Thursday, January 13, 2011

Looking Back at the 2008 Draft Class

Starting next week, we are going to start creating player profiles for all of the Cowboys that will include contract information and reviews of their last season as well as a forecast for what lies ahead. Then the plan is to create some profiles for the players who could show up when the Cowboys pick in the 1st and 2nd Rounds so we are all plenty familiar with the names in the Top 50 in the draft, and who can help the Cowboys moving forward.

With that in mind, I am starting to go through some old draft guides from the last few years and review how it all started for some of the guys we watch every Sunday. Last night, I was reviewing the 2008 Ourlads Scouting Service Guide to the NFL Draft. I use their stuff quite a bit and wanted to look at the Top 3 Cowboys who have now completed their 3rd season here.

The Cowboys had 2 1st Rounders that year. The 1st pick, #22 (which ended up being Felix Jones), was from Cleveland via the Brady Quinn trade. That trade happened on draft day of 2007, when Cleveland acquired #22 (Quinn) and to do that sent Dallas #36 in the '07 draft and what turned out to be pick #22 in '08. Just to complete the entire thread, the Cowboys used #36 in the '07 Draft in a trade with Philadelphia that cost the Cowboys that pick (Kevin Kolb), #87 (Stewart Bradley), and #159 (CJ Gaddis) for pick #26 which the Cowboys used for Anthony Spencer.

With the #22 pick in the 2008 Draft, The Cowboys took Felix Jones. According to OurLads Guide that predated the actual draft, they had the following grades on the top RBs:

    9.70 - Darren McFadden, Arkansas (#4 - Oakland)
    9.37 - Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
    9.19 - Jonathan Stewart, Oregon (#13 - Carolina)
    8.94 - Felix Jones, Arkansas
    7.99 - Jamaal Charles, Texas
    7.93 - Matt Forte, Tulane
    7.54 - Chris Johnson, East Carolina
    7.47 - Kevin Smith, Central Florida
    7.23 - Ray Rice, Rutgers
    6.90 - Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech

Just to be clear, McFadden and Stewart were gone already, and then the Cowboys grabbed Jones at #22 next.

Here is Ourlads profile on Jones from that day:

Felix Jones - 5'10/207 - 4.47 (40 time)

Junior Entry. Started eleven games over three years, splitting time and sharing the backfield with Darren McFadden. A darter that runs the speed sweep after handoffs from McFadden. Bender/weaver type runner with rare lateral quickness. Quick cuts on sweep. Elusive. Stays on his feet. Can make the first defender miss in space. Presses the hole when he runs north and south. Gets his big yardage on gadget plays (reverse off of option). Catches the ball in his hands. Gives a good effort to block. A downhill runner that can make speed cuts out of the one back set. Rare quickness. Instinctive runner with vision and balance. Explosive out of the one back set. Can hit the crease at full speed. Excellent initial quickness. Question whether he can be a feature back because of size, but will be an excellent complimentary back. Has the speed to outrun the angles. Plays gunner on the punt team. He can make an open field tackle. Additionally has four kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career. Has 39 career catches for 383 yards and 3 touchdowns. Durability is unknown because he has never been a feature back and has fringe size. First/Second Round

I thought the stuff in bold was quite revealing at the time and even more revealing now. For the record, I was not interested in selecting Felix Jones here, and if you want to read that here it is. But, what I find interesting is that 3 years later, those questions remain unresolved.

Then, the Cowboys held the #28 pick. Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson went at #23 and #24. Now, the Cowboys wanted Mike Jenkins, and felt that if they stayed at #28, someone (like San Diego) was going to grab the guy they wanted before the Cowboys could pick. So, they traded with Seattle to move up to #25 to get Jenkins. The price to move from #28 to #25 was a 5th round pick #163 (Owen Schmitt - FB, West Virginia), and 7th round pick #235 (Brandon Koutu - K, Georgia).

Here was the draft day profile for Mike Jenkins. First, the DB grades from Ourlads:

    9.34 - Leodis McKelvin, Troy (#11 to Buffalo)
    9.33 - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tennessee St (#16 to Arizona)
    9.20 - Mike Jenkins, South Florida
    9.09 - Antoine Cason, Arizona
    9.08 - Aqib Talib, Kansas (#20 to Tampa Bay)
    8.95 - Reggie Smith, Oklahoma
    8.92 - Justin King, Penn State
    8.80 - Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech
    8.74 - Tracy Porter, Indiana
    8.12 - Patrick Lee, Auburn

I thought you would enjoy reading this enlightening profile:

Mike Jenkins - 5'10/197 - 4.42

Three-year starter. Six career interceptions. Cut tackler, not a wrap up. Needs to improve footwork in man to man coverage. Good instincts, but has consistent breakdowns in technique. Plays corner like a safety, but doesn't tackle well. Flashes a closing burst. Can stick his foot in the ground and drive on the ball. Improved in supporting the run, but still takes bad angles. Looks like a Cover-2 press corner that could also play off. His hip tightness is apparent in the BTR drill where his times should correlate with an athlete's 40-yard time. Should contribute on special teams coverage. Has talent but is getting a free pass on a number of shortcomings that need to be addressed and improved upon. Consistency, mental toughness, coverage discipline, and attitude all need an adjustment. First/Second Round.

There are no perfect players in these drafts (although Andrew Luck seemed to be pushing that possibility) and they all have warts. I just found it revealing that the 2 first round picks of 2008 had these warts and still have them today. And I suppose that is where a lot of us find coaching to be so imperative. Draft and development is the name of the game. Can you develop your guys past what we see in college or at the NFL combine? Or, do their warts follow them everywhere?

I said I was just going to do the first 2, but I cannot help myself on their 3rd pick. That was Martellus Bennett at #61. He was the top rated TE, but the 4th one selected that year:

    8.55 - Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M
    8.38 - Fred Davis, USC (#48 to Washington)
    8.29 - Dustin Keller, Purdue (#30 to New York Jets)
    7.60 - Brad Cottam, Tennessee
    7.56 - John Carlson, Notre Dame (#38 to Seattle)

Martellus Bennett, 6'6/259, 4.73

Junior Entry. Started 24 games over three years. Good athlete that is only limited with his work ethic. Former Aggie basketball player has all the athletic skills required for the position. Will reach and extend for the ball. Will line up in the slot to create a mismatch. Works back to the ball. Keeps a good base in pass protection. Big target with better than average speed. Just learning how to play the game. Pass patterns need to be refined as does his ability to create space from a defender and get open. Can change direction without wasted movement. Soft, natural hands. Secure after the catch. Athletic after catch. Needs to get more upper and lower body strength as an inline blocker. Would like to see more determination as a blocker. Plays balanced and with knee bend. Light feet. Can find the open spots in the short zones. Is a vertical threat because of size and speed. Improved field awareness. 49 catches and 4 touchdowns in 2007. Second/Third Round.

I wonder about Martellus most when we discuss development. I think he is a good blocker based on the success in the "12" and "22" personnel packages, but his receiving seems just as inconsistent and undeveloped as it did 3 seasons ago. Is it opportunity? Is it coaching? Is it him? If teaching was all it took, who is better at "creating space and getting open" than Jason Witten?

I will be interested in your comments on these 3 players below.

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