Even though I broke down prospects throughout the year, I never thought I would scout the Cowboys’ first four picks of the 2013 NFL Draft. That’s what happened when the ‘Boys drafted Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar, Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams, and Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox. I think that’s important because you can see how I viewed a player before they were brought into Dallas, so my judgments won’t be clouded.
Below, I posted portions of the original scouting reports I published here, along with a rating and analysis based on where each player was drafted.
Original Travis Frederick scouting report:
The first thing that must be noted about Frederick is that he had a really poor showing at the Combine, running a 5.58 40-yard dash—the second-slowest for any lineman there—and posting only 21 reps on the bench press. Critics of measurables will point out that “linemen never have to run 40 yards” in games, and while that’s true, it doesn’t really matter. When a player runs such a slow time, it hints to a lack of athleticism. Can Frederick play in the NFL without being an elite athlete? Sure, but he still needs to surpass a certain threshold of athleticism, and I’m not sure he does.
Frederick has good size at 6-4, 312 pounds. On film, he plays very intelligently. He handles stunts and blitzes well, and he displays outstanding body position nearly all of the time. Frederick doesn’t typically deliver knockout shots, but he gets between his defender and the ball-carrier or quarterback on most plays. For lacking athleticism, he does a fine job of getting to the second level and walling off defenders.
Frederick is very coachable and he’s going to work hard at the next level. He’s the “right kind of guy,” but I’m not sure if he has the right kind of athleticism to really thrive in the NFL. He’s not going to provide flawless pass protection, and there’s a good chance he’ll get eaten up by the league’s quicker interior defensive linemen. Plus, there are questions about how stout he can be at the point-of-attack.
Pre-Draft Rank: Not Ranked in Top 80
Pick Rating: 2/10
It’s pretty much unanimous: the Cowboys messed up by drafting Frederick in the first round. Even if they like the player, which is obviously the case, they could have had him in the second round (and probably even the third). I didn’t give the pick a ‘0’ because the Cowboys at least traded down, allowing them to draft Williams in the third.
Original Gavin Escobar scouting report:
At 6-6, 254 pounds, Escobar is a pass-catching tight end who can line up all over the field. He’s got excellent balance and body control, running downfield like a receiver and plucking the ball out of the air. Escobar’s ball skills are excellent, giving him the ability to win in jump-ball situations, especially near the goal line.
Escobar ran a 4.84 40-yard dash at the Combine, so he’s not regularly going to run past defenders. He’s a quick player who gets in and out of his breaks precisely, running great routes to get open. Once he gets his hands on the ball, Escobar is a threat after the catch.
The problem is that Escobar doesn’t offer much in the running game. He’s not particularly stout at the point and he needs to add strength. Escobar isn’t an unwilling blocker, but he fails to sustain blocks for the period of time he’d need to in the NFL. He tends to reach out at defenders instead of engaging and driving through them. He’s a hybrid player who can cause mismatches in the passing game, but he needs to work on his blocking so that he can take advantage of defense’s heavy personnel.
Pre-Draft Rank: 78
Pick Rating: 4/10
I like Escobar’s ability and long-term prospects, but there were probably better players on the board in the second round. The ‘Boys could have landed a defensive end like Margus Hunt to potentially take over in 2014. And with the Cowboys running three-receiver sets on 56 percent of their snaps last year, Escobar won’t see the field enough to justify this selection, at least early on.
Original Terrance Williams scouting report:
At 6-2, 208 pounds, Williams has good size for the wide receiver position. Remember, height and weight are more strongly correlated with NFL success than speed for receivers, although Williams (4.47) has long speed to boot. He’s one of the better size/speed combo wide receivers in this class.
Williams is a glider with long strides, which means he can have some trouble getting in and out of his breaks. He’s not a terrible route-runner by any means, but he excels more on in-breaking and deep routes than comeback routes. Ironically, he ran a whole lot of comebacks and hitch routes at Baylor. He does a nice job of pushing those routes up the field to gain separation, and he comes back to the quarterback to make the catch.
Williams has good hands, although he lets the ball get into his body on a frequent basis. He’ll need to improve that at the next level when cornerbacks are right on his back instead of five yards behind him. Once he makes the catch, Williams looks to make plays. He has good run-after-catch ability on underneath routes and excellent body control on deep routes. He uses his big frame to shield off defenders pretty easily.
One of the biggest questions for Williams right now is whether or not he can get off of a press. He rarely faced press coverage at Baylor, so it will be interesting to see how the receiver—a player with better long speed than short-area quickness—handles a strong defensive back in his face.
Pre-Draft Rank: 46
Pick Rating: 7/10
It’s odd that the Cowboys drafted backups at both the tight end and wide receiver positions in the second and third rounds, but Williams—who the Cowboys reportedly had ranked in their top 30—was a pure “best player available” selection. Ranked high on my board as well, it was the right move for Dallas at the time. It would be interesting to know if the ‘Boys would have still drafted Escobar in the second knowing Williams would be available in the third; the two players kind of offset each other’s potential value in 2013.
Original J.J. Wilcox scouting report:
Wilcox has excellent size at 6-0, 213 pounds. He turned in a solid 40 time at 4.51 and a remarkable 4.09 short shuttle, showing why he was used at receiver for three seasons. As you’d expect, Wilcox is an outstanding athlete; he moves fluidly and shows excellent lateral quickness. Despite little experience at safety, Wilcox is a good tackler. He doesn’t wait for ball-carriers to reach him, but instead attacks the line and breaks down well in space.
Wilcox didn’t play much from a single-high position at Georgia Southern, but he got time there at the Senior Bowl. He performed surprisingly well, and his measurables suggest he should be able to play deep. He showed good ball skills at the Senior Bowl—and during his time on offense in college—so he has the ability to make big plays in the secondary.
The obvious knock on Wilcox at this point is that he’s a project. He could take a year or two until he becomes fully acclimated to the safety position, but there’s obvious upside.
Pre-Draft Rank: 37
Pick Rating: 10/10
I gave this pick a perfect rating because Wilcox was the highest player left on my board, so I don’t think the Cowboys could have done better. I put Wilcox in just about every Cowboys mock draft I completed because I had a strong feeling he would be coming to Dallas. It’s interesting that the Cowboys’ first four picks are ranked inversely on my board, meaning they got better and better players, at least in terms of my rankings, as the draft has progressed.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.