Grade : C+
Round 1 - Zack Martin OT
Round 2 - Demarcus Lawrence DE
Round 4 - Anthony Hitchens LB
Round 5 - Devin Street WR
Round 7 - Ben Gardner DE
Round 7 - Will Smith LB
Round 7 - Ahmad Dixon SS
Round 7 - Ken Bishop DT
Round 7 - Terrance Mitchell CB
The Dallas Cowboys went into the draft needing to improve on defense. Last season the Cowboys gave up more yards than any other team on defense. They wanted to play a 4-3 system but injuries decimated the defensive line. Things got even worse in the off-season as arguably the Cowboy's best two defenders defensive end, DeMarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher both departed in free agency.
With it being the Cowboys though a successful draft also involved Jerry Jones not doing something stupid in the name of publicity.
In round one of the 2014 draft this meant not drafting Johnny Manziel. When the draft got to pick 16 and Manziel was still available, it really looked like the Cowboys were considering drafting a QB despite already having Tony Romo on a big contract.
As it transpired the Cowboys didn't draft Manziel but instead went for offensive tackle Zack Martin. It was almost as if the Cowboys wanted to stress their belief in Romo by selecting an offensive lineman to protect him.
Martin is a solid player who will likely play guard for the Cowboys. The chances are he will be a mainstay of the line for seasons to come. For the Cowboys to take him in round one though was a mistake.
Taking Martin in round one meant that the Cowboy's had to trade up with the Redskins in round 2 to get DE Demarcus Lawrence with pick 34. Lawrence is the type of defensive end the Cowboys need. He is a strong edge rusher who will help get pressure on the QB but the Cowboys had to give away the third round pick (78th overall) to get him. As the
draft played out this wasn't a good deal.
If the Cowboys had taken a pass rusher like Dee Ford with the first round pick then there would have been no need to trade up for Lawrence. In the second round they could have then got a defensive end like Scott Crichton or a defensive tackle like Louis Nix. The later of whom would have still been available by pick 78.
Alternatively, had the Cowboys always wanted to trade up for Demarcus Lawrence in
round 2 they could have taken Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor. Either safety would have been a better choice than a offensive lineman. Both Clinton-Dix and Pryor would have filled the
Cowboys need to get better at safety.
Instead the Cowboys took Ahmad Dixon in round seven. Dixon needs a lot of work before he can start. Although an aggressive hitter, he often fails to wrap up and all too frequently struggles to read plays. In a schedule which sees both the Eagles and Redskins come to Dallas overlooking a top secondary seems like a huge mistake.
The Cowboy's finished the draft by selecting seven defensive players of which the only real stand out was Lawrence. They have added lots of depth the the roster but little to get excited about. This preference of quantity over quality seems to be continuing into camp also with Jones talking about perhaps having sixteen defensive linemen on the roster and cutting from there.
Overall the selection of Martin in round one seems like a mistake that polluted the rest of the Cowboys draft. Teams like to talk about taking the best player on the board and it seems like the Cowboys did that in round one.
Drafting the best player only really works though when you are a good team that has strength throughout the roster. This doesn't describe the Cowboys, the needs on defense both at safety and on the line were so great that the Cowboys couldn't afford to take a tackle/guard in round one.
Overall then it's a disappointing 2014 draft for 'America's Team'.
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