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2011 Draftees linked to the Cowboys: the Three Year Lookback

Discussion in 'Fan Zone' started by honyock, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    With 2 1/2 weeks to go until the draft, here's a little light reading.

    This is a lookback at the 2011 draftees…not the players drafted by the Cowboys, but the players linked to the team, who visited or were rumored to have interest from the team, or those talked about extensively here on CZ. I started doing these ‘where are they now’ posts at the end of each season starting in 2011, looking at how each years rookies did their first season. Well, you can’t judge a draftee until at least his third year, right? So here’s the three year report on those 2011 rookies.

    The 2011 NFL draft was the first draft I followed obsessively, and I joined CZ early that year to get more draft info. That was the draft following the meltdown 2010 season with Wade fired, Romo hurt, and Garrett named full-time head coach at the end of the season. The glaring need for the Cowboys going into the draft that year was the offensive line. Doug Free had had a decent year at tackle in 2010, and Kyle Kosier was hanging on at left guard. But the entire left side of the line needed replacing. As the draft approached, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis and Marc Columbo were all either gone or soon to be gone. So a great deal of attention was spent, here at CZ and among Cowboys watchers in general, on o-line possibilities. The line was by no means the only need. The defense was historically bad (sounds eerily familiar), yielding more points than any defense in team history. Defensive line, cornerback and safety were also at the top of the need list.

    But back then I was interested in how the Solders and Carimis and Castonzos turned out. So the 2011 year end review of players covered mainly the offensive linemen and included a few other notable players. First off here are those same o-linemen, mostly through the first three rounds. If you survive that long section, again there are a few players at the other perceived need positions. And a little about the Cowboys players taken but no longer with the team. And for a bonus, a little David Arkin talk.

    The top 1st round candidates included four tackles and a center/guard: Smith, Nate Solder, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, and Mike Pouncey, with a few others possible to sneak into the first round. Smith was widely looked at as the only player worthy of the 9th pick. But tradedown scenarios abounded, both for the other tackles, for Pouncey, for help along the defensive line, and in the defensive backfield.

    There ended up being eight offensive linemen drafted in the first round. Half of those, so far, are either busts or major disappointments or health related failures. I haven’t done this enough to say if that is out of the ordinary, but that seems like a pretty big bust percentage for round one linemen.

    Also, this was an offensive line class whose quality basically ended after the second round. Only one third rounder (Joseph Barksdale) and one fourth rounder (Clint Boling) look like they may last as starters. Other than that, it proved to be a very thin class, with very little talent later in the draft. (I admittedly spent little time tracking down the 7th round linemen, so there could be one or two in there who have done well, I just got too fried at the end).

    One last thing before moving on to the players: that class showed how brutally tough this league is. I was surprised at how many players missed major time over multiple years with injury. Derek Sherrod has lost basically three years to injury. Carimi may have lost his career to injury. If we’re all frustrated by/have written off Matt Johnson (4th rounder) for not being able to get healthy, imagine how Packer fans must feel about Sherrod (1st rounder), headed into year four with nothing to show for it yet.


    The biggest hits: (outside of Smith, who looks like easily the best lineman in the class) Pouncey, Solder, Castonzo, Orlando Franklin, Stefen Wisniewski.

    The busts and disappointments so far, either from injury, performance, or both: Danny Watkins, James Carpenter, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod, John Moffitt/Will Rackley (listed because they were given the dreaded “guard you can get in the middle rounds who can step in and start early” labels.

    Here they are in order of selection (I don’t list all of them after Round 1, just the ones I remembered the most talk about):


    1st round

    Mike Pouncey, Miami; Very good rookie season, he and Tyron Smith were the two best rookie o-lineman in year one. Better in year two, many felt he was undeservedly overlooked for postseason awards in 2012. Had a slightly down year in 2013 even though he made his first pro bowl. Generally seems to be seen as a top five center. May get a league suspension for his part in the Incognito bullying story. Is either a bully or a strong team leader, depending on who you listen to, has been a strong presence in the locker room. Very good center no matter who you listen to.

