Dallas Cowboys: Complete 2014 NFL Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis
Dallas addressed some important positions and moved around the board when needed to best address roster holes. The team also decided to hold on to almost all its seventh-round selections, showing that it didn't want to miss out on this draft's potential.
There is still work to be done to prepare this roster for a run at the playoffs, but the draft brought more positives than negatives to Dallas. Let's take a look back at the Cowboys' weekend at Radio City Music Hall.
Round 1, Pick No. 16: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Round 2, Pick No. 34: Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
Round 4, Pick No. 119: Anthony Hitchens, LB, Iowa
Round 5, Pick No. 146: Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh
Round 7, Pick No. 231: Ben Gardner, DE, Stanford
Round 7, Pick No. 238: Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech
Round 7, Pick No. 248: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
Round 7, Pick No. 251: Ken Bishop, DT, Northern Illinois
Round 7, Pick No. 254: Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
The Cowboys did a nice job of picking for value and making the most out of the majority of their picks. The tone for their draft approach was set early when they resisted the urge to take quarterback Johny Manziel at pick No. 16.
From that pick forward, Dallas made smart moves and addressed several positions that needed either help or depth on its roster. First-round pick Zack Martin is the end of a multiyear process of fixing the offensive line, for example.
Picks like Devin Street and Ahmad Dixon were more drafted for depth purposes, but both could see significant playing time in 2014.
Street will be in a training camp battle with Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris to take over the No. 3 receiver position. Dixon will be competing against the likes of fellow young safeties Matt Johnson, J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath for the opportunity to start opposite Barry Church.
As noted by the grade for this draft, there were a few head-scratching moves made, though. Using a fourth-round selection on Anthony Hitchens is probably the most obvious of these moves. NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki had him projected as a seventh-round pick or undrafted free agent.
Dallas' other big questionable call was its lack of urgency to address defensive tackle. It wasn't until the seventh round that the team decided to add a player at that position.
Henry Melton helps ease the losses of Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher over the past year. That being said, he needs help in the interior defensive line.
Overall, the Cowboys made smart picks and trades, but they fell a little short of an "A" grade due to a few moves and non-moves.
Best Pick: Zack Martin
The Cowboys have have invested three first-round picks on their offensive line since 2011, and for good reason. Quarterback Tony Romo has been sacked 107 times over the past three seasons and undergone two back surgeries in as many offseasons.
Now 34 years old, Dallas realizes that Romo's career only has so many years left. The team has added the last piece of the puzzle that will protect him until he hangs up the cleats.
Martin has a great 6'4", 308-pound frame, but he is also deceptively quick. He isn't going to outrun DeMarco Murray or anything, but the Notre Dame product moves his feet well for a guy his size.
The other great thing about Martin is that he has the versatility to play both tackle and guard. He can take over Doug Free's starting role opposite Tyron Smith or move to guard.
The latter might be the best option, considering Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau are the projected starters at the position.
Dallas could not have chosen a safer player in the first round than Martin, and all signs point to this pick working out well.
Pick Grade: B
Worst Pick: Anthony Hitchens
Hitchens certainly plays a position Dallas could use some depth at given the injuries the linebacker corps has suffered in recent seasons. Starters Justin Durant, Bruce Carter and Sean Lee have missed a combined 27 games over the past two seasons.
The Iowa product has that great first step all defensive coaches like to see out of linebackers. Hitchens also showed a fine ability as a blitzer while in school. He will certainly be an asset in terms of depth, but that's really all he offers.
In the fourth round, it's not always likely that a team will find an instant starter. Even from a depth prospective, though, Dallas had more pressing needs at this point in the draft. Defensive tackle and safety would have been better options in Round 4. There were also arguably better players at Hitchens' position available at pick No. 119.
Hitchens wasn't the best value on the board at this point in the draft, and he likely won't contribute a ton in 2014. He's more likely to see playing time on special teams than on defense once September rolls around.
Pick Grade: C
Undrafted Free Agents
The Cowboys weren't done after the draft concluded, signing many rookie free agents just hours after it ended. Here is a list of the team's undrafted free-agent signings.
L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri
The former Tiger has a great wide receiver frame at 6'4", 195 pounds. While it wouldn't hurt Washington to put on a little more weight, he has fine speed that makes up for his lack of bulk.
