Dallas Cowboys: DeAngelo Smith

Reviewing the Cowboys’ drafts: 2009

April, 14, 2014
4/14/14
9:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The NFL draft is about a month away and we'll begin digging more into the Dallas Cowboys' interests in 2014 going forward, but let's review the past five drafts.

The 2009 draft was one of the worst in team history. With 12 picks, the Cowboys should have been able to capitalize on the number of selections to a roster that was considered deep at the time even if they did not have a first-round pick because of the Roy Williams' trade with the Detroit Lions.

They didn't.

The Cowboys did not have a player they re-signed after their rookie contract expired. The draft quickly earned the "special teams draft" nickname, which should never happen. And they did not get much special teams' help from the picks either.

First-round pick: None

Number of picks: 12

How they did: Terribly. Six of the picks did not make the 53-man roster, which might have been a sign of the depth the Cowboys had then, but those players did not go on to make any significant contributions to another club either. It was not a good sign in training camp when the kicker they drafted in the fifth round, David Buehler, beat the safety they drafted in the same round, DeAngelo Smith, in a 40-yard dash in training camp.

Pivotal pick: Their first pick, Jason Williams (No. 69 overall), could never find a role. He played a hybrid role at Western Illinois and his athleticism made up for the lack of football wisdom at that level. He could not make the transition to inside linebacker in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. He even had trouble with the special teams' part of the game. The lasting image is of linebackers coach Reggie Herring coaching Williams for every second of every play in training camp and it never really sticking.

Butler
Best pick: Linebacker Victor Butler (No. 110 overall) was picked in the fourth round as a situational pass-rusher. He contributed 11 sacks in four seasons before signing as a free agent last year with the New Orleans Saints. He could not win a full-time role playing behind Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware, but when he did get some snaps in the base defense he struggled against the run. That he is the best pick shows you how poor this draft turned out for the Cowboys.

Worst pick: Robert Brewster (No. 75 overall). The Cowboys gave up their second rounder to the Buffalo Bills and got the Bills' third- and fourth-round picks in return. Brewster tore a pectoral muscle working out in the offseason and missed his rookie year. He dressed for one game in 2010. He was a project when he was picked, in part because of his conditioning. The Bills used the second-round pick on guard Andy Levitre with the 51st pick. Had the Cowboys chose Levitre, they would not have had to spend money in free agency on Nate Livings.
Since Victor Butler agreed to a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, it means the end of the Dallas Cowboys' 2009 draft class.

PODCAST
Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what the Cowboys are getting with Justin Durant and Will Allen, the state of the possible contract extensions for Tony Romo and Anthony Spencer and the team's draft strategy.

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The Cowboys drafted 12 players in 2009 in what was billed as a special-teams draft. What it became was one of the worst drafts in the last 10 years.

No starters were developed from the class and only six made the 53-man roster. Things started off on the wrong foot when the Cowboys began the draft without a first-round pick, handed to the Detroit Lions as part of the Roy Williams deal. The Cowboys traded their second-round choice to Buffalo for third- and fourth-round picks.

What did the Bills do with the pick?

Center Andy Levitre was selected at No. 53.

A review of the 2009 class:

Jason Williams. He was a third-round pick, 69th overall from Western Illinois. He did make the team but had little impact. Williams was supposed to be an outside linebacker with pass-rushing ability. He struggled to learn Wade Phillips' defense and didn't earn a single start. He played a career-high 14 games with the Carolina Panthers in 2011.

Robert Brewster. The tackle was a third-round pick (75th overall) from Ball State. Let's just say Brewster's body wasn't in shape from the moment he arrived at Valley Ranch. He was on the practice squad and that's about it. He never developed the strength necessary to be counted on to play in the NFL.

Stephen McGee. He was a backup who didn't develop. McGee struggled to convert from a quarterback who played out of the shotgun to someone who needed to take snaps under center. The fourth-round pick from Texas A&M stayed way too long before getting released last summer.

Victor Butler. The Cowboys had hopes their fourth-round pick (110th overall) would contribute on special teams and provide solid pass-rush skills. Butler was inconsistent with the Cowboys, and after visiting at least four NFL teams this offseason, he found a home with the Saints. Butler has potential but needs to solve the inconsistency problems.

