Dallas Cowboys Draft Grade + Analysis: 2020 NFL Draft Review

Jerry Jones looked more like a Bond villain than the Cowboys‘ general manager this past weekend. He sat in the cabin of a 357-foot, $250 million yacht called the Bravo Eugenia which loosely translates to “yeah, I have a lot of money”. He sat on a white plush couch big enough to sleep a family of six, wearing a classy navy blue blazer and probably listening to a mix of Phil Collins, Bryan Adams, and the Police. While Bill Belichick was letting his dog pick players for him and Matt Nagy was taping his draft notes to the walls and ceiling like Claire Danes would during a bipolar episode in Homeland, Jones had various attractive women holding his phone for him while he presumably made calls to other NFL general managers.

Jones would have been destroyed by sports media this week for the type of flex only an individual with $9 billion in net worth could pull off if not for one thing – the Cowboys just had their best draft in years. If I was shown their draft results early last week amidst my data researching, film watching, and mock drafting, I would have thought it came from a Cowboys’ Reddit page. This draft exceeded even Jerry’s wildest dreams, and with Mike McCarthy in tow to be, well, not Jason Garrett, Dallas is suddenly in the midst of a veritable Super Bowl window. Let’s jump into their draft class to see how these players could help them achieve their championship aspirations.

Round #1, pick #17 – CeeDee Lamb (WR, Oklahoma): A

Not even Jerry Jones could have dreamt up a scenario where Lamb was still on the board at 17. The receiver who many projected as the best in the class was somehow the third guy off the board at his position. The Cowboys didn’t really need another Pro Bowl-caliber receiver with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in tow, but Lamb was reportedly their top available player so why not put together the best receiving corps in the league?

Lamb’s contested-catch ability is some of the best I’ve ever seen and his hands never let him down. 50-50 balls become 75-25 balls when you’re tossing them to Lamb. He looks like a running back with the ball in his hands, plowing through defenders and taking advantage of his elite physicality. He’s an incredibly smart player, making adjustments to his routes to work himself open downfield, and his football IQ combined with his contested-catch ability make him a quarterback’s best friend. He doesn’t have elite straight-line speed, and he could use some polish in his route-running, but there’s no doubt he’ll be an instant-impact receiver in Dallas.

Round #2, pick #51 – Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama): A

Many people (myself included) expected Diggs to be a first-round caliber player at cornerback, and I was shocked when he became the 8th corner off the board. After losing Byron Jones in free agency, the Cowboys had a hole to fill at corner. While Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuize may be the two top guys at the start of the season, it’s important for teams to have at least 3 corners they’re comfortable rolling out with how often teams play 11 personnel now (3 wide receivers, 1 running back, 1 tight end).

Diggs has an awesome physical skillset – size, strength, and athleticism – which he combines with an instinctive feel for the game. His long-field speed could use some work, as he is unlikely to be able to handle the faster downfield receivers, but his physicality and short-area quickness should help him be an effective press-man corner right away. Diggs is a former wide receiver and has tremendous ball skills which allow him to generate lots of takeaways. He should also be an effective man-to-man defender on jump-ball type plays against bigger wide receivers. Diggs is a unique player who may not have been a fit on every team, but he should fit right into what the Cowboys like to do defensively.

Round #3, pick #82 – Neville Gallimore (DT, Oklahoma): B+

The Cowboys lost three important defensive linemen during free agency in Michael Bennett, Robert Quinn, and Maliek Collins. The team brought in Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe to start at defensive tackle, as well as Aldon Smith to start at one end opposite DeMarcus Ware. Still, defensive line depth is always important, especially for a team that wants to run diverse defensive fronts, as new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan does. Jim Tomsula was hired as the defensive line coach – he failed as the former 49ers head coach but he certainly has the chops in mentoring young defensive linemen.

Neville Gallimore has some awesome developmental prospects at defensive tackle. He plays with a really strong motor, never taking plays off and always finishing through contact to the end of the down. Gallimore ran an impressive 4.79 40-yard dash as a defensive tackle and showed the ability to chase down running backs once they get past the line of scrimmage. His play speed and high motor should make him a factor right away as a rotational pass-rusher and run-stopper. Gallimore definitely needs to work on his footwork, balance, and hand technique, but those are all things that can be pretty coachable. He has a ton of upside as a future high-level starter for Dallas.

