Now that all the picks are in (all 12 of them…) I wanted to take this opportunity to run through them all at once and get a feel for what we got. For no particular reason, we’ll go one position at a time rather than the order they were drafted.
Each pick will have a brief description of what the guy may bring to the table (with the obvious disclaimer that we won't really know if they were a good pick for at least two years). Click the links in each name for more detailed info on each player. For Kerrigan, Jenkins, and Hankerson it will take you to my earlier posts on them; for the others it will take you to one of the various scouting reports floating around the internet.
7th – G Maurice Hurt
Every source describes Hurt as a guy with limited athleticism whose upside is as a backup, so even given the weakness of this position I don’t think we can pencil him into a roster spot until camp opens up and we see how many free agents and undrafted guys he’s competing with. If he’s ever played center I can’t find mention of it online, but that skill is a huge help to winning a backup interior line job since on game days he would need to be able to step in to any of the three positions. If he’s strictly guard-only he should be considered a long shot.
4th – Roy Helu
Universally acclaimed as perfect Shanahan one-cut back. Given Ryan Torain’s injury history and raw skill set, there’s no reason not the think Helu could be in the mix for significant playing time.
6th – Evan Royster
A reasonably capable back with no glaring flaws, but doesn’t impress anyone either. Keeping four tailbacks is a dicey proposition, so with Helu looking like a pretty safe bet Royster’s roster survival probably depends on special teams ability and/or a Ryan Torain injury. Confessions of Cowboys fandom despite growing up in Fairfax mean I lack sympathy for this predicament.
3rd – Leonard Hankerson
A possession receiver rather than a gamebreaker, but that’s what we needed anyway. Unlike most receiver prospect, his advanced route running and appreciation for blocking may leave him unusually well equipped to contribute in the short term.
5th – Niles Paul
Appears to be your typical exciting size/speed combo (224 lb!) that, in contrast to Hankerson, needs to learn the subtleties of route running and getting off the line in order to contribute at the pro level. So like most rookie receivers, he is a total wild card. But the extremely thin receiver depth chart means a receiver with talent has a good chance of sticking, especially if he can play some special teams. And he can fill the void left by Devin Thomas when it comes to artfully posed shirtless wide receiver photos. Why not.
6th – Aldrick Robinson
Looks like your standard issue smallish (5’9” 184) speed prospect. Really fast college receivers are, frankly, a dime a dozen, and if his game had any polish to it I assume he wouldn’t have dropped to the 6th round. So we can see what we’ve got come August, but no reason to get excited until then.
2nd – DE (?) Jarvis Jenkins
Jenkins has apparently been led to believe he will play both end and tackle, and given how Jim Haslett moves guys around the line that wouldn’t be surprising at all. But Shanahan called him an end in the post-draft press conference so we’re going with that for now. Seems to have all the physical tools but will need to learn a new job (he was a 4-3 DT) so it’s an open question whether he can get his technique up to a playable level by September. I’m not panicked about that due to Vonnie Holliday’s solid play to end the season, but Vonnie’s 35 so he will need to be rotated and a succession plan should be in place.
7th – NT Chris Neild
Certainly appears to be a prototypical two gap nose-tackle. He was the second to last pick of the draft and so no one should make big plans with him, but Anthony Bryant’s strong performance was only two games long so it can’t hurt to have some competition there. His fate may be determined by the degree to which Ma’ake Kemoeatu’s disastrous 2010 performance was caused by injury.
1st – OLB Ryan Kerrigan
He’s being talked up as a very smart and hardworking player, and to such an extent that it’s probably not just because that’s the go-to media narrative for a white guy. So hopefully the transition from defensive end will go fairly smoothly. It looks like he projects as a solid player rather than a superstar, but he has virtually no bust potential and given how bad it would be to waste this first round pick I feel pretty good about that.
7th – OLB Markus White
Hard-working type, but another conversion project who seems to have pretty limited skills. Possibly another guy competing for a special teams job. Given the potentially crowded OLB depth chart, I wouldn’t get too attached.
5th – FS Dejon Gomes
He’ll be competing for a backup free safety spot and a special teams job. There was a lot of instant criticism that this pick didn’t fill an area of need, but from the fifth round on the guys are very much wild cards anyway so I don’t think “need” really applies – if you see a guy with potential you take him. And if a 5th round player becomes a good special teamer and decent backup that's usually considered a success. It’s at least conceivable that Kareem Moore will need to step it up in order to even hang on to a backup job.
7th – CB Brandyn Thompson
Speedy but undersized corner who may compete for a very deep defensive job and a special teams spot. If Carlos Rogers departs and Kevin Barnes gets bumped up to starter, obviously Thompson’s chances of making the roster increase significantly.