Given the months and months of build-up to the annual NFL draft, the rush to summarize a team’s rookie draft class in a few sentences and stamp a letter grade on it has never quite made much sense to me.
In the past, I’ve compared this process to patrons at a restaurant complimenting (or complaining to) the chef based on the menu, rather than waiting to actually taste the food.
In much this same way, it obviously takes time to properly evaluate a draft. Given all of the complexities of the 2020 NFL draft, specifically, this is especially true.
So, while we cannot skip years ahead to know for certain which players will ultimately exceed or fail to live up to expectations in the NFL, we can provide a much deeper dive into each team’s rookie class.
Therefore, in a 32-part series, NFLDraftScout.com will be providing a detailed breakdown of each of the NFL teams’ rookie hauls, following the original draft order. Each team will be evaluated on the quality, quantity and relative safety of their draft classes (including undrafted free agents), with specific players recognized as Best Player, Best Value and Best Project, culminating in one “final” grade.
Today’s team: Dallas Cowboys
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy
General Manager: Jerry Jones
Players selected in 2020:
Round 1, Pick 17 overall: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Round 2, Pick 51 overall: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
Round 3, Pick 82 overall: DT Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
Round 4, Pick 123 overall: CB Reggie Robinson II, Tulsa
Round 4, Pick 146 overall: C Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
Round 6, Pick 179 overall: DE Bradlee Anae, Utah
Round 7, Pick 231 overall: QB Ben DiNucci, James Madison
Key Undrafted Free Agents:
LB Francis Bernard, Utah
RB Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
TE Sean McKeon, Michigan
RB Sewo Oluniula, TCU
OT Terence Steele, Texas Tech
TE/H-back Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State
Overview of the Cowboys’ 2020 draft: After one of the best drafts (on paper) of his time as general manager, as well as owner of the Dallas Cowboys, some fans are jokingly asking if Jerry Jones will consider leading each year’s college selection show from his private yacht, as he did this year in response to the COVID-19 quarantine. While everyone, obviously, is craving a return to normal, there is no denying that the 2020 NFL draft fell beautifully for Jones and the Cowboys with arguably the draft’s top receiver still, shockingly, on the board at No. 17 in Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and really good players at positions of greater concern slipping to points of extreme value. Take the second round, for example, when Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs (who I knew the Cowboys were very high on) was still on the board at No. 51 overall. Given the loss of Byron Jones in free agency, cornerback was the bigger position of concern for this team, as was center with Travis Frederick’s retirement. While it would have surprised no one had the Cowboys looked inside for a replacement for Frederick earlier in the draft, the underrated depth of this year’s center class allowed the club to replace one Badger with another in Tyler Biadasz, a future starter and a steal in the fourth round. This Cowboys class offers just about everything draft fans can hope for. With Lamb, in particular, the seven-player class offers legitimate “star” power, while filling the major holes on the roster. The best part of Dallas’ 2020 draft was the value. With the exception of 7 round quarterback Ben DiNucci, the 231 player selected (who I gave a UDFA grade), every one of the players Dallas selected was ranked higher on my board than were the Cowboys got him. There are several players from this class I expect to ultimately outplay their draft slot, making the Cowboys one of the easy winners of the 2020 NFL draft.
Best Player of the Cowboys’ 2020 Draft: WR CeeDee Lamb
At first glance, it might appear that Lamb was a bit of a premium selection for the Cowboys, especially on the heels of the five-year, $100 million contract signed by Amari Cooper in the offseason. Behind Cooper and Michael Gallup, however, the Cowboys had little proven depth at receiver and there was a league-wide expectation that that Dallas, like most clubs, would take advantage of this year’s extraordinary talent at the position after letting veterans Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin walk. The Cowboys certainly did so with Lamb, a surprisingly slippery 6-2, 196 pound Texas-native whose consistency and experience against elite competition while playing both inside and out in an up-tempo offense all make him an ideal match in playcaller Kellen Moore’s attack. Cowboys insiders expect more tempo and passing in 2020 with superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott earning the splashy touchdowns to punctuate drives, rather than powering them in 4-5 yard chunks that previous head coach Jason Garrett preferred in an effort to control the clock. Lamb has a slightly taller, leaner frame than either Cooper (6-1, 211) or Gallup (6-1, 205), which typically projects best outside. Don’t let the name fool you, though, Lamb is more of a wolf after the watch, showing the courage, body control and aggression to project as an security blanket across the middle, with the role Cobb had a year ago (55 passes for 828 yards and three scores) possible immediately.
