If we’re grading the Dallas Cowboys 2020 NFL Draft, it has to be an A overall.
There’s no question the Cowboys just had one of their best drafts in recent memory, one that saw it grab highly-valued players at lower spots than expected. Jerry Jones told the media on Friday that the Cowboys were “livin’right.” He wasn’t kidding. By the end of the draft, the Cowboys had addressed major needs, grabbed one of the draft’s best players overall, and set themselves up with help in both the short-term and the long-term.
Below is the analysis and grades for each pick, plus links to our coverage throughout the draft. At the end is the summary and final grade. But, spoiler alert — it’s an ‘A.’
ROUND 1: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (No. 17 overall)
I wrote a piece about the first two rounds of the draft for the Cowboys, and I made the point that few expected Lamb to fall to the Cowboys at No. 17. Here’s why. The Cowboys had Lamb (6-foot-2, 196 pounds) at No. 6 overall on their board. 105.3 The Fan’s Bryan Broaddus had him at No. 8. ESPN had him No. 10 overall and No. 2 among wide receivers. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler had him at No. 9.
He was universally considered one of the Top two wide receivers in this draft and he ended up being the third receiver selected. Even the Cowboys couldn’t ignore that, even as they have Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in reserve. Brugler loves Lamb’s quick hands and feet, football IQ, and ability to adjust routes. He also writes that Lamb projects as a “high-ceiling NFL starter.” No one has really discussed that Lamb has return ability, too.
Grade: A+. It’s a home run. Sure, it’s not a “need,” but sometimes the value of the player, regardless of the position, overrules that argument. Lamb may not “start” per se (well, except that NFL offenses now routinely use three receivers more often than not), but barring injury he could catch at least 50 passes in a Cowboys offense that has the potential to give defenses nightmares.
And if you don’t think he wasn’t a sought-after player once he got to No. 17, remember that the Cowboys turned down three trade offers to take Lamb.
ROUND 2: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama (No. 51 overall)
When I worked on my Cowboys ‘what they will do’ mock draft on Wednesday, I had the Cowboys taking a corner in the first round (A.J. Terrell) and a defensive lineman in the second round (Marlon Davidson). Diggs was one of the players that I considered allocating to the Cowboys in the first round, as our Mike Fisher knew that Diggs was a player the Cowboys had on their radar.
Instead, Diggs fell into the second round and the Cowboys were able to tackle a top need with a player that brings great value, draft-wise. Broaddus had Diggs at No. 18 on his overall board. ESPN.com had him No. 39 overall, but its No. 3 corner. Brugler had him at No. 33. Brugler writes that his experience on offense (he played the position in high school and started at the position at Alabama) gives him good instincts when it comes to playing the ball on defense. That, plus, his athleticism, will make up for the “technique and discipline in coverage” that Diggs needs to clean up, per Brugler.
The good news is that those are things the 6-foot-1, 205-pound corner can fix.
Grade: A. This fills an acute need with a player that can start and/or contribute right away. If the Cowboys are running five defensive backs out on the field, he’ll be there. Keep this in mind. Being at Alabama, he’s used to tough coaching. But head coach Nick Saban used to be a defensive backs coach and he spends quite a bit of time with that group. Diggs is a player whose improvement in Year One, from start to finish, could be more pronounced than Lamb’s.
ROUND 3: DT Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma (No. 82 overall)
The value here was almost comical. The Cowboys said after Round 3 that they actually CONSIDERED taking Gallimore in Round 2 but chose Diggs instead. Gallimore fell to them in Round 3. ESPN.com had Gallimore as its No. 49 overall player and No. 6 at the defensive tackle position. Brugler had him at No. 70.
Either way, the Cowboys got a well-regarded player who worked to get faster and stronger going into his final year at OU because they wanted to deploy him more as a pass rusher than as a run stopper. The result? He can do both. Brugler sees him as a 3-technique in the NFL who has impressive hands at the point of attack.
Grade: A-minus. Gallimore told reporters on Friday night that he’s not a “finished product.” The Cowboys know that too. But he slides into a position group where he can learn from Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. Gallimore won’t start. But the upside here is that in a rotation we might expect him to get 30 snaps a game right off the bat. One more reason that ... By the end of night 2, Jerry Jones felt he and the Cowboys were “living right.”
ROUND 4: CB Reggie Robinson II, Tulsa (No. 123 overall)
Robinson was No. 99 on Brugler’s Big Board right before the draft began. Taking Robinson here gives the Cowboys some additional coverage at corner. Robinson was an all-AAC performer at Tulsa who has three career blocked punts, so he could help on special teams immediately, even if he isn’t able to crack the secondary rotation right away. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he has the right make-up for the position. Brugler says that Robinson has the building blocks to be an NFL starter that can play both press and zone coverage. In the fourth round? Wow.
