Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU, First Round, 6th overall
First, let’s talk about the player. You can find reviews of him here, here, here, here, and well, just google him if you need more confirmation that he’s the best CB prospect in this draft with good length, ball skills, hands, natural coverage ability, good but not great speed, that could stand to be a better tackler, that needs to do a better job keeping focus on every play, while also adding some bulk in the weight room.
(catching breath from that run-on sentence)
I love the player. He could be a great CB in this league, and may even be very good his rookie season. That’s to be determined. If you’ve been reading my website over the past few days, you probably already know how I feel about the decision to go and get him. In fact, I wrote just shy of 1800 words on the decision and posted my thoughts at around 2:30am the night of the draft. Here’s that article:
The “too long, didn’t read” version is fairly simple:
I identified 8 positions above that have more of a need to upgrade than CB. They are, to recap… All 3 interior OL spots, OLB, S, and both DE spots. When you have that many positions that you can stand to upgrade, there’s an excellent chance that whenever you’re on the clock, the best player available on your board will also likely be a fit at one of those 8 bigger need positions.
So why use your first and second round picks on a CB? Well, that can be answered with another question. And that is:
“What are the Cowboys, exactly?”
They’re a team with no shortage of star power (or at least perceived star power) at the top: Ware, Romo, Witten, Austin, Ratliff, Smith, Lee and if you want to throw in Bryant and Carr too, then OK, I suppose I’ll allow it.
Beyond the stars, there’s mediocrity up and down the starting lineup and typically no depth to speak of whatsoever. This has not been a winning formula, and probably never will be.
The Cowboys’ decision to trade up and utilize their top 2 picks on one player (albeit potentially a great one), especially at a position that didn’t need as much help as other areas, reflects that same pattern.
This draft happened to be loaded with talent in the first two rounds. Had the Cowboys not traded away their 2nd round pick, there was an excellent chance that a really good player was going to be sitting there for them on a tee at 45. And in my opinion, there was. Here’s what I tweeted when the Cowboys would have been on the clock at 45:
A short list of players they may have made sense that were still on the board if the Cowboys had just sat tight at 14:
- OLB Melvin Ingram
- DE/OLB Quinton Coples
- CB Dre Kirkpatrick
- OG David DeCastro
- DE Michael Brockers
Another short list of players that were still on the board that the Cowboys could have taken at 45:
- C Peter Konz
- DT Kendall Reyes
- DT/DE Jerel Worthy
- DT/DE Devon Still
In my opinion, a combo of Ingram/Coples/Kirkpatrick/DeCastro/Brockers paired with Konz/Reyes/Worthy/Still would have been better for this Dallas team than just Claiborne. The Claiborne move is one that would have made sense for a team that was perhaps a player or two away, not this Cowboys team that has so many holes up and down the roster.
The great Bob Sturm of Fox Sports Southwest had a similar take, as he took the various options available to the Cowboys a little deeper, noting that they, like the Eagles, could have executed a more modest trade up to 12 to take Fletcher Cox, as well as other reasonable trade-up options that may have been available in the second round for players like Cordy Glenn.
The consensus of Cowboys fans that have been assessing my opinions as a “hater” have noted several things about Claiborne in the comment sections of other articles I’ve written here since Thursday, which I figured I’ll address now:
1) “Morris Claiborne is a guarantee.”
That’s simply wrong. Nothing in the NFL is a “guarantee.” When Aaron Curry went 4th overall to the Seahawks at 4 in 2009, he was considered a “guarantee.” When Glenn Dorsey went 6th overall to the Chiefs in 2008, he was considered a “guarantee.” LaRon Landry was considered a “guarantee” by some in 2007. Reggie Bush was considered one of the best prospects ever in 2006. Only Dorsey remains with the team that originally drafted him. There’s a “sure-fire star” that winds up being a total disappointment almost every year.
But those aren’t CB’s, Jimmy! OK, fair enough. Here is a list of CB’s that have gone Top 10 in the last 10 years:
Some very good, some good, some meh, and some bad in there. I’ll reiterate that I do think Claiborne is the real deal, but he is not a “guarantee.”
2) “But those other CB’s don’t compare to Morris Claiborne. He was the highest rated CB on the Cowboys’ board since Deion Sanders. He’s going to be the next Darrelle Revis.”
