By Matthew Postins
NFL personnel officials will tell you that there should be no rush to grade a draft class. In fact, within the league, most teams will not judge a class as a success or as a failure until three years after the draft.
The end of the 2012 season marked the third year in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys 2010 draft class. The Cowboys drafted six players in that draft.
So how did they do? In the second of my draft review series, I’ll break down the half-dozen picks and how they’ve progressed since draft day.
First round (24th overall), WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: 92 receptions, 1,382 yards, 12 touchdowns in 2012; 200 receptions, 2,871 yards, 27 touchdowns in three seasons.
There were some who were preparing to call Bryant a bust heading into this season, thanks to a run-in with his mother off the field that drew more attention than the Cowboys wanted. Then there were the “Dez Rules,” designed to keep him focused on football. Must have worked. Bryant had a banner year that was worthy of a Pro Bowl selection. The fact is that Bryant’s numbers have improved each of the last three years in every category and it’s quite possible that he was just building to this watershed season all along. Now the question is whether Bryant can sustain it. That seems possible, but I have to imagine the Cowboys want to see a full offseason without Bryant getting in trouble with a creditor or a parent before they go all in on a contract extension. But he has quarterback Tony Romo’s trust now, and that’s key. He didn’t have it before October of this season, but once he had it the pair never looked back and put up some crazy numbers. By the way his busted finger is fine after surgery, thanks for asking.
Second round (55th overall), LB Sean Lee, Penn State: 32 tackles in 2012; 195 tackles in three seasons.
Lee was on his way to a Pro Bowl berth until he tore ligaments in his toe during the Baltimore game. At one time Lee led the Cowboys in tackles with twice as many tackles as the No. 2 player on the list. Lee excelled in pass coverage and was a beast in run defense. Some question whether his 245-pound frame will be a good fit in the middle of the Cover 2. When I covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers I watched 241-pound Barrett Ruud excel in the middle of that defense. Lee is a better overall player, especially against the pass. New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is going to have plenty of fun deploying Lee in his Cover 2. Three years later, Lee looks like a player that could anchor the Cowboys’ defense for years.
Fourth round (126th overall), S Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (PA): 0 interceptions in 2012; 0 interceptions in three years.
Owusu-Ansah made the Cowboys’ roster in 2010 and played seven games. The Cowboys tried to have him play some wide receiver in addition to safety, but he played just two games with Dallas in 2011 before he was cut. He went to Jacksonville for the rest of the 2011 season, returned to Dallas in 2012 to try and make the team again and was cut. The Cowboys got nothing for this selection.
Sixth round (179th overall), OT Sam Young, Notre Dame.
Young made the team in 2010, played two games but didn’t return in 2011. He is now a part-time starter in Buffalo. Again, the Cowboys basically got nothing for this selection.
Sixth round (196th overall), DB Jamar Wall, Texas Tech.
Wall failed to make the roster in 2010.
Seventh round (234th overall), DL Sean Lissemore, William and Mary: 35 tackles, 1 sack in 2012; 66 tackles, 3.5 sacks in three years.
Lissemore worked his way from afterthought to rotational tackle in three years. He put in some nice work in a tandem with Josh Brent when Jay Ratliff missed time early in the season. Lissemore had injury problems of his own in 2012, though, missing six games. But the Cowboys quietly gave him a contract extension in October, tying him to the Cowboys through 2016. They saw him at the time as a rotational tackle or end in a 3-4. But with the transition to the 4-3, Lissemore, at 303 pounds, projects as a rotational tackle, most likely at the run-stopping one-technique.
Overall: You can’t argue with the first two picks. Bryant and Lee should be with the Cowboys for years. But of the four later picks, only Lissemore panned out. One of the keys to sustaining success in the NFL is to identify talent in the mid-rounds that can become starters or heavy rotational contributors. The Cowboys failed in that endeavor in 2010, even though half of the class remains on the roster, two of them starters, after three seasons.