    Nate Solder, New England Saw plenty of starting time at tackle as a rookie due to injuries, did well, and has been the Patriots starting left tackle since then. When he struggled eRly it was in pass protection, but has gotten steadily better, has been good in run blocking form word go. Has become a very good left tackle, his sack numbers in pass protection are keeping him from being regarded as elite at this point.

    Anthony Castonzo, Indy Had some rookie struggles, partly due to nagging injuries. Has started every game for the Colts since then. Some pass pro struggles early in 2012 but has gotten progressively better. Had a good, steady year in 2013. Pass protection is now pretty reliable, and has been a solid if not overpowering run blocker. Will probably never be elite, but has shown to be a good choice and a reliable left tackle.

    Danny Watkins, Philly A big first round bust for the Eagles. They saw Watkins as filling a need, who could step in and start at guard immediately. Very shaky start in training camp, then bad in limited playing time as a rookie. Actually made a couple of all-rookie teams almost by default…not many good rookie guards to choose from. Got a chance to start in 2012, was benched at midseason. Terrible in pass protection. Released at end of season. Signed by Miami and couldn't get on the field for an awful offensive line. As Philly's GM put it, the toughness he showed in college never appeared as a pro.

    James Carpenter, Seattle A bit of a surprise when he was selected ahead of Carimi age Sherrod. They saw him as a versatile road grader who could play right tackle or either guard spot. In retrospect, he was over drafted, maybe due to the perception of his versatility. Has struggled with injuries, weight, technique, and consistency. Has been weak in pass protection as a tackle and in run blocking as a guard. Hasn't capitalized on the playing time he's gotten . Pre-draft speculation this year is that the Seahawks may consider moving on from him or letting him walk after his rookie contract, and look to draft his replacement in May.

    Gabe Carimi, Chicago Injuries helped make Carimi one of the biggest disappointments of the draft. Dislocated his right knee in game 2 of his rookie year (he had injured the same knee twice in college, including a dislocation, and the state of his knee was a concern pre-draft). The knee required multiple surgeries. Started 13 games for the Bears in 2012 but played poorly by all accounts. Traded to the Bucs for a 6th round pick. They started him three times in 2013 then released him after the season. Picked up by the Falcons early this offseason. Probably struggling to hang on in the league at this point.

    Derek Sherrod, Green Bay Bad injury late in his rookie season, broke both his tibia and fibula. Before the injury, he had a disappointing camp then struggled for playing time for a team with a pretty weak offensive line. Took him most of the next two years to fully recover. Will probably compete for a swing tackle position in camp this year. He was thought to be a little less immediately pro-ready than the other top tackles pre-draft, so the struggles in his rookie year weren’t really a surprise. The injury set him back two years.


    2nd round

    Orlando Franklin, Denver Great second round pick by Denver. Stepped in and has started all but one game in three years at right tackle. Great in pass protection and is regarded by many rankings as a top five right tackle. Denver is reportedly considering moving him to left guard, not out of any deficiencies on his part but to fill a weakness there. He’s considered a better pass blocker than run blocker so plenty of Broncos watchers regard this idea of fixing something that isn’t broken.

    Ben Ijalana, Indy Injuries have derailed his career so far. tore an acl early in his rookies season, ending his season, then tore it again in training camp in 2012. Waived by the Colts in 2013, claimed by the Jets but saw no game action last year.

    Stefen Wisniewski, Oakland; Was a starter day one at guard for the Raiders, played very well and made most all-rookie teams. Moved to center in year two and had some struggles. Some talk of moving him back to guard, but he started at center in 2013 and seems to be their center going forward. Not dominant but a pretty good player. May have been a better guard than center but team needs dictated otherwise.

    Rodney Hudson, Chiefs Broke into the starting lineup at center in his second year, knocked out for the year with a broken leg. Started 15 games at center in 2013 and has received high praise from teammates and coaches for stabilizing the line. Smart, good grasp of the position, humble, hardworking. Took some time and patience but has turned into a good pro.

    Marcus Gilbert, Steelers Filled in nicely at tackle for an injured Willie Colon as a rookie. Since then has struggled with injuries and consistency. A mixed bag as a starter, gives up too many sacks, shows some potential as a run blocker, takes too many penalties.