Grade: B-plus. A Top-100 player on any board in the middle of the fourth round is hard to pull. One that has the foundation to build on to be an NFL starter, with only some minor alterations, is even better. He should make the roster, and he could push a current Cowboys DB off the roster. He might be able to help at safety, too ... and he makes this group ultra-competitive now.
ROUND 4: C Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin (No. 146 overall)
The Cowboys traded up to get Biadasz as a potential replacement for the retired Travis Frederick. He’s a Badger offensive lineman in that tradition — tough, hard to deal with, and an award-winning career, which included being named the Rimington Award winner last season, given to college football’s best center.
Whether it’s a reach depends on the board you look at. Brugler had Biadasz at No. 170 overall on his Top 300 board, but ESPN.com had Biadasz as its No. 89 player overall. So if you want to debate the value, you can. But when you consider the long-term need for the Cowboys at center, he’s a great selection at this spot. He was on my Day 2 Cowboys targets list. To get him on Day 3, well, I say that's that's special.
Grade: B. Brugler’s scouting report indicated that Biadasz uses his hands well but needs to work on his balance in the NFL. ESPN.com called him ‘fundamentally sound.’ He’ll have the time to improve with Joe Looney likely stepping in at center in 2020. But, by Year 2, if he develops the way many Wisconsin linemen do in the NFL, you could be looking at the 2021 starting center for the Dallas Cowboys.
ROUND 5: DE Bradlee Anae, Utah (No. 179 overall)
WAY back in January, in my first Cowboys 7-round mock draft, I took Anae as the Cowboys’ second-round pick. You can read it here. At the time, I rationalized the Cowboys would lose some edge pass rushers, and they did. As the offseason evolved, I thought the Cowboys would try to address the need earlier. No, the Cowboys waited, and the player I had them taking in January fell into their laps.
The value here is massive. The Cowboys got a player ranked by ESPN.com as the No. 106 player overall and Brugler had him at No. 89 overall. At 6-foot-3, 257 pounds, he has a frame in which he can add a few extra pounds if needed. ESPN.com calls him a ‘tactician,’ while Brugler wrote that he’s quick out of the gate. His quickness off the edge is his most useful trait in the short-term, and he’ll be given the time to develop.
Grade: A. Anae is not a finished product. He needs more pass-rush moves and probably needs to add about 10 pounds. But relative to the value he had on the draft boards of both ESPN.com and Brugler, and where the Cowboys took him, this is a fantastic selection. Anae can be a contributor in 2020 in specific pass-rush situations and grow into something more complete beyond that.
There are no guarantees, of course. But this late in the draft Anae is a terrific get.
ROUND 7: QB Ben DiNucci, James Madison (No. 231 overall)
He definitely wasn’t an on-the-radar player for many coming into this draft. He wasn’t on Brugler’s Top 300 board. If the Cowboys had really wanted a quarterback in this range, some think they should have taken Washington State’s Anthony Gordon, who was the highest QB on ESPN.com board at the time DiNucci was selected.
Now, at FCS James Madison, one of the best FCS programs in the country, he led the Dukes to the FCS title game in January and was an AFCA First Team All-American and the CAA Offensive Player of the Year. He finished his JMU career in the Top 10 all-time in five categories, including completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, pass attempts and total offense. And he did that in two seasons after transferring from Pitt. ... and new coach Mike McCarthy is a Pittsburgh guy, so ...
Grade: C. I’m not going to let this drag the overall grade down. DiNucci is a developmental player who will likely complete with Clayton Thorsen and then land a spot on the practice squad. The Cowboys had interest in a few quarterbacks, including Florida International’s James Morgan, but the Jets picked him up in the fourth round. DiNucci is unlikely to make the active roster. Making the practice squad would be his victory.
FINAL GRADE: A. Every single one of the Cowboys’ first six selections were in the Top 100 on either the ESPN.com Big Board or Brugler’s Big Board.
Now, every board and every scout is a bit different. But ESPN.com (led by Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, who missed the draft as he now has COVID-19) and Brugler are some of the best evaluators out there. To claim that many players with a Top 100 valuation is just mind-boggling.
One could consider the pick of Lamb in the first round a bit superfluous, but when you consider how the rest of the draft panned out, the Cowboys address their most significant needs — cornerback, defensive line and center — without reaching. The draft was an A, in my mind, even before the seventh-round selection. This is a class that has the potential to have a significant impact in 2020 and beyond, and not every NFL team can say that after this draft.
Will McClay and the Cowboys let the draft come to them and on paper made the perfect pick nearly every time.