Written by Greg Lehr
It's a new era in Dallas with Mike McCarthy's new coaching staff, but Jerry and Stephen Jones, Will McClay, and much of the Cowboys' respected scouting staff has remained a constant during the draft weekend. The beauty of McCarthy's view on building a roster, as he has said over and over again since arriving in Dallas, is that a team can never have enough good players, regardless of scheme fit. It's the coach's job to get the most out of their players and McCarthy's perspective of accumulating the best possible players is refreshing compared to Jason Garrett's staff, who despite many successes in recent drafts, would still too often opt for a player based on how they fit their scheme instead of overall talent and potential. The Cowboys' philosophy of staying true to their board and taking the best player available was evident throughout the entire 2020 NFL Draft, a welcome sign for the McCarthy era in Dallas. While we all know it's impossible to put an accurate grade on a draft until three or four years down the road, I take the instant gratification approach and grade all seven picks of this year's class for the Cowboys. Spoiler alert; they crushed it.
Round 1, Pick 17: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Nobody expected Lamb, the top-ranked receiver on many scouts’ boards, to be available for Dallas at seventeen. Even after round one on Thursday night, Stephen Jones mentioned that in the many mock drafts conducted by the Cowboys in preparation for the draft, Lamb was long gone before pick #17 in every single one of them. The 6’2, 198 lb wideout is arguably the most explosive playmaker in his draft class, as evidenced by his 21.4 YPC in 2019 (best among players with over 30 receptions). Lamb immediately fills the void left by Randall Cobb as Dak Prescott’s third receiver and offers the ability to play outside and in the slot, the kind of versatility highly preferred by Mike McCarthy. The talented rookie joins the pair of 1,100-yard receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, forming one of the best trios in the league at the position.
Round 2, Pick 51: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
After failing to trade up in the second round to secure Diggs as the pick, the Cowboys were ecstatic to have the ascending Alabama cornerback prospect fall to them at #51 overall. Had CeeDee Lamb not fallen to Dallas in round one, Diggs was going to be in the conversation as a potential first-round selection. If that had happened, it probably would have been viewed as a bit of a reach, however, perspective changes quite a bit when a player falls to you an entire round later. Diggs provides much-needed cornerback depth in Dallas after the departure of Byron Jones in free agency and several corners only on the roster through the 2020 season. Diggs’ real value will come to fruition in 2021 and beyond when he will be expected to play a much more significant role. Any other contributions as a rookie are just an added bonus.
Round 3, Pick 82: Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
McCarthy and DC Mike Nolan have already bolstered the size and talent on the interior defensive line by signing free agents Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. The Cowboys added their second Sooner of the draft with the selection of the 6’2, 304 lb senior. Gallimore is a high-motor prospect that many believe has huge upside due to his quickness on the interior. He showed flashes at Oklahoma, but the key for Gallimore will be to refine his technique that will turn his effort and natural talent into increased production.
Round 4, Pick 123: Reggie Robinson, CB, Tulsa
Another widely-regarded steal in the draft, Robinson has some of the best physical traits of any cornerback in the entire draft. Much like the selection of Diggs in the second round, Robinson’s true value will be on display starting in 2021. Robinson certainly has the potential and ball skills to step up as a future starting outside corner in Mike Nolan’s defense.
Round 4, pick 136 (via trade): Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
A rare in-division trade enabled the Cowboys to move up from 164 to 146, where they selected the Wisconsin center as a potential replacement for their previous Badger at the position, Travis Frederick. Of course, it remains to be seen how soon Biadasz could see action. At the very least, he is expected to be in the mix at the starting center job, along with Joe Looney, Connor McGovern, and possibly even Connor Williams. Had injury concerns not played a role, Biadasz could have been a potential first-round prospect after a very strong 2018 performance. However, due to hip surgery in the spring of 2019, he decided to return for his redshirt senior season, where some mobility in his game appeared to drop a bit, creating some concerns throughout this year’s draft process. Add in the arthroscopic shoulder surgery that kept him from participating in drills at this year’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, medical concerns led to one of the nation’s top interior offensive line prospects dropping to the Cowboys in the 4th round. According to PFF, Biadasz has rated a top-three center the last three seasons, evidence of another steal for Dallas as long as Biadasz can maintain his health moving forward.
Round 5, Pick 174: Bradlee Anae, Edge, Utah
It was baffling to see an edge defender with Anae’s production still on the board this late in the draft, especially on day three. Leading up to the draft, K’Lavon Chaisson was easily the most mocked player to Dallas in round one due to a lot of unknowns regarding the team’s right defensive end position. The expected trio of Tyrone Crawford, Randy Gregory, and Aldon Smith did not play a single snap last season, and it’s unclear how healthy and/or available any of them will be in 2020. Enter Bradlee Anae. He may not have the length or speed as some of the other edge defenders in this class, but his production (30 career sacks at Utah) speaks for itself. What's even better for Dallas? Of the 13 sacks he compiled his senior year (T-5th in NCAA for 2019), 11 of them came from the right defensive end position. Outside of Lamb, getting a highly competitive and productive pass rusher like Bradlee Anae in the fifth round was my favorite pick for the Cowboys.
Round 7, Pick 231: Ben DiNucci, QB, JMU
It’s never a bad thing when the only true eyebrow-raising pick comes in the seventh round, but this one definitely fits that bill. The Pittsburgh transfer led JMU to the FCS National Championship game (lost to North Dakota St.) while earning CAA Offensive Player of the Year honors his senior year. DiNucci has some sneaky elusive capabilities on the ground while remaining proficient through the air, throwing for 3,441 yards, 29 touchdowns (compared to six interceptions), and an FCS-best 71% completion percentage. DiNucci is, at the very least, an intriguing addition to the Cowboys’ backup quarterback competition. Mike McCarthy has repeatedly made mention of always having developmental prospects in the quarterback room, but it would have been great to see a tight end or linebacker with special teams ability be the pick here that had high potential to contribute out of the gate. Nonetheless, DiNucci will be a fun name to watch throughout training camp and the preseason.
Overall Draft Grade: A-