Cowboys shock the world, trade up to draft Morris Claiborne.
By: Dustin Dietz
With the Dallas Cowboys slotted to have the fourteenth pick in the 2012 NFL draft last night, Jerry Jones must have felt he needed to make a huge splash to garner the attention he craves for his beloved franchise. Mr. Jones certainly accomplished this by trading up from fourteen to six with the St. Louis Rams to draft Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne. Dallas traded the Rams their fourteenth pick in the first round, and their second round pick 45th overall to move up eight spots. The move startled Claiborne as the Cowboys had not spoken to him before yesterday. Dallas had been notorious for only selecting players they had brought in for pre draft visits to Valley ranch.
For the ninth time in the Jerry Jones era, the Dallas Cowboys traded up in the first round to draft what they feel is the best player on their board. The last time Dallas traded up to select a player in the first round was in 2010 when the club moved up three spots to draft Dez Bryant. At this current juncture, the results on Bryant are still mixed as he has produced only one 100 yard receiving game in two seasons.
No one can deny Claiborne’s ability as a football player. He is a true playmaker capable of generating game changing plays from the defensive side of the ball. Claiborne teamed up with the Honey Badger Tyrone Mathieu at LSU last season to form the best cornerback tandem in all of college football. Morris intercepted six passes last season for the Bayou Bengals, and had eleven overall in his college career. Claiborne can even return punts as he returned a punt for a touchdown last season. When Claiborne touches the football, exciting things can happen.
Many draft experts had Claiborne as the top defensive player in the draft this year, and the only player with the legitimate chance to be a shut down corner. In the Cowboys’ press conference last night, the team stated Claiborne was their second best player on the board behind only Stanford QB Andrew Luck. I am not sure I would have rated Claiborne above Robert Griffin III, but I do not scout football players in my spare time.
Farewell Mike Jenkins?
The drafting of Claiborne could mean the end of Mike Jenkins in Dallas. Dallas extended Orlando Scandrick last August, and signed former Kansas City corner Brandon Carr in March. With Jenkins contract expiring after the 2012 season, Jenkins is now a likely trade candidate if the Cowboys can find a suitor.
Jenkins has not quite lived up to the potential of a former first round draft choice. The 2008 first round selection has been unable to stay healthy and has the propensity to be apprehensive when forced to make tackles. Jenkins had off season shoulder surgery, and is unsure when he will be able to resume football activities. With the Cowboys spending over $50 million dollars on Carr, and selecting Claiborne 6th overall, Jenkins is now expendable.
By signing Carr, and drafting Claiborne, Dallas has completely revamped their secondary. With Carr and Claiborne starting on opposite sides of the field, Dallas should instantly have one of the better secondaries in football, and be a team which frustrates quarterbacks on a weekly basis.
Concerns about Claiborne.
The Clai-maker should be an outstanding player (I have read one expert compare him to Deion Sanders), but I do have a few questions about the guy.
First, Claiborne currently has an injured wrist, and will not participate much in off season workouts. Claiborne tore a ligament in his left wrist in the first Alabama game last November, and just had surgery for the injury last month. The team claims Claiborne will be ready by training camp. However, rookies need to spend as much time practicing as possible to become acclimated to the professional game. With Claiborne sidelined for a while, a slow start to the season is possible.
Second, and what I find most disconcerting, is Claiborne’s perceived intelligence. The man scored a 4 on the Wonderlic exam at the February combine. In case one is not aware, the Wonderlic exam is 50 questions long, and each test taker is given 12 minutes to complete as many questions as possible.
I suggest one take a sample Wonderlic exam to put Claiborne’s abysmal score into perspective. I happened to take three sample tests this morning. On my first practice exam, I answered 10 out of 12 correctly in three minutes. On my second practice exam, I answered 9 out of 9 correctly in two minutes. And on my final practice exam, I scored 13 out of 14 in three and a half minutes. I cannot understand how any human can only answer four questions correctly.
Apparently, Claiborne bombed the exam because he did not take the test seriously due to the exam not being football related. I question a man’s work ethic if he cannot do something as simple as take a Wonderlic exam. Even Vince Young scored a 6 for crying out loud. I hope Claiborne’s game film sessions are more successful than his Wonderlic exam. The last thing the Cowboys need is more foolish football players.
Was trading up for Claiborne the right move?
Fans have been clamoring for Jerry to draft the best player on the board, and to stop taking risks on players for years. Well, fans got their wish to some extent last night as Claiborne was the best player on the board when the Cowboys traded up to select him sixth overall last night.
Selecting Claiborne sixth overall does not need to be questioned. What fans might want to second guess is why the Cowboys would trade such a precious commodity (second round selection, 45th overall) to move up eight spots when the team has many holes to fill.
As previously mentioned, the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr last month, and appeared to be decent in the secondary already. Claiborne is an obvious upgrade over Mike Jenkins. However, wouldn’t drafting a player to upgrade a position of weakness be a much wiser decision? Jenkins is not an elite level corner, but if healthy, he is at the worst a serviceable NFL corner. Dallas could have stayed at fourteen and drafted the man beast Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and still kept their second round selection.
Cox has been compared to New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre Paul. Besides quarterback, teams in the NFL must have a pass rush to be successful. The Giants have proven this with two Super Bowl victories in four seasons. Cox would have bolstered the Cowboys inferior pass rush. Instead, Cox will now wreck havoc twice a season against Dallas as the Philadelphia Eagles selected Cox with the fifteenth overall selection in the draft.
The Cowboys have many glaring needs at safety, center, defensive end, guard, wide receiver, and defensive tackle. The move Jerry made last night is typically a move a team will make when a team believes they are one player away from being a legit championship contender. The Falcons made a similar move last season to move up to draft Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.
I would hope Jerry is not delusional enough to believe Dallas is one player away from championship contention. As of this moment, Dallas is not even the second best team in their own division. In my opinion, the more prudent decision would have been to stay at fourteen and keep your second round pick to fill as many holes as possible in the draft.
What to expect the rest of the draft.
The Cowboys now do not have a second round selection, and do not pick until the third round, 81st overall. The team has two fourth round selections, and has six picks left overall. Jerry might have a trick up his sleeve to sneak back into the second round, but do not expect it.
The Cowboys need to draft a wide receiver as Kevin Ogletree has proven he is not capable of being a third wide out. The team must also improve at safety and in the trenches.
Dallas has been dreadful in the later rounds of the draft in recent years. The reason the Cowboys tend to falter in December is because the team has little depth due to atrocious draft picks in later rounds. Part of the reason Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New England, and the New York Giants continue to play winning football is because the teams annually succeed on the draft’s second and third days. Dallas has to begin to draft players which can come in and compete for starting jobs immediately. If the Cowboys again fail to provide depth in this year’s draft, expect another December swoon.
Follow Dustin Dietz on Twitter @DustinDietz18