I don’t doubt that the Cowboys had him rated so highly, but evidence would suggest that Dallas had him rated much higher than a number of other teams at the top of the draft:
- Vikings: Minnesota had the 26th ranked pass D in the league last season. That’s especially bad considering that they trailed in most games. They could have taken Claiborne at 3, and then 4 after they traded out of 3. Instead, they chose OT Matt Kalil. Plus, it’s not as if they didn’t recognize their poor pass defense, as they draft defensive backs later in the 1st round, the 3rd round, and the 5th round. If the best CB prospect since Deion Sanders is sitting on the board at 4, you take him.
- Jaguars: Another team that could have used CB help. Chose Justin Blackmon instead.
- Buccaneers: Traded out of the 5th spot back to 7, and only received a 4th round pick in return. This is a team that gave up 37.25 points per game over the last half of the 2011 season. With 37 year old Ronde Barber on one side and a complete idiot (Aqib Talib) on the other, CB was a need area that was clear as day, and they passed on Claiborne. Instead, they moved back to 7 and selected Mark Barron.
- Rams: This was the team that traded with Dallas, moving back from 6 to 15. Obviously, they didn’t think as highly of Claiborne as Dallas. And yet, this was yet another team with a glaring hole at CB, which they addressed early in the 2nd round, and then again early in the 3rd.
As far as the Darrelle Revis part goes, Revis is perhaps one the 5 best corners of all time. Let’s tap the breaks on that one, at least until we see Claiborne play a few games in the pros. Fair?
3) “According to the trade value chart, the Cowboys got a good deal.”
I happen to agree that the compensation itself wasn’t bad. Here’s the draft value chart, in case you’re unfamiliar. The draft value chart will say that the 6th overall pick is worth 1600 points, while the 14th overall pick (1100) and the 45th overall pick (450) are worth 1550. Since 1600 > 1550, the Cowboys “won the trade.”
The draft value chart is a tool, or rather a guide. It is not the end-all, be-all of whether or not making a deal makes sense for your team or not. This year, as I noted already, talent was extraordinarily deep in the middle of the 2nd round. So really it comes right back to, who would you rather have? A combo of Ingram/Coples/Kirkpatrick/DeCastro/Brockers paired with Konz/Reyes/Worthy/Still? Or Claiborne. My strong preference is the former.
Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise St., Third Round, 81st overall
Once again, typical Cowboys. Horrible pick.
Ha, just kidding. Crawford was a player that had sort of escaped my radar leading up to the draft, but represents good value in the 3rd round. According to Matt Mosley of Fox Sports Southwest, some other teams around the league also thought highly of him:
The selection of Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford in the third round didn’t seem to excite fans, but it was a popular pick among personnel experts around the league. A league source told FoxSportsSouthwest.com that the Baltimore Ravens were ready to pounce on Crawford if he’d made it to No. 84 overall, three spots after the Cowboys took him. In case you weren’t aware, the Ravens are widely believed to have one of the best scouting departments in the league, which is backed up by how many players they hit on in the middle and later rounds.
“Crawford is a good fit for them,” said one longtime AFC scout. “He’ll be a five-technique eventually with a great motor. He’s a little raw as a pass-rusher, but he’ll be a good run defender on first and second down from the start. He’ll chase the ball and tries to finish everything.”
My sister recently started getting into football. She’s in a fantasy football league I run, and while her knowledge is growing, she’s understandably behind most of the people in the league. Whenever she makes a pick, she looks around the room for approval. If she gets positive feedback from someone, she’s happy as a clam. If somebody laughs at her pick, she’s crushed. I feel like that’s what Dallas fans do with every Cowboys pick. “Did another team like it? Yes? Holy shit, THE RAVENS liked it?!?!? Woohooooo!”
Ha, sorry. I can’t help myself. Them’s just jokes. There isn’t much tape of Crawford out there, unfortunately. This is the only video I could find. Nothing all that impressive here, but again, that doesn’t mean much, as it’s a very small sampling. However, there IS a kid at the 0:45 second mark that looks like he’s pretty good (MOAR jokes!):
Kyle Wilbur, OLB, Wake Forest, Fourth Round, 113th overall
The Cowboys tagged Anthony Spencer this offseason. He’s going to make $8.8 million this season. Spencer is probably a lame duck in Dallas, for two reasons:
- If you tag Spencer again next year, you’re paying him 120% of his 2012 salary. That’s over $10 million. That’s not happening.
