1). Rick Gosselin recently wrote a piece on the Cowboys and trading down (which I summarized and commented on here ). Would you agree with the assessment about trading down?
SM: Yes, I would. Trading down has been a big mistake for the Dallas Cowboys in recent years. Names like Steven Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, and Jason Babin were all missed because of trading down. And the Cowboys have been fairly successful in the last four years staying in the first round by drafting Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, Mike Jenkins, and Felix Jones.
2). After free agency what are the Cowboys biggest needs?
SM: Despite the signings of CB Brandon Carr and S Brodney Pool, the defensive backfield is still a lingering concern for the Cowboys. Especially considering CB Mike Jenkins is in his final year of his rookie contract. Other needs include Center, Guard and Defensive End. Rumors are circulating that DT Jay Ratliff could make the move to defensive end if a new defensive tackle is picked up in the upcoming draft.
3). Since Jason Garrett became offensive coordinator and now head coach would you say the Cowboys have shown a core organizational draft philosophy?
SM: Yes. That policy has been to draft the best player available. This was no more evident than in the third round of last year’s draft when Dallas picked RB DeMarco Murray from Oklahoma. At the time, Marion Barber III and Felix Jones were already on the roster, so running back was not a major concern. But Murray’s talent level exceeded the Cowboys needs at the time. The move made Barber expendable and Murray went on to have a great rookie campaign. That success should spur the Cowboys to act similarly in this year’s draft.
4). Can Jerry Jones get this done, or should he just hire a G.M.?
SM: One playoff win since 1997. Clearly, Jones can not get it done. Any GM with that record would have been fired long ago. But, it’s a moot point. It appears as long as Jones is owner, there will never be another GM.
5). Are fans starting to turn on Romo–would they like the team to end up with a QB like Ryan Tannehill?
SM: Despite his 4th quarter mistakes, Romo had a great statistical year last season. I think that has bought him a pass with most Cowboy fans, at least for another year. One thing most fans do agree on is that their are much greater positions of need on the team right now then quarterback.
6). Is there a player the Cowboys seem to have taken a liking too–last year it was pretty obvious they liked Tyron Smith and J.J. Watt?
SM: Not this year. There are so many possibilities, I think Dallas is in a “wait and see” mode hoping a quality player they value drops to them at #14.
7). Who do the fans want to see be drafted in the first round?
SM: Most fans appear to want to the defensive side of the ball addressed in the first round. Names like CB Dre Kirkpatrick and S Mark Barron have been popping up a lot. Pass rush has also been a big topic of discussion, so top players at DT, DE, and OLB are also in the mix. And though it might not be a “sexy” pick, G David DeCastro could just be the most talented player on the board at #14 and too tempting not to pick up.
8). They say the third year is the breakout year is there a player(s) who could break out and fill the perceived needs from Question 2
SM: Both WR Dez Bryant and ILB Sean Lee will be entering their third year in the NFL. Bryant’s talent level is obvious. His issues are still with consistency and conditioning. But this could be the year his name is finally mentioned among the elite wideouts in all of the NFL. Lee had a breakout year last season. The Penn State alum led the team in tackles (105) and became their on-field defensive general. I expect a Pro Bowl Caliber season out of Lee in his third year.
One name under the radar is DT Sean Lissemore. Lissemore was a seventh round pick out of William & Mary back in 2010. Entering his third year, watch for him to make a bigger impact in his role as a back-up for Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff. Especially if Ratliff makes the move to defensive end.
9). Overall how would you rate the performance of the 2011 rookie draft class?
SM: Overall, it was one of the better drafts the Cowboys have ever had. First round pick Tyron Smith and third round pick DeMarco Murray seemed to both be home-runs. Sixth round pick WR Dwayne Harris was a preseason standout and could develop into a nice player. And seventh round pick C Bill Nagy started four games last season before being placed on injured reserve. But there is still an element of the unknown lingering out there concerning second round pick ILB Bruce Carter. Carter suffered a torn ACL to his left knee before the draft and entered the NFL season on the PUP list. He wasn’t activated onto the roster until well into the regular season. (October 29th) Carter contributed on special teams and in some special defensive packages, but he was always playing catch-up. I think we are all waiting to see what Carter can do with a full off-season program and training camp under his belt.