Wes Bunting Reviews the Cowboys’ Draft, Part One

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.

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com
Rafael Vela

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  • Moghbelli

    Regarding David Arkin some other scouts seem to be raving about him. Bryan Broaddus is very high on him and even mentioned that he might be able to start at center in the NFL.
    With all due respect to Wes, his player ratings were a little off in this draft. His number 3 center Barnes did not even get drafted. Same goes for his number 1 FB Hynoski. The list goes on and on.

    • Rafael Vela

      It happens. You rate 650 players you’re putting yourself out there. He said this was a very thin center class and once you got past Pouncey and Wisniewski there was a huge drop off. He said Barnes was one of the few draftable guys after those two.

      And the dropoff was huge. Brandon Fusco got drafted — in the 7th. Alex Linnenkohl didn’t get drafted. Neither did Kris O’Dowd, or Zane Taylor.

      • Moghbelli

        Have you read some of the things Broaddus has wrote (Twitter) about Arkin? Seems like a very solid pick to me which has a real chance at becoming a steal. Also after watching more than an hour tape on Demarco Murray I have no idea how Wes had him as a sixth round draft choice in one of his most recent pieces. The only pick I am not high on is Bruce Carter. If you watch tape on him you can easily see why he gets the rep for being a finesse player and has problems making tackles. Carter is not very instinctive either which worries me a bit as well. But again I have no problem with any of the other picks the Boys made and the Arkin pick may turn out to be a steal. Heck Broaddus even wrote that Arkin might be able to be a center as well.

        • Rafael Vela

          LOL. Not at you, Moghbelli, just at how the two of you disagree. Wes is actually much more to kind to Carter. I’ll post that tomorrow.

          Yeah, I saw Broaddus’ stuff. Encouraging.

          Look they made eight picks. If Smith, Chapas and Thomas and one of the Carter, Murray duo stick, they had a good draft.

          If the receiver contributes, it was a very good draft. All I can say with any certainty right now is that Bill Nagy looks like a long shot.

          • MadMick

            I’d rather three out of the top four stick to be able to consider this draft a real success. Anything Round Five and beyond is flinging poop at the wall and seeing what sticks. Since we’re all assuming Smith will at the very least be a solid starter, for me, Carter and Arkin really need to pan out and by 2012 for this draft to be a real success.

            Finally having that true fullback on the squad would be nice but Carter being more than a nickel backer and Arkin actually starting at guard are the guys most important for building a nice structural foundation for the team. They seemingly take corners like Thomas at that point every year so if he’s really going to be a starter I think that’s something that happens way down the road.

            Murray; I don’t know what to think except he’s not a feature back. We’ll see how the project works out. If it doesn’t but they found a guard starter a round later in Arkin instead of who was on the board in the 3rd, then I’d consider that a wash.

            What really, really, really can’t happen and be able to call this draft a good one is Carter and Murray having no more impact at their respective positions than guys like Burnett and Choice have. You can’t bust on 2nd and 3rd-round picks because you got a little too fancy in what you wanted in an ILB and RB. That’s not how consistent franchises are built.

          • MadMick

            To elaborate further on Chapas being a nice starter but not the kind of pick that does anything other than put icing on a draft, he’d still be just a fullback and if the 2nd through 4th picks missed or were no more than situational players in Carter and Murray’s cases then you really can’t pat yourself on the back too hard for a 7th-round fullback that panned out; even if he plays 60-70 percent of the snaps for you.

          • kameleon_o

            “What really, really, really can’t happen and be able to call this draft a good one is Carter and Murray having no more impact at their respective positions than guys like Burnett and Choice have.”


    • greatwhitenorth

      As with most things in the draft, you’ll have to give it two or three years before you can accurately critique Wes’ ratings. His system is based on the kind of production potential he sees in a player, not whether/where he thinks the player will be drafted. All you can say right now is that 32 NFL teams seem to disagree with his assessments on a bunch of guys, which is saying something, but not the end game just yet.

      • Rafael Vela

        Hey, it’s a one man draft board. I gained a lot of respect for the Kipers and McShays of the world talking with Wes. These guys do solo what pro organizations do with teams and 1000x or maybe 10000x the resources. And when they miss, and inevitably they will, the internet keeps those misses up there for the world to snipe.

        I got to talk to Wes, Russ Lande from the Sporting News and Chad Reuter from CBS Sports in San Antonio. It was enlightening, because they all had disagreements on players and teams and systems. On a team, they would debate, then hash out a consensus on each player and it would become that team’s final grade.

        Here, it was three guys and three boards. Even if one or all of them miss, they’re getting us much, much closer to the ur-board than we would without them.