Brandon Williams. The linebacker from Texas Tech was another fourth-round pick. The Fort Worth native played six games in 2010 and that was it. He didn't show much ability. He did battle some injuries but was inconsistent when healthy.

DeAngelo Smith. Smith was a fifth-round pick who didn't make the 53-man roster. The Cowboys thought he could be a solid cover guy, but he just didn't provide the club with enough confidence to make the team, let alone sustain a long-term career. Smith's claim to fame was getting beat by David Buehler in the 40 during training camp.

Michael Hamlin. The safety from Clemson was a fifth-round choice who did make the team but had little impact. He didn't contribute much on special teams. He played in four games with Jacksonville in 2010 and is out of the league.

David Buehler. The kicker from USC displayed a strong leg on kickoffs, but a groin injury in 2011 ended his time with the Cowboys. A fifth-round pick, Buehler converted 75 percent of his field goals, including a career-long 53-yarder. Consistency was an issue, and he didn't kick for anybody last season as he recovered from surgery on his groin. He signed with the New York Giants and could make the roster.

Stephen Hodge. The linebacker/safety from TCU just couldn't recover from his knee injuries. Hodge was projected as a special-teams ace, but his health prevented him from becoming one. This sixth-round pick just didn't work out.

John Phillips. The sixth-round tight end played well at times. He wasn't better than Martellus Bennett, a second-round pick from 2008. Phillips tore his ACL in the 2010 preseason opener and it slowed his progress. He was surpassed by James Hanna, a sixth-round pick in 2012, late last season. Phillips signed a free-agent deal with San Diego.

Mike Mickens. He was a seventh-round selection who is out of the league and didn't play any NFL games.

Manuel Johnson. Johnson was an East Texas favorite who made some plays in the preseason but never did enough to make the 53-man roster.

Safety track record not good for Cowboys

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
8:56
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – After the Cowboys released Gerald Sensabaugh on Monday, I wrote that the move was risky, considering the Cowboys do not have a known commodity currently under contract.

PODCAST
Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the Cowboys putting the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer and releasing Gerald Sensabaugh.

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After checking out the comments section, I soon realized Sensabaugh was the worst safety in NFL history and was responsible for the current sequester. Maybe I’m stubborn, but I believe Sensabaugh is solid. Great? No. Good enough? Sure.

Another reason why the move is risky is that the Cowboys have not been able to find a long-term safety since Darren Woodson.

And everybody believes the Cowboys struggle to identify quality offensive linemen?

Roy Williams had a good run for a few years but then tailed off badly. Ken Hamlin had one good season with the Cowboys, signed a big contract and then didn’t seem to like playing much again. Keith Davis was a special teamer turned starter out of necessity. At the prices the Cowboys paid Sensabaugh, I think they did OK with him for four years. Abram Elam lasted one season as a starter, which is better than Brodney Pool, who didn’t last a week in training camp.

(UPDATE: The original version forgot Lynn Scott, an undrafted player in 2001 that the Cowboys had hopes for early.)

Since 2001, the Cowboys have drafted nine safeties and the best has been Williams, and he was the eighth overall pick in 2002. People will remind you that Ed Reed is a Hall of Famer and went later to Baltimore. Tony Dixon (second, 2001) never panned out. Justin Beriault (sixth, 2006) was hurt and never played.

Pat Watkins (fifth, 2006) was tall and an OK special teamer. Alan Ball (seventh, 2007) was drafted as a corner, became a forgettable starter at safety and moved back to cornerback. Mike Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith were fifth-rounders in the forgettable 2009 draft and didn’t make an impact. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (fourth, 2010) was hurt when drafted, came from a small school and made switch from corner to safety – and never made an impact.

Barry Church and Danny McCray were undrafted players in 2010 that have made an impact. But Church, as close to an incumbent the Cowboys have at the position, is coming off an Achilles tear, and McCray showed he’s a special-teamer with the more work he got on defense last season.

Matt Johnson was a fourth-round pick last year and never played a snap because of recurring hamstring injuries. Judgment should be withheld until he actually gets on the field, but let’s just say history is not on his side.

The Cowboys needed to look at the safety spot before Sensabaugh’s release and now they must really look at it.

But do you trust they will find the right safety even in a draft that is considered rich at the position?
A draft class needs more than a year to develop before it can be fairly judged. That’s a good thing for the Cowboys’ Class of ’09, since it appears to be an epic failure at this point.

