught a career-best 65 passes for 1,128 yards. Smith was an important piece in Baltimore’s Super Bowl run in 2012, especially when he caught three passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-35 2OT win in Denver.
3. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame / Drafted 43rd overall by the Minnesota Vikings / The 2012 Pro Bowl MVP would flourish in Dallas’ offense. He’s had questionable quarterback play during his three seasons in Minnesota but still found a way to catch 53 passes for 493 yards and nine TDs in 2012. Jason Witten on one side and Rudolph on the other seems like an unstoppable duo to me.
2. Justin Houston, DE, Georgia / Drafted 70th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs / The Cowboys badly need pass rushers right now and Houston would be a nice piece for Rod Marinelli to help develop. Over the last two seasons, Houston has 21 sacks. He was drafted one spot ahead of DeMarco Murray so the Cowboys would’ve needed to take him with their second round pick. Houston has played like a first-rounder the last two years.
1. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford / Drafted 154th overall by the Seattle Seahawks / Arguably the best cornerback in the league came off the board 11 picks after the Cowboys selected cornerback Josh Thomas in the fifth round. Sherman is already playing in a similar scheme as the one the Cowboys are currently running on defense. How has that worked for him? Sherman has 20 interceptions in three seasons with 16 coming in the last two.