J.C. Copeland, FB, LSU
Dallas strayed away from a fullback for much of the 2013 season. Perhaps Copeland can change his new head coach's mind about taking that approach again this year. Copeland is a brawler and knows how to use his strength to clear out defenders when run blocking.
Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
At 6'4", 206 pounds, Boyd is what Washington could look like with a bit more weight. He has the ability to win jump-ball situations with defenders and win more often than not. However, Boyd has obvious character flaws that might not make him the best fit in Dallas.
Ben Malena, RB, Texas A&M
The Cowboys let Phillip Tanner walk this past free agency, and Malena has the opportunity to make the final roster due to his departure. He should provide Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle healthy competition in training camp. Whether or not Malena will make the final roster will depend on how well his grinding mentality works in the pros.
Ryan Smith, S, Auburn
Smith is lightning fast and kept stride with most receivers he covered in college. He didn't spend a ton of time starting at Auburn, though, and that lack of experience might hinder his chances at making the final roster.
Ronald Patrick, OG, South Carolina
Patrick proved to be a reliable and durable starter for the Gamecocks. There are more than a few veterans and rookies looking to fill the guard depth chart this August, however.
Dontavis Sapp, LB, Tennessee
Sapp is a great tackler whether he is in the open field or in the middle of traffic. At 6'2", 227 pounds, the former Volunteer has good height but should probably add some weight to his frame.
Glasco Martin, RB, Baylor
Martin was a backup for most of his college career, but he did prove to have a nose for the end zone. His best shot at making the final cut is to show that he can be of use in goal-line and third-down scenarios.
Josh Aladenoye, OL, ISU
Aladenoye has some great versatility, but there are so many linemen fighting for a Dallas roster spot. It'll be an uphill battle from the get-go for the ISU product.
Jocquel Skinner, CB, Bethel University
Skinner is an under-the-radar kind of name, to say the least. In college, he showed a fine ability to get between the ball and his assigned receiver. Time will tell if the change in the talent he faces will be too much for him to handle.
Andre Cureton, OG, Cincinnati
Cureton showed a keen ability to follow his assignment in college. He has some great size to him at 6'6", 310 pounds, but his pass protection needs work.
Joe Windsor, DE, NIU
Windsor has great speed and is a dependable tackler. Not many ball-carriers eluded him at Northern Illinois. At 236 pounds, though, Windsor should probably put on some weight if he wants to play defensive end in the NFL.
Dustin Vaughan, QB, West Texas A&M
Vaughan saw plenty of starting time with the Buffaloes and finished college with 8,124 passing yards to his credit. The obvious drawback here is Vaughan's level of competition in school and if he can make the adjustment to the pro level.
Chris Whaley, DT, Texas
Whaley was a durable player for the Longhorns and suited up for almost every game over his college career. At 269 pounds, he's another undrafted rookie that will need to bulk up to continue playing his position of choice.
Cody Mandell, P, Alabama
Unless Mandell puts on a show this training camp, he's simply a training camp leg. Dallas didn't re-sign Chris Jones this offseason just to replace him months later.
Keith Smith, LB, San Jose State
Smith started all four seasons for San Jose State and earned All-WAC honors each year. He is a talented player, and it will take every ounce he has to fight through the veterans and rookies that stand in his way of a final spot.
Marvin Robinson, S, Ferris State
Robinson actually started his college career at Michigan before transferring to the smaller Ferris State. At 6'5", 196 pounds, he has promise based simply on his size. That being said, if he couldn't get a starting role at Michigan, he'll find it even harder to land a roster spot in Dallas.
What's Next for the Cowboys?
Dallas focused heavy on defense in the draft and made sure to shore up some positions on offense. Considering how deep this 2014 class was, the Cowboys needed to be on point this year, and they were. This year was one of the team's more successful drafts in recent years.
Although almost all positions in need of some help were addressed, there is still work to be done. Head coach Jason Garrett and his staff need to monitor how Romo comes back from his second back surgery.
Positions like defensive tackle and safety could see some veteran additions added just before training camp. Heck, the 'Boys might even bring back Miles Austin.
"We love Miles Austin," Garrett told Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News. "Miles has been a really good player for us and the economics of his situation really factored into the decision we made with him coupled with his injuries."
Dallas will bring in its newest recruits for minicamps and eventually training camp, but some veterans will be added along the way.
A few positions could use some additions for training camp battles. The coaching staff must now determine which veterans to bring in and get the rookies ready for the NFL.