The Cowboys’ brass is confident that perception will change over the next year. They expect a handful of players to join kickoff specialist David Buehler and reserve tight end John Phillips as consistent contributors. (WR Kevin Ogletree also made some impact, but he was undrafted.)

Here’s a quick look at what last year’s draft class has done so far and what hopefully is ahead:

ILB Jason Williams (third round, 69th overall) – He’s a phenomenal athlete who struggled to grasp the playbook and was set back by a high ankle sprain suffered in the preseason finale. His failure to make an impact on special teams was a major disappointment, resulting in him being inactive most games. Jerry Jones strongly hinted at the combine that he expects Williams to challenge Bobby Carpenter for the nickel/dime linebacker role.

OL Robert Brewster (third round, 75th overall) – He has yet to put on shoulder pads as a professional. He missed all of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle while lifting weights over the summer. He’s still reshaping his body, which was too blubbery despite losing significant weight at Ball State. His goal should be to challenge for a starting position at either right tackle or left guard in 2011.

QB Stephen McGee (fourth round, 101st overall) – Jones admitted at the combine that the Cowboys haven’t seen much from McGee, who missed the last two games of preseason with an injury. The Cowboys plan to use minicamps, training camp and the preseason to determine whether McGee is a good developmental project. They don’t plan on drafting a quarterback this season, but the position will become a draft priority in 2011 if McGee doesn’t pan out.

OLB Victor Butler (fourth round, 110th overall) – Butler at least contributed on special teams, but he never earned the coaching staff’s trust to get consistent playing time on defense despite making three sacks in limited snaps. DeMarcus Ware’s neck injury forced Butler into a significant role in the upset over the Saints, but he didn’t grade well in that game. The next step for him is to become a situational pass rusher.

OLB Brandon Williams (fourth round, 120th overall) – Williams was a little ahead of Butler before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason finale. The Cowboys have high hopes that he can earn the situational pass rusher role that Butler didn’t last season.

CB/S DeAngelo Smith (fifth round, 143rd overall) – He’ll be best remembered as the defensive back who lost a highly publicized post-practice race to a kicker. He was released in the final cuts and bounced around to a few teams.

S Michael Hamlin (fifth round, 166th overall) – Hamlin broke his wrist during the preseason finale and didn’t see the field much after he got healthy, but Valley Ranch insiders are still high on him. They’re particularly enamored by the big safety’s ballhawking ability. If Ken Hamlin gets cut, it wouldn’t be stunning if Mike Hamlin (no relation) wins the battle to replace him.

K David Buehler (fifth round, 172nd overall) – He did exactly what the Cowboys drafted him to do: Make a major impact in field position, leading the league in touchbacks on kickoffs and contributing in other roles on special teams. However, he wasn’t able to replace Nick Folk as the placekicker when Folk failed. The Cowboys hired ex-kicker Chris Boniol to help Boniol Buehler develop into a reliable field goal kicker. The hope is that he’s good enough so that the Cowboys don’t need to carry two kickers on the roster next season.

ILB Stephen Hodge (sixth round, 197th overall) – He missed the whole season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee. If he can come back from that, he should immediately be an impact special teams player. Hodge, a safety at TCU, is also a darkhorse in the competition for the nickel/dime LB role.

TE John Phillips (sixth round, 208th overall) – He exceeded expectations on offense – contributing as a tight end, H-back and fullback – but was exposed at times on special teams. He’s not a great athlete, but his attitude, work ethic and intelligence are above average. If Martellus Bennett doesn’t follow the owner’s orders to focus, Phillips could earn playing time in two-tight end sets.

CB Mike Mickens (seventh round, 227th overall) – His lack of speed and explosiveness were exposed during training camp, when he was burned on a regular basis. Spent several weeks on the Cowboys’ practice squad after being released in the final cuts and was later picked up by the Buccaneers, who cut him weeks later.

WR Manuel Johnson (seventh round, 229th overall) – Spent the entire season on the practice squad after being released in the final cuts. He’ll have an uphill climb to make the 53-man roster, but he has a chance. He worked as the scout team punt returner, a position the Cowboys want to upgrade. He doesn’t have great speed, but he has potential to develop into a decent slot receiver.

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