Dallas Cowboys, NFL Draft Retrospective

Dallas Cowboys 2016 NFL Draft Retrospective

How does the Dallas Cowboys 2016 NFL Draft class look three years later?

Coming off a disastrous 2015 campaign, where they won just four games, the Dallas Cowboys hoped to rebound quickly through the 2016 NFL Draft. And that’s exactly what they did. The biggest need for Dallas going into that draft was clearly quarterback. The future of starter Tony Romo was in serious doubt after injuries had limited him to just four game appearances the previous season. And his absence was viewed as the main reason the Cowboys struggled to post a 4-12 record.

Other areas of need included running back, as the team had lost the league’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray the year before to free agency. And Dallas was still searching for a defensive War Daddy, a premier pass rusher to place pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Something the Cowboys had been missing since releasing legend DeMarcus Ware back in 2014.

Original Grade

Sports Illustrated: A-

Doug Farrar loved this class and said it even had the potential for an A+ if Jaylon Smith‘s knee was able to heal properly. He also projected more from Dak Prescott than most.

FanSided: B+

Matt Verderame of FanSided liked the class, but admits he’s not fawning over it like most draft analysts.

Draft Class

Round 1 (No. 4)

Zeke Elliott

RB, Ohio State

Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys needed a true three-down back to replace Darren McFadden, as the aging veteran was simply a bridge player following the team’s loss of DeMarco Murray the previous year. Elliott figured to be the most complete running back to come out of the draft in recent memory, and his production since has proven to be key to the Cowboys’ resurgence the past three seasons.

Although some believed defensive end Joey Bosa was a better fit in Dallas than Elliott, the San Diego Chargers made the Cowboys’ choice a bit easier by taking him off the table, bringing the main choice for Dallas between between the Buckeye running back or Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey. Ultimately, Dallas believed Zeke’s presence could help both sides of the ball by providing a consistent rushing attack and controlling the time of possession. As Elliott has led the league in rushing twice in the past three seasons, it appears the Cowboys made the right choice.

Round 2 (No. 34)

Jaylon Smith

LB, Notre Dame

Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

After the Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah with the first pick of the second round, a prospect the Cowboys were rumored to be high on, Dallas took a flier on Jaylon Smith two picks later instead. The talented linebacker suffered a devastating knee injury in college that caused nerve damage and threaten to end his football career. After a year of rehabilitation, Smith was able to return to the football. And last season, he emerged as one of the best young linebackers in the NFL.

Round 3 (No. 67)

Maliek Collins

DT, Nebraska

Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

For several seasons the Dallas Cowboys refused to address their needs at defensive tackle with a high draft pick, so the selection of Collins in the third round was a pleasant surprise. During his rookie season, he appeared to be an underrated find among this uber-talented draft class in Dallas, but in the past two seasons, Collins has been unable to recapture the success he found his rookie year. He needs a bounce-back season in 2019.

Round 4 (No. 101)

Charles Tapper

DE, Oklahoma

 

Current Team: New York Jets

Tapper will forever be known as the player the Cowboys selected before quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. A traits prospect out of Oklahoma, injuries prevented the talented athlete from achieving his true potential in Dallas. He played just two seasons in Dallas and only appeared in a total of two games before being waived.

Round 4 (No. 135) 

Dak Prescott

QB, Mississippi State

 

Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t want to draft Dak Prescott. We know this because the Cowboys made two failed trade attempts for other passers (Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook) before settling for him with their compensatory selection in the fourth round. Then a back injury suffered by longtime quarterback Tony Romo in the preseason forced Prescott into starting duty his rookie season.

The impressive first-year quarterback would lead the Cowboys to an impressive 13-3 run that season that included an 11-game winning streak. Dallas would also win their division and earn themselves a first-round bye in the playoffs.Prescott would end his rookie season receiving a Pro Bowl nomination and being voted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He would go on to lead the Cowboys to three straight winning seasons since, two NFC East titles and two playoff berths.

Round 6 (No. 189)

Anthony Brown

CB, Purdue

Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys were surprised to find Anthony Brown still available in the sixth round as the team had a rumored fourth-round grade on the talented defensive back. In his first season, Brown stepped in for injured cornerback Morris Claiborne and started 10 games as a rookie. In the past two years, his role has developed as more of a primary backup and spot starter. Since joining the Cowboys in 2016, Brown has started in a total of 29 regular season games.

Round 6 (No. 212)

Kavon Frazier

Safety, Central Michigan

Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

Since being drafted by the Cowboys in the sixth round, Kavon Frazier has become an important role player on defense, providing depth at the safety position as well as being a valued member of the special teams unit. Frazier started two games for Dallas last season, the first two starts of his NFL career so far.

Round 6 (No. 216)

Darius Jackson

RB, Eastern Michigan

Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

Running back Darius Jackson showed promise his rookie season and looked to become the eventual backup to Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. But the Cowboys were forced to waive him towards the end of his rookie season to make room for veteran Darren McFadden. This started a cycle of the Cowboys acquiring Jackson only to lose him to another team. Now on his third stint in Dallas, the fourth-year back attempt to crack the active roster again this season as a backup to Zeke.

Round 6 (No. 217)

Rico Geathers

TE, Baylor

Current Team: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys took a flier with their last selection of the 2016 NFL Draft, picking former Basketball star Rico Gathers in an attempt to develop him into an elite NFL tight end. It appeared that Dallas may have found themselves a hidden gem when Gathers posted two touchdowns during his first two preseason games of 2017, but after three seasons of development and finally making the active roster last year, Gathers’ future in Dallas appears to be in jeopardy this offseason.

Retrospective Grade

The Dallas Cowboys took some chances during the 2016 NFL Draft that paid off big. A flier on linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round and finding Dak Prescott in the fourth combined with running back Ezekiel Elliott living up to his draft status makes this one of the best classes in franchise history.

In the end, the 2016 NFL Draft class could go down as the greatest in Dallas Cowboys’ history. Landing the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and your future franchise quarterback at the end of the fourth round is an amazing accomplishment. Throw in the league’s leading rusher for two of the past three years plus one of the top, young linebackers in the NFL and you the makings of a legendary draft haul that could end up being one of the best this league has ever seen.

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