    3rd round


    John Moffit, Seattle Bounced from Seattle to Denver then walked away from football, citing concerns that the NFL might be bad for his health. Then proceeded to have all kinds of scrapes with the law. Pled guilty to disorderly conduct charges and is currently charged with several counts, including two felony drug possessions charges and one battery charge (punching a man in the head). At the rate he's going, staying in the NFL might have been safer for his health.

    Will Rackley, Jaguars Started early for the Jaguars at guard, lost his job, got it back, was below-mediocre to flat out bad, depending on which Jaguar watchers you listened to. Lost his starting job in preseason 2012 then got hurt and was out for the year. Got another chance to start in 2013, started 11 games, almost universally panned as a disaster in both run and pass blocking. The Jaguars now reportedly see him as a swing guard only and finding a replacement is one of many priorities.

    -------------------------

    And that’s pretty much it. Joseph Barksdale, picked late in the 3rd, bounced from Oakland to St Louis where he may have found a home at right tackle. Clint Boling, the 1st guard taken in the 4th round, nine picks before Arkin, has been pretty good the past two years since taking over the starters job. He’s facing coming back from an ACL injury in 2014. Jason Pinkston, a Browns 5th rounder, showed some flashes in 2012 before blood clots almost cost him his career (doctors told him he could have died on the field). If he can get healthy, he might have a shot as a starter. Marcus Cannon, drafted in the 5th by the Patriots, was a nice comeback story from lymphoma but looks on course to be a career swing tackle. The rest of the day three picks have looked so far to be backups at best.

    So it was basically a two-round + 2 player (Barksdale and Boling) draft on the o-line. By the time of the Arkin pick, there wasn’t much left. At that point in the draft, everyone else had flaws - poor competition, big school guys with holes in their games, health concerns, etc. Sometimes one of those players with flaws breaks out, but no one has from the 2011 class at the three year mark. Arkin turned out to be a bust, but at that point, there really weren’t any good picks left on the line. I thought at the time that he was a decent pick. He was smart and tough and a hard worker, an okay athlete, and was picked about where he was rated in the draft rankings I saw, and his pick got some love from the draft gurus/graders. Given that it was my first year to be really hanging on each pick, I followed his and Dwayne Harris' and Nagy's progress (or lack of progress for Arkin and Nagy) pretty closely. The guy just couldn't get stronger. I expected in doing this post to find other linemen I wished they'd taken instead, but there wasn't really anyone who would have made an impact that I saw. In hindsight, the Cowboys tried to take one last player on Day Three from that draft that effectively ended for o-linemen on Day Two. Again in hindsight, it was time to leave all thoughts of drafting an offensive lineman behind at that point in the draft.

    -------------------------------------

    Here are some at other positions that were included in Dallas pre-draft talk. I’ve left out quite a few players I could have included, especially at defensive line and defensive backfield, since the OL report was a little overkill (and its late and I’m tired!):

    JJ Watt: I looked back at the raps/negatives on Watt pre-draft: Limited experience, a work in progress, not an explosive first step, lack of pass rush moves. Well. We all know now. Freakishly good. If he can keep this pace up, maybe Hall of Fame good. After his AllUniverse year in 2012, in 2013 he had what for him could be considered a down year, but for any other defensive lineman would still be a monster year. For the Cowboys, the choice between Smith and Watt was a sweet choice, one in which there wasn’t a wrong answer.

    Cameron Jordan: Jordan was a bit of a disappointment as a rookie, especially as a pass rusher. He improved in 2012 and then had a breakthrough season in 2013 as a DE in Rob Ryan’s 3-4, recording 12.5 sacks, continuing his solid run defense, and making his first Pro Bowl. He terrorized Doug Free in the Saints-Cosboys game. The stats didn’t do justice to the mayhem he created in the Cowboys backfield. A testament to a lineman either taking time to develop, needing the right scheme fit, or a little of both.

    Aldon Smith, 49’ers, 7th pick Extremely gifted pass rusher. Enough of a knucklehead that the 49’ers may make the rare move of getting rid of an extremely gifted pass rusher.

