IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys needed to have a strong draft in 2010 because the 2009 class hardly produced.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who refers to that draft class as his redshirts, traded out of the second round last year. Of his 12 picks, three saw regular playing time, six were injured and three were released. The only impact player was kicker David Buehler, the fifth-rounder.
Over three days of the 2010 NFL draft, Jones made up for last year with a fantastic class.
He traded up twice to add impact players, including the best wide receiver in the draft in Dez Bryant, who will start eventually. He also moved up to draft inside linebacker Sean Lee from Penn State, aka Linebacker U. Lee might be the Cowboys' nickel linebacker, and that would move a former first-round pick, Bobby Carpenter, to the bench.
"We've got some players that will play immediately," Jones said. "From the perspective of doing what we did to get them on the team, they'll play."
In the fourth round, Jones grabbed Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, a speedy defensive back whom secondary coach Dave Campo called a playmaker. Owusu-Ansah will move into the free safety position and has excellent return skills.
The Cowboys feel they solved issues in the return game, with Bryant (punt return) and Owusu-Ansah (kick return) expected to get full-time looks.
Dallas also added a young player to its offensive line depth. Sixth-round pick Sam Young, a right tackle, holds the longest starting streak of any Notre Dame player (50). Another sixth-rounder, Texas Tech corner Jamar Wall, plays the physical style the Cowboys like. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips compared the nonstop motor of seventh-round