After releasing Dez Bryant in the weeks leading up to the draft, everyone and their mother had the Dallas Cowboys penciled into a wide receiver early and often. When Night 1 ended, they had eschewed offense altogether. It took Dallas until their third and seventh selections to take receivers, but they came away with two PFF favorites. Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson were PFF’s fifth- and eighth-ranked receivers in this class respectively. If one or both pan out, the Cowboys could revitalize their passing attack without expending much draft capital to make it happen.
Key win: Michael Gallup. With Bryant’s departure and the Dallas offense to somewhat avoid the deep ball, Gallup’s 38 missed tackles forced over the past two seasons and his extensive experience in the screen game lend him to the immediate use of QB Dak Prescott, who was an above average accurate passer on throws 1-9 yards down the field.
Round 1 (19) Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State, 89.8 overall grade
Linebacker certainly qualified as a need heading into the draft, with Anthony Hitchens walking in free agency. Smith has proven to be a fine early down linebacker, but simply can’t be on the field in obvious passing situations with his knee limiting his mobility. Vander Esch solves that problem in a big way. The Boise State linebacker was created to roam the middle of the field in Rod Marinelli’s Tampa-2. At 6-foot-4, with a 39.5-inch vertical, Vander Esch can cover as much ground over the middle of the field as any backer in this class. Vander Esch’s 76 combined stops were the most of any linebacker in the country last year and he had five combined interceptions and pass breakups.