    Phil Taylor, DT, Cleveland, 21st pick Made most all-rookie teams in 2011. Injury cut his season short in 2012. Saw his playing time diminish in 2013, used mainly on rushing downs. Will move to NT in the Browns new 3-4 defense, they expect his playing time to increase. Very good solid tackle, great against the run, was disruptive as a pass rusher early on so the limited snaps in 2013 was curious. Should benefit from the move to Ray Horton’s defense.

    Prince Amukamara, Giants, 19th pick A lot of talk about him to the Cowboys pre-draft. Hurt and missed time both in 2011 and 2012, was dogged by “not tough enough” tag. Was healthy the whole year in 2013 and finally played to form. Going forward, health seems to be the key for him - proved his talent last year.

    Rahim Moore, Denver, 45th pick. The top safety in what was seen as a very weak class. Part time starter at FS in 2011, full time since then. Has been an okay safety, not much more than that. Decent in deep zone, not a particularly good tackler, not too instinctive, not great closing speed…does some things decently but plenty of holes in his game.

    Muhammed Wilkerson, DT, Jets, 30th pick. has pretty quietly become an extremely good tackle the past two years, an anchor in the Jets d-line. He and Sheldon Richardson paired up to be a terrific tackle duo in 2013. Very good pick, the Jets just picked up his 5th year option.

    Cameron Heyward, Steelers, DE, 31st pick Finally broke through in 2013. Started the final 12 games and looks like he’s seized a starting DE spot for good. Showed plenty of disruptiveness as a pass rusher. Took some time to develop, including time in the weight room, but the light seemed to come on in year three.

    Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Chiefs, 3rd round, 70th pick. Dropped from a potential first rounder to the third round after failing a drug test at the combine brought up character concerns. Has been a model citizen so far and has been a terrific OLB for Kansas City. Pro Bowler in 2012 and 2013, one of the best pass rushing 3-4 OLB’s in the NFL. Great pick, he and Richard Sherman may be the two defensive steals of the 2011 draft.


    And now the ex-Cowboys from the 2011 draft:

    David Arkin, OG, 4th round Still on the Dolphins 2014 roster, will probably be fighting for a roster spot in training camp. Not a bad place for him to be, their line is thin and terrible.

    Josh Thomas, CB 5th round. The Cowboys coaches reportedly liked him but got caught in a numbers game and tried to sneak him onto the practice squad at the end of the 2011 preseason. Got a lot of playing time in 2012 as a nickel back/slot corner. Started five games early in 2013 and was benched in favor of UDFA Melvin White. Pretty active special teamer, but may be fighting for a roster spot this year.

    Shaun Chapas, FB, 7th round. Waived in TC 2012 by the Cowboys, picked up and spent most of the year on the Lions practice squad, activated and got on the field for three games late in the year. Waived in 2013 and signed by Jacksonville, on their practice squad most of the year, brought up to the active roster at seasons end and still currently on their roster.

    Bill Nagy, OG, 7th round. Never could get his ankle healthy. Waived by the Cowboys and claimed by the Lions in 2012, spent the year on injured reserve. Released by the Lions later in 2013, out of football.

    Kevin Kowalski OC/OG, UDFA Waived at the end of training camp by the Cowboys in 2013. Signed in January this year by the Redskings to a futures contract.



    how did ex Cowboys do Arkin, Josh Thomas, Kowalski, Nagy
  2. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    ...and sorry for the many typos. I tried editing but the timer ran out on me.
  3. Ntegrase96

    Ntegrase96 Well-Known Member

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    The pass rushing talent in that class was ridiculous.

    14 of the first 16 picks are or have already been in the pro-bowl.

    Very strong draft. So glad we were at least able to nab one of the top talents of the draft.
  4. xwalker

    xwalker Well-Known Member

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    Super awesome review.
    Gaede likes this.
  5. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    Great read. Thanks for all the work you did on that and have done on others.
  6. daveferr33

    daveferr33 Well-Known Member

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    I like this especially!
  7. DallasEast

    DallasEast Cowboys 24/7/365 Zone Supporter

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    If there was ever a player who needed an owner to appoint him a bodyguard and assign curfews, it's Aldon Smith.
    JoeyBoy718 likes this.
  8. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys. I appreciate it.