Best Value of the Cowboys’ 2020 Draft: DE Bradlee Anae
As mentioned previously, multiple Cowboys’ draft picks warrant being listed here as no team got better value in the 2020 NFL draft than Dallas, at least according to my personal Top 100 Big Board. One could make a strong argument for Biadasz as he has a clearer path towards playing time as a rookie and any first-year player who can significantly contribute to a Super Bowl contender after being selected 146 overall certainly warrants mentioning. The better player and bigger steal, however, will ultimately prove Anae, the best pass-rusher in the PAC-12 each of the past two seasons and Utah’s all-time leader with 30 career sacks. The 6-3, 257 pound Anae is the perfect example of the paralysis-by-over-analysis which occurs each year in the draft as he is simply a much, much better player than he is an athlete. This was illustrated so perfectly at the Senior Bowl and Combine, where Anae went from looking like just another guy during practice and athletic testing in Indianapolis while racking up three sacks during the Senior Bowl, itself. Anae anticipates the snap very well and coordinates his hands and feet as well as any edge rusher in this class, bringing the varied pass rushes and techniques of a seasoned pro to the Cowboys as a rookie. Dallas has a bevy of more athletic pass rushers on their squad and if players like Randy Gregory or Aldon Smith commit to their craft, Anae may struggle just to make this roster. Twenty years in this business gives me the confidence to state emphatically that Anae will ultimately outplay his 179 overall selection, proving in Dallas or elsewhere, if necessary, that he was one of the grand larceny steals of the 2020 draft.
Best Project of the Cowboys’ 2020 Draft: CB Reggie Robinson II
With a tip of the cap to Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore (who could explode under the tutelage of excellent defensive line coach Jim Tomsula), Robinson is the bigger project given that he played his college ball at relatively tiny Tulsa and also projects as a potential future starter. Another Texas-native, Robinson turned down the likes of more nationally-recognized programs like Stanford, Kansas State and Minnesota to play with the Golden Hurricanes, starting all four years after redshirting his first season on campus while making the transition from safety (where he played in high school) to cornerback. While Robinson’s length and speed always stood out against this caliber of competition, his game really took off in 2019 with Robinson leading the American Athletic Conference with 17 passes defensed, nearly double that of his previous career high back as a redshirt sophomore. More importantly, Robinson also collected the first and only four interceptions of his college career, earning an invitation to the Senior Bowl and Combine, where the 6-1, 205 pounder erased any doubts about his level of competition. Robinson appears to be an ascending prospect and his size and knack for getting his hands on passes (38 career PBUs) fit in perfectly with a Dallas scheme that is placing more emphasis on these traits under coaches Maurice Linguist and Al Harris. Further, while the Cowboys currently have 11 cornerbacks on the roster (including the rookies), 5-11, 196 pound veteran Anthony Brown is the only corner on the team with any NFL starts to his credit currently signed through 2021.
Overall Grade for the Cowboys’ 2020 Draft: A
Previous 2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: Cincinnati Bengals |Washington Redskins | Detroit Lions | New York Giants | Miami Dolphins | Los Angeles Chargers | Carolina Panthers | Arizona Cardinals | Jacksonville Jaguars | Cleveland Browns | New York Jets | Las Vegas Raiders | Indianapolis Colts | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Denver Broncos | Atlanta Falcons | Dallas Cowboys | Pittsburgh Steelers | Chicago Bears | Los Angeles Rams | Philadelphia Eagles | Buffalo Bills | New England Patriots | New Orleans Saints | Houston Texans | Minnesota Vikings | Seattle Seahawks | Baltimore Ravens | Green Bay Packers | Tennessee Titans | San Francisco 49ers | Kansas City Chiefs