After a very solid haul on the first two days of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys wanted to finish the job and make sure they made Day 3 count for them. It looks like they have done very nice work, but it should come with a fair amount of disclaimers; The hit rate on Day 3 is extremely low and the odds that many of these young gents are in the mix in 2018 training camp is equally low. It is just how these things work. You find Dak Prescott on Day 3 and you change your franchise. You add Ahmad Dixon on Day 3 and we all talk about him nonstop for 4 months and then he is cut before camp ends. It just happens this way.
So, right here at the top, let me tell you I am very happy about Ryan Switzer and Xavier Woods, but before we dive in too far, let's just offer a review of this current war-room's 6 drafts previous. There are amazingly good stories here, but also the stark reality that it is very difficult to make a roster impact from Day 3.
This group that replaced Wade Phillips and company, Will McClay, Jason Garrett, and Stephen Jones, that fully started drafting in 2011 has certainly done well here, but a brief review on a year-by-year basis shows you the hit percentage comes down quickly after the first 100 picks are gone each year.
2011: Dwayne Harris was the 6th round pick that year and by any definition or measurement, we would have to call his career an unqualified success from that spot. David Arkin is still in football and has kicked around to several teams after spending almost 3 seasons in Dallas without playing a snap and being active one game. Josh Thomas in Round 5, Shaun Chapas in Round 7, and Bill Nagy in Round 7 all were all just memories, but in fairness, Nagy started the first few games in 2011 as the Cowboys made some really crazy decisions in that camp - including trying to start Nagy and Phil Costa that year. It didn't go very well.
2012: This was the year where they took Kyle Wilber in Round 4, then, Matt Johnson later in that same round. Danny Coale from Virginia Tech in Round 5 was going to be a real help in special teams/wide receiver, James Hanna from Oklahoma and Flower Mound at TE, and Caleb McSurdy from Montana as a linebacker. History shows that Wilber and Hanna have both been really solid. Whereas, we spent all of our time on discussing yet another solution at safety, the promising young Matt Johnson. I liked his tape at Eastern Washington very much, but he never got healthy and never did anything here. Coale was hurt twice that year, including the dreaded ACL, and McSurdy did his Achilles in camp in 2012. Basically, the whole Day 3 group was hurt quite a bit.
2013: BW Webb was the big grab in 2013. He was a slot corner who was a bit smallish (5'11, 190!) but a fighter. RB Joseph Randle in the 5thand LB Devonte Holloman in the 6th. All of them had their appeal and Randle appeared to justify the concerns about why teams were staying away from him in the draft process. Holloman was hurt and had to retire and Webb has pulled off the distiction of 5 teams in 5 year.
2014: In 2014, the Cowboys were able to grab 7 players on Day 3. This had us really fired up, and I am sure in the archives of this very blog, you can see me going crazy about getting Devin Street and Ahmad Dixon and how bullish I am on both of them. Well, the only player worth spending time on turned out to be the highest selection, the 4th rounder, Anthony Hitchens. Beyond that, Ben Gardner, Will Smith, Terrance Mitchell, Dixon all were quickly in and out. Ken Bishop did contribute and played a rotational role, and Street was cut last year in camp, and now finds himself in Indianapolis with the Colts.
2015: 5 players in - Damien Wilson, Mark Nzeocha, and Geoff Swaim are still here and have made minimal contributions (Wilson and Swaim) to less than that so far (Nzeocha). Ryan Russell started one game here and now is a reserve for Tampa Bay. Laurence Gibson was waived after his first camp and will go to camp with Houston this summer.
2016: This is the Day 3 that may change the franchise's path for a long time because of Dak Prescott. We still don't fully know what he will be, but 12 months in it is maximum return for a 1st round pick - let alone #135. Also, Charles Tapper, Anthony Brown, Kavon Frazier, and Rico Gathers all have people fired up about their futures. Darius Jackson is the only one dismissed so far, and that was a maddening roster move to get Darren McFadden back on the roster last season. Jackson is now in Cleveland.