- If you want to sign Spencer long term, you’re going to have to give him a contract that’s more appealing to him than the one-year, $8.8 million he’s making this season. That’s not going to happen, at least not in the immediate future.
Now, I do see two ways he could potentially stay:
- He has a breakout season in 2012, and the Cowboys get something worked out with him long term. Personally, I don’t see that breakout season happening, but that’s just my opinion.
- He plays out this season with similar results, and the Cowboys let him walk. He doesn’t find the big bucks elsewhere, and re-signs in Dallas. But I think by then, both sides would be looking for a change.
So Wilbur makes sense here as a guy that can play special teams for a year, with the hope that he can contribute more on defense in 2013.
Matt Johnson, S, Eastern Washington, Fourth Round, 135th overall
Johnson’s profile on ESPN:
That’s either a big “Yikes!” for the Cowboys, or ESPN. To be determined.
Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech, Fifth Round, 152nd overall
The first thing that jumps out to me on Danny Coale is his YPC at Virginia Tech:
- 2011: 15.1
- 2010: 18.8
- 2009: 20.5
- 2008: 11.3
Very good numbers. The other thing that stands out is that he got his fair share of playing time in college, as he had at least 30 catches in each of his four seasons there. The oddity is that he only had 8 receiving TD’s in his college career.
Morris Claiborne aside, Coale may be the biggest contributor from this Cowboys draft class as a rookie, as there’s a very good chance he’ll be their 3 this season. Here’s what I wrote about the Cowboys’ depth at WR a few weeks ago:
The Cowboys don’t have a legitimate #3. Raymond Radway had the team made last year, but his injury was ugly. He says he’ll play this year, but I don’t know about that. He’s the 3 if he’s close. He’s what they want, tall, smooth, a good leaper and eats up CB cushions. Or at least he did. He had the equivalent of the Joe Thiesmann injury, so we’ll see. Kevin Ogletree is one of the top “black hats” entering 2012, guys the fans hate. He wasn’t ready to start when Austin and Bryant got injured last year. Ran crappy routes. Ego the size of Montana but no work ethic. That’s a lethal combination. Still, he has skill. Dwayne Harris is a good route runner. Good hands. Not explosive, however. That’s not good for a slot guy. Needs guys ahead of him to go down or somehow needs to shave a tenth off his 40 time.
Reminds me a little of Wes Welker. Just kidding. Actually, he reminds me a little of Patrick Crayton, minus the attitude. Similar in size, similar skill set. Nice pickup in the 5th.
Oh, and he can punt if need be, too.
James Hanna, TE, Oklahoma, Sixth Round, 186th overall
Hanna’s 4-year career at Oklahoma: 52 catches, 720 yards, 9 TD’s. I hope he can block.
Caleb McSurdy, ILB, Montana, Seventh Round, 222nd overall
McSurdy could also potentially be moved to FB. At this point, you’re just throwing darts.
Positions that could be addressed, and did the Cowboys address them?
For this section, we’ll look back to what I wrote about each team in the mega-preview from last Thursday, and see if each team addressed each spot.
Preview: OL across the board: In 2009 (the last Cowboys team to make the playoffs), the offensive line consisted of Flozell Adams, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis, and Marc Colombo. All were over 30 years of age and their collective decline was fairly predictable. The Cowboys did little in the way of adequately replacing that group, and in just two years, they went from the oldest OL in the league to one of the youngest. All of those players are now gone, and the only remaining offensive lineman left from that team is Doug Free.
Drastic turnover doesn’t have to be a terrible thing, as long as the young guys that are stepping in are ready. Rookie Tyron Smith was ready, and looks like he could be a stud LT for the next decade in Dallas. Doug Free was ready in 2010 at LT, but his play fell off a cliff in 2011. Free will flip to RT this year, with Smith taking over at LT. Second year undrafted free agent center Phil Costa wasn’t ready, as he was regularly overmatched. Ditto that for rookie 7th round pick LG Bill Nagy, who played poorly before being lost for the season with a broken ankle. Rookie 4th round pick David Arkin never saw the field. Luckily, the Cowboys got surprisingly decent play out of Montrae Holland, but he’s now gone.