    Me too. Too bad for Watkins, who had a cool story coming out of college, but no weeping for Philly and a 1st round whiff.
    daveferr33 likes this.
  9. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, a lot of passrushing talent in that draft. And that top half of the first round was packed with some serious talent, minus the Locker/Ponder/Gabbert reaches.
  10. lostar2009

    lostar2009 Active Member

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    Why did we cut Kevin Kowalski ? He was solid.
  11. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    A UDFA with things to prove can't afford to keep getting hurt. He spent the majority of 2012 injured and on the PUP list, then hurt his knee again in TC in 2013. He probably needed a big camp to make the roster, and if I remember it right, he had some shaky practices in TC before the knee injury.
    perrykemp likes this.
  12. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    Really wanted him at OG. Multiple Pro Bowls likely if he could have played there. Imagine if we had him at ROG now.
    lostar2009 likes this.
  13. jnday

    jnday Well-Known Member

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    I think he wanted to fight fires instead of play football. It is clear now. The guy had one true passion and it wasn't football. Good work by the way.
  14. lostar2009

    lostar2009 Active Member

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    Yea but he played alot of games for us. I thought he was better than Costa.
  15. ShiningStar

    ShiningStar Well-Known Member

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    wow, great read, simple but with facts, something for everyone, excellent write up.
  16. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    You know, you may be right on the money on that. I had missed this somehow in the OP, but when he was released by the Eagles after TC 2013, the story floating around was that his "heart just isn't into football" and that it may never have been. He pocketed $5.95 million in his three years in the league, so I guess his heart is hurting a little less about that.

    The Eagles really took it in the shorts with him. Blown 1st rounder and a $4.3M signing bonus that'll still count against the cap this year.. He got the vet min from Miami in 2013. Still, that should be the most decked out firehouse in the nation when he goes back to his old job.
  17. Cowboy Brian

    Cowboy Brian Romo 2 Austin Zone Supporter

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    Still remember all my mocks with Smith & Wisniewski. Ahh, just imagine. :(
  18. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    He'd look pretty good here at RG. I don't know if he was on the Cowboys radar - I looked at the list they invited for visits in 2011 and can't remember at the moment it he was on it - but he was there when the Cowboys picked in the 2nd round. It's spilt milk and howling at the moon now, but in hindsight at the year three point, Wisniewski has been the more productive player than Carter by a pretty wide margin.
  19. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    One more thing about the 2011 draft that I was going to include then forgot. The Seahawks had a really whacky draft. Their first rounder (James Carpenter) has been a disappointment. They had no second rounder. Their third rounder (John Moffitt) may be in prison by the time the season starts. So they got close to nothing out of Day One and Day Two of the draft.

    Then they whiffed on one of their fourth round picks, who was cut within a year. But with their other fourth round pick they got K.J. Wright, who has been a three year starter at linebacker and has been a very solid, consistent and productive member of that defense.

    With one of their fifth round picks they got Richard Sherman, who was 1st team all-rookie in 2011, then 1st team All-Pro in 2012 and 2013. He may have been one of the biggest steals in recent draft history.

    With their sixth rounder they got Byron Maxwell, who stepped in at CB and started the last several games of the 2013 season including the Super Bowl run after starter Brandon Browner was suspended for substance abuse. He did so well that the Seahawks talk is that he'll likely replace Browner as starter this year. He's a really good fit for their defense - a big, physical press corner, and they think he's the real deal who's now ready for a starting role.

    With one of their 7th rounders they got Malcolm Smith, a backup linebacker and core special teamer who stepped in when Wright was hurt late in the season, and was the MVP of the Super Bowl.

    That's the kind of Day Three you dream about.
    dogberry likes this.
  20. Maxmadden

    Maxmadden Active Member

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    Fighting fire and saving lives is simply more important than football.

    On a serious note, appreciated the write up. That took a lot of time and effort and it's what makes this board worth reading.

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