Round #4, pick #123 – Reggie Robinson II (CB, Tulsa): B-

I was slightly surprised the Cowboys went this direction with this pick after already adding Trevon Diggs to a cornerback group featuring Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie. Robinson is an intriguing prospect with a great combination of size (6’1″, 205 lbs) and speed (4.44 40-yard dash), but he struggles to mirror receivers in man-to-man coverage. His length makes him a great wrap-up tackler and his physical traits should make him a solid zone guy for a Cover 3 defense. He’s not going to excel if he’s asked to run too much press-man defensively, but he could develop into a solid ball-hawking corner or even safety in a zone-heavy scheme.

Round #4, pick #146 – Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin): A-

This is the direction I expected the Cowboys to go with their prior 4th-round pick. Travis Frederick, a 3-time All-Pro center, retired this offseason and Xavier Sua-Filo joined the Bengals in free agency leaving Dallas with a huge hole in their interior offensive line. Joe Looney and Connor Williams profile as the starters at center and left guard currently, but I expect Biadasz to compete for one of those spots all summer and potentially start by the time Week 1 comes around.

I had Biadasz profiled as an easy Day 2 guy so I was surprised he lasted this long into the 4th round. The Cowboys have a history of drafting and developing offensive linemen as well as any team in the league, and Biadasz may be the next name added to their strong resume. The three-year starter at Wisconsin helped Jonathan Taylor produce historic rushing totals and he profiles as one of the best run-blocking interior linemen in this class. His average core strength and inconsistent technique made him susceptible to pass-rushers in college, but he should benefit from playing in what is continually one of the best offensive lines in the league. Drafting a potential Day 1 starter at a position of need in the 4th round is absurd.

Round #5, pick #179 – Bradlee Anae (DE, Utah) B+

The Cowboys brought in Aldon Smith in free agency, but at this point in his career he is more of a reclamation project and the team needed another high-upside pass-rusher to provide depth and competition. Anae doesn’t have elite physical attributes and may lack the speed/agility to be an every-down starter in an NFL continuing to emphasize spread offenses. He had some of the most fun tape to watch among Day 3 picks, though, with his violent disposition and pure power showing up on snap after snap. Anae is another guy who fits the Cowboys’ draft plan of taking high-motor, high-upside guys. His lack of lateral quickness may limit his upside as a run defender, but he’s a very toolsy prospect as a pass-rusher with all kinds of moves to beat offensive tackles. He can likely contribute as a hand-down defensive end or hand-up outside linebacker depending on the defensive scheme. Anae has his limitations as a player, but his motor and versatility should help him earn playing time early on this season.

Round #7, pick #231 – Ben DiNucci (QB, James Madison) C+

It’s unlikely that DiNucci ever takes significant snaps for the Cowboys as Cooper Rush and Clayton Thorson are still on the roster at quarterback, although he could help provide a camp arm for the team. His upside is to become a serviceable backup for the team, but this pick likely won’t be very relevant down the road. Mike McCarthy has a history of taking late-round quarterbacks, something he did often with the Packers despite having a locked-down situation with Aaron Rodgers. DiNucci also apparently has ties to McCarthy.

Overall grade: 3.33/4.0 GPA, B+ draft class

Bottom Line: The Cowboys had a clear plan of drafting high-motor players who can provide value to the team this season. Lamb, Diggs, Biadasz, and possibly Anae could start this season, or at least earn significant playing time. Gallimore and Robinson are awesome developmental prospects, and this draft class as a whole has a ton of upside. It’s rare that teams can fill needs and provide instant value while also following their draft board and taking the best players available. This is a masterclass draft by Jerry Jones and it should have Cowboys fans incredibly excited about the future for the franchise.

  
What's up, I'm Jacob. I grew up watching Peyton Manning play and stuck with the Broncos after he retired. I'm also probably the only Clippers fan you'll ever meet. I'm from Southern California but I'm a junior at the University of Michigan studying sport management. Beyond my passion for sports I play guitar, grill a mean rib eye, and enjoy gambling on pretty much everything.

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