Cowboys 2nd Rounders Poised For A Breakout Year

Sol Moyal

Since Jason Garrett has become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, the team has had remarkable success with their first round draft picks. 4 have become All-Pros at their positions (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Ezekiel Elliott), two did so as rookies (Martin and Elliott). There has been a mishap, (see, Morris Claiborne), and a the jury is still out on Byron Jones, Taco Charlton, and Leighton Vander-Esch. Byron has been looking spectacular in camp with the arrival of new secondary coach Kris Richard from Seattle and a position switch to CB. Taco Charlton made strides towards the end of last season. The Cowboys are hoping his development mirrors what he did at Michigan, when he steadily improved year after year, and hit his peak in his fourth and final year. Vander-Esch is still a rookie so we’ll see how his season goes, but so far he looks good in camp and gets to learn under All-Pro Sean Lee.

The Cowboys’ 2nd round picks are a different story. In past years, they haven’t gotten the type of production a team expects when it spends a 2nd round pick on guys. Bruce Carter was a nice player for Dallas and even led the team in interceptions with 5 in 2014, but he was overall underwhelming. The Cowboys expected big things from Tyrone Crawford and gave him a sizeable extension with the hope he’d turn into a great player and they’d have had him for under market value. He hasn’t lived up to that contract, but he has been a very serviceable player, and a leader in the locker room. Gavin Escobar fizzled out.

However, now we get to our next batch of 2nd rounders, starting with 2014 pick Demarcus Lawrence. Last year, he tied for 2nd in the league in sacks and was rewarded with the franchise tag which he’ll play under this year. In another contract year and surrounded by a deeper DE rotation in Dallas than ever before to help keep the double teams away, expect another big season from Lawrence.

Randy Gregory was a gamble by the Cowboys, as he was an unquestioned top-10 talent, but faced a myriad of off the field issues which caused him to slide all the way to #60 in 2015. He was suspended all of last year, and has now been reinstated and looks to be a major contributor in a deep DE rotation in Dallas.

Jaylon Smith, a consensus top-5 talent before a catastrophic knee injury led to questions on whether he would ever be able to play again. Dallas picked him at #34 in the 2016 draft, and redshirted him his first year. Last year, he was thrust into a large role due to Sean Lee’s injury issues, and though he showed promise, he was a weekly target of opponents’ offensive gameplans, as he was still physically limited and playing with an AFO (ankle foot orthotic) brace. This offseason, doctors have cleared him of the brace, and he has looked like Butkus Award winner Jaylon Smith.

Next, Chidobe Awuzie was taken by the Cowboys in 2017 as they took advantage of a deep DB draft class and overhauled their secondary. His rookie season was marred by injuries, but in the games he did play, he looked terrific, and well-worth the 2nd round investment. Now, under the tutelage of Coach Richard, and a full off-season program under his belt, he has looked like a star CB in the making.

Lastly, this years second round draft pick, Connor Williams is slated as the Cowboys starter at LG. During his rookie season at Texas, he became the first rookie Longhorn ever to start at LT. He was a freshman All-American his rookie year, and followed that up with a consensus All-American sophomore season. A knee injury forced him to miss all but 4 games his Junior year, and Texas’ offense struggled as a result. He chose to declare for the 2018 draft, and was projected by many to go in the first round. In training camp, he’s fit right in among the Pro Bowlers around him, and looks to fix the Cowboys’ revolving door at LG, and solidify The Great Wall of Dallas.

The Cowboys have had a reputation of gambling and whiffing on their 2nd round picks. They look to overturn that perspective this year, with a flood of talent ready to contribute all at once.

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