        • Rafael Vela

          what pro organizations do with teams *of scouts*

        • Anonymous from Anonymousville

          Agree 100%. Not to disrespect the media scouts, because they do a great job with their limited resources, but I’ll trust any team’s scouting department over a media scout any day, for the exact reasons you stated.

        • kameleon_o

          I can’t imagine how hard it would be to put a list together of several hundred prospects and have it be anywhere near accurate. The fact that they get within a round of most prospects is amazing in itself

  • AUDC

    I had similar thoughts about using Chapas in the jet package. How terrifying will it be for opposing defenses when the Cowboys spread the field on 2nd or 3rd & short w/ just Chapas in the backfield?

    All I know is that opposing defenses better account for every inch of the field.

    • greatwhitenorth

      only as terrifying as the amount of time Leonard Davis can give Romo to get rid of the ball…

      • MadMick

        The Giants and Eagles still have just as many fabulous toys so the team that steps forth and proves it can bloody the other teams’ noses is the one that truly asserts himself as the Alpha Dog and jumps to the head of the pack.

        But it looks like it will be more of the same shootouts in this division where a goofy Romo interception is just as likely to lose the game as a sick Austin snag is to win it. Replace Romo and Austin with Eli and Nicks and the point remains.

  • Moghbelli

    Oh and by the way everyone, I am happy that the court ruled in favor of the owners for the stay. This will send a message to the players and their rep (Demoron Smith which I hate deeply and think is only looking out for his own interests) that its not a forgone conclusion that the courts will rule in their favor, which will HOPEFULLY encourage them to get back at the negotiating table asap. That is the only place where a new CBA can be written.

  • buffalocowboy

    Love the fact that they drafted Thomas, I graduated from Buffalo last year and love that a UB alum is playing for the cowboys. I’ve seen him live in many games and he does play bigger than his size. And he definetly didn’t seem like he was afraid to hit…love the pick

  • cowboyny

    Looking back at the team’s 2nd & 3rd round selections, personally I would of liked Wiz at #40 and Foster or Ellis at #71, but it doesn’t mean Carter and Murray where bad picks or become draft busts, either.

    Out of all the linebackers brought into Valley Ranch, I had Carter at the top of my list over the likes of Wilson, Sheppard & Irving. Both Sheppard & Irving are considered just two down running stuffers, where Wilson has bust written all over him. Wilson reportley had a terrible pro day, where he footwork was so poor, he kept tripping over his own feet. He comes with a red flag with a previous injury that can end his career at any point and doesn’t have a true position on the next level. Carter is the only player out of this group who has star potential as a 3 down linebacker No disrespect to Mason Foster, but Carter has far superior natural abilities. I cannot wait to see James/Brooking come off the field and let a player actually hold up covering a back or a TE, in hopes of getting off the field on 3rd downs. Don’t worry about Carter’s fit in Ryan’s 3-4 Defense, as other similar players have excelled playing under Ryan at the Middle Linebacker poition, notablly Thomas Howard & D. Jackson.

    Pick #71, team decided to take a RB over the likes of Rackley, Kenrick Ellis & Johnny Patrick. Let’s take one player at a time:

    -How much higher ranked was Rackley over David Arkin? Neither player is supposed to become a day 1 starter and must prove themselves against elite competition coming from a small school. Arkin doesn’t need to make a positional change as he started at RG for the majority of his college career, where Rackley only played LT.

    -I am not totally convinced Kenrick Ellis was even on the team’s draft board. Major character concerns, where even the Patriots removed his name off their leaked board. One thing you saw Garrett and the team do on draft day, was bringing in high-character football players, which Ellis definitely doesn’t fit.

    -Johnny Patrick was a good CB propect who is a better fit on the outside than Josh Thomas, but both have the potential to become key performers for their respective teams. Keep in mind. Orlando Scandrick could either become the team’s other CB stater in another season or leave for FA. Drafting a quaity, physical nickel CB makes total sense.

    The actual pick of Murray:

    -Many RB’s the team brought in went much higher than we expected. Ridley was drafted in rd 3, where Powell was taken in rd 4. Is Murray better than both these backs? Absolutely. When you watch Murray on tape, he definitely is a WOW type of homerun hitter, but also has a nose for scoring TD’s. By far the best receiving back in the entire draft and can be used in many different areas. He needs to answer his injury history, but also makes Felix Jones on the hot seat. Jones no longer can play hot and cold or he wil see time on the bench. Competition is always a good thing, which Murray definitely can bring. I see a Reggie Bush type of role coming for Murray, where he will be another player where defenses need to know where he is before every snap.

  • kameleon_o

    That doesn’t surprise me that he feels that way about Arkin. NFP has him rated 21st out of their OG prospects. NFL DraftCountdown has him 8th. ScoutsInc has him 7th. CBSSports.com has him 11th. Quite a bit of difference.