In part one of Cowboys Nation’s weekly draft chat with the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting, he looks at the surprise picks of the first round and begins a bottom to top review of the Cowboys selections:
Cowboys Nation: Welcome back, Wes. Let’s begin at the beginning of this draft. Which of Thursday’s first-round picks were the biggest ”wow” picks in your book?
Wes Bunting: Jake Locker going 8th to Tennessee. I thought that was high. The Christian Ponder pick by Minnesota at 12, though I heard that day that he was moving up. I figured he might go somewhere in the middle of the round, but not that high.
The Nick Fairley to Detroit pick, that’s the one that blew the top of my head off. The idea of him playing next to Suh is devastating. You can only double-team one of them. Which one is it going to be? I think he’s in a very good place. Suh will take him under his wing.
CN: Let’s talk about that a little bit. When the rumors of Fairley dropping started to circulate, you said his talent was too good for him to slide far, but at the same time that his odds for success would depend on where he wound up. Is Ndamukong Suh the type of person who can lead a Nick Fairley? They’re not that far apart in age.
WB: Without a doubt. Suh is from a good family. He’s well grounded. He was a leader on the field. When you looked at him last year, there were no question marks about his character. I’m becoming a bit of a closet Lions fan. I met Jim Schwartz. Michael Lombardi introduced me to him when he was at the NFP and I really like what he’s doing there.
CN: On the subject of Fairley, let’s follow up on a similar player. When you talked about talented players who could rise or fall depending on their locker rooms, you also brought up Jimmy Smith. You mentioned Baltimore as an ideal place for him. As chance would have it, Jimmy Smith was in fact picked by the Ravens.
WB: That’s a nice place for him. Baltimore needs him. They need a quality corner, plus they have size concerns on the outside. That’s a small bunch of corners. Smith gives them somebody who can match up against the Calvin Johnsons and the A.J. Greens and the bigger wideouts they’re going to face. Plus, he’ll have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed barking in his face.
CN: Let’s turn to Dallas. They had an offer from Jacksonville to move down but they stayed at 9 and took Tyron Smith. Is there anything about this pick that you can reveal, now that the draft is over?
WB: Not really. I had heard about a month before the draft, after his pro day, that he was a guy the Cowboys really liked. Then, the murmuring went quiet, and it seemed that teams came to believe he was the Cowboys’ guy. I think all the late chatter about Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt was just to keep other teams from going after him.
Plus, as as offensive tackles go, he’s the sexy pick. Jerry Jones wants flashier selections, and this year it seemed he felt he needed an offensive tackle. If you’re going to pick one, Smith is the sexier selection, not Anthony Castonzo.
CN: Let’s look at the Cowboys selections, but let’s invert the order. I saw your NFC review on the NFP and you liked the Smith pick and the later picks but you had some misgivings about their second day picks. That puts you in the same boat with a sizable portion of Cowboys fans who have a lot of questions about Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray.
Let’s leave those two until the end. Let’s go back to round seven and Shaun Chapas, and work up. It sounds like Dallas found a starter here.
WB: There are a number of things I like with this pick. I think you’ve found a guy who not only starts, but could be a three-down player. If the Cowboys go to a jet package, with four receivers and one back, I could easily see Chapas being the guy, because he catches and blocks so well. Any time you get a player like that in the 7th round, you’ve found a great value.
CN: Let’s move to Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys 6th round pick. He’s another guy who got a positive initial review.
WB: He’s a guy who’s more quick than fast. He’s not a special athlete, by any means, but he plays like a bigger receiver. He knows how to get separation. He boxes out and gets the football. He’s got a real savvy about his game. I think you can play him in the slot and he can move the chains for you.
CN: I read your report on him and was reminded of Patrick Crayton, another late-round guy who would lose foot races with linebackers, but who knew how to get open, play physical football and get first downs.
WB: Actually, that’s not a bad comparison. I don’t know if he can be Patrick Crayton as a rookie, but I can see him growing into that role. That’s not a bad comparison.
CN: If he gave Dallas Crayton-like production, he would be welcome by this team. Let’s go to Josh Thomas. When Dallas picked him, I went back into the archives, because he was one of the earliest finds you mentioned in our chats, way back in October. You said, “here’s a name to look for.” What grabbed your attention?
WB: He didn’t have a draftable grade from the national services when the season started, but when I saw one of his Buffalo game tapes, here was a guy with phenomenal physical ability compared to his competition. He just flew around the field and loved to hit.
I saw Thomas in person at the East-West Shrine Game and he had tightened up his footwork, in a good way. He was able to play guys on or off the line of scrimmage and he still liked to be physical.
CN: What can fans realistically expect from him as a rookie? What’s his projected ceiling, in the best of circumstances?
WB: As a rookie? I think he’s your gunner on punts, a wide cover guy on kickoffs and your 4th corner. He’s a lot like the corner from SMU you got, Bryan McCann, who I liked last year, but I think Thomas can be better. If you put him wide in nickel or dime packages and slide one of the veterans into the slot, I think he could hold up out there.
CN: And in years two and three?
WB: If he adds some weight, I think he could develop into a starter for you. He’s a physical guy, and he’s got long arms, but he’s a little narrow framed. He could put on ten pounds and be a more effective player. Buffalo doesn’t have the weight program of an Alabama or a Texas.
CN: In your opinion he’s got the physical skill set to play every down?
WB: Yes. He’s fluid. He’s got good speed. He’s feisty, and he’s good in re-routing with those long arms. He’s not afraid to strike you.
CN: Talk about the 4th round pick, David Arkin.
WB: He’s a small-school guy. He’s well-coordinated. He’s got some pop in his game. He was a little overrated, in my opinion. I thought there were more intriguing small-school linemen out there. He was at the East-West Shrine Game, and he didn’t stand out to me.
Tomorrow: Part two, where Wes discusses those second-day Cowboys picks, the NFC East drafts and some names to consider when undrafted free agents are able to sign with teams.