Now, there are some roster players here, but the only actually NFL starter on this entire list is Dak Prescott, who needed some injury opportunity himself to the 2 QBs in front of him to get his chance. So, the Cowboys have taken 31 names on Day 3 from 2011-2016, and only Dak Prescott has spent a season as a starter. I think it is important for us to keep our perspective on what constitutes a good Day 3 pick and also as we dive into these guys they just grabbed to know where the bar is.
You will always take Anthony Brown, James Hanna, Anthony Hitchens, and Damien Wilson and who knows how good Charles Tapper is going to be. But, the general rule is if they make the team, they have been a good Day 3 pick. But, if they become an actual starter, now you have something special.
Ok, now that the bar is in a good spot, let's dive in on Switzer and Woods, both who I think have a real chance around here.
RYAN SWITZER: My first thoughts on Switzer were a few weeks ago when I was doing a deeper dive on his QB, Mitch Trubisky. Switzer was his favorite target and it doesn't take long to see that when everything else would break down, he was working inside to this guy. His short space quickness is remarkable and I think he has a chance to win on the inside as much as anyone around here. I am a huge Cole Beasley fan and I plan on him being around here a long time. So, resist the urge to compare Switzer to Beasley. They will work in concert in certain situations, but I bet they took Switzer to replace Lucky Whitehead and to get some more pop in the punt return game as well as some special offensive packages. Switzer is small, for sure, and has no problem with confidence. He is a real inside player who will make guys miss after the catch and add some significant juice to your offense. In the past, when they have tried to go with 10 or 11 personnel, they have not had 2 "miss" guys inside. I think now, you could put Switzer and Beasley out there together in some scenarios and really dazzle. I think in the 4th round, this is about right in the price given, and I expect he will be able to really do some things. He also adds injury cover for Beasley - it never seemed that they were crazy about what Whitehead could handle on offense - and this should be a nice addition.
XAVIER WOODS: True story, the Cowboys were thinking they would take Woods if Switzer went right before them in Round 4 at pick #133. They really love Xavier Woods, and taking Switzer made them a bit torn because they knew they did not have another pick (#209) for some 76 selections and felt they had lost the ball-hawking free safety from Louisiana Tech. But, he kept falling and while their grade on him was quite nice, the rest of the league did not share their optimistic appraisal of his future. So, as he fell, they decided to "get their guy". They sent their 5th next season to get Woods. By the way, they expect a few compensatory 5ths next year so they are more than comfortable doing this.
Woods is yet another Sub-6'0 defensive back and has some speed limitations that might make some nervous. But, overall, at La Tech, he demonstrated some real impressive ball-hawk ability and the type of range they have been looking for around here for a long time in their desire to play single-high safety and to have a man back there who read and anticipate and go get the ball. He has started for 4 years and looks comfortable as a guy who has seen it all and is allowed to do many things in that defense. The Cowboys loved him and wanted to get him. They thought he was worthy of their 4th, so when they got antsy in the 6th, you have to trust your process and get your target. They did it and they now expect him to compete very soon for a chance to get in the mix on their defense. That would be quite an accomplishment for a 6th, but let's see if they knew more than the league did on him.
Beyond that, they went late at Marquez White, another cornerback from Florida State in the 6th. Then, Joey Ivie a big DT from Florida that got Rod Marinelli all fired up in the war-room. After that, it was Noah Brown, the WR from Ohio State that had such a big night in Norman against the Sooners, and Jordan Carrell, a DT from Colorado.
I haven't studied these last 4 names, so I won't pretend to know what they bring to the table, but I will work on it and report back.
All in all, when you consider what I wrote after Day 1 and then the exciting Day 2, I think we combine this weekend to leave it with fantastic optimism about the building of this roster in to a real strong side entering the season. They filled the holes and look like they have upgraded at spots on the roster.
This group of decision makers look like they continue to do fine work and I must tell you that I was very impressed with how it all went down this weekend. They took some risks this spring, but they look like they won their bets on draft weekend.