In free agency, the Cowboys brought in Mackenzy Bernadeau from Carolina and Nate Livings from Cincinnati. At least it appears Bernadeau has some upside, but I don’t see much of an an upgrade in Livings.
Free should be better in 2012, especially when he moves over to RT, and even if he doesn’t improve, the Cowboys are kind of stuck with him there, due to his 4 year, $32 million contract. But behind both Free and Tyron Smith at tackle is pretty much nobody. Depth is essential here.
Addressed? Reportedly, three different scouts advised Jerry Jones to select an offensive lineman at various points during the draft. On all three occasions, Jerry Jones pushed a button on a console on his desk a la Dr. Evil, that tipped the scouts’ chairs into a fire pit, where they died a horrible death.
Preview: Wide receiver: Laurent Robinson had a breakout season last year, and then cashed in when the Jaguars handed him an absurdly dumb contract based off one year of good production. The Cowboys have very weak depth behind the occasionally banged up Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Again, I’ll repeat what I said above twice. This WR class is extremely deep and talented. Expect the Cowboys to add one in the mid-rounds. In fact, oddly enough, the Redskins, who have the worst pair of starting WR’s in the division, are probably the least likely to draft a WR this weekend.
Addressed? Yes. Danny Coale could potentially contribute immediately.
Preview: Tight end: The Cowboys pulled the plug on the Marty B experience. John Phillips is now the 2. Phillips was looking like a breakout player during the 2010 preseason, when he tore an ACL. He played in 2011, but wasn’t the player he looked like he might become before the injury. He’ll be two years removed from the ACL this year. Can he play or not? That’s the question. Either way, the Cowboys like to carry 3 TE’s, and they currently only have 2.
Addressed? Drafted James Hanna.
Preview: Cornerback: Terence Newman was done. He’s gone. Brandon Carr is in. Major upgrade. The guy to watch this season is Mike Jenkins, who is on the last year of his rookie contract. Jenkins wants a new deal, and the Cowboys are in no rush to give him one. It’ll be interesting to see if/when they draft a CB.
Addressed? Sure did, AND HOW!
Preview: Defensive end: I like Sean Lissemore and Jason Hatcher, especially since the Cowboys employ both players on the cheap, but they’re role players, in my opinion. Marcus Spears is done, or at least he should be, and Kenyon Coleman is very much “just a guy.” The Cowboys haven’t had an impact player at DE in ages. The lasting image I have of the Cowboys DL is Jason Peters bullying them up and down the field. Anyway, at some point the Cowboys have to address this spot a little more seriously, right? Jerry Jones has said that he admired the Giants DL. Maybe this is the year.
Addressed? Yes. Got good value with Tyrone Crawford in the 3rd round.
Preview: Outside linebacker: Anthony Spencer is an extremely expensive one year potential lame duck. A pass rusher opposite DeMarcus Ware would make a lot of sense. I’ve seen some chatter among Cowboys fans that the Cowboys can now trade him for a pick if they take an edge rusher early in the draft. Well… Let’s think about that one for a second. He’s an average player, he’s making $8.8 million in 2012, and he’ll be a free agent after this season. Who’s lining up to take on that kind of situation, much less give up a pick to do so?
Addressed? Yes, Drafted Kyle Wilbur.
Preview: Safety: Abram Elam was a former Rob Ryan DB back in Cleveland, and his one-year run in Dallas is over. The Cowboys will go back to the Cleveland well again this season with Brodney Pool. Pool is a below average safety that nobody else had serious interest in. This remains a pretty significant need. Mark Barron has been heavily linked to Dallas. They’ll have to trade up to get him.
If you’re a Dallas fan, and you like Claiborne over (Player X at 14) and (Player Y at 45), I don’t think you’re crazy, and you have every right to disagree with me. I just happen to have a different opinion, and I think it’s pretty clear that the thought that has been put into this is a little bit more than just “Everything Dallas does is stupid.”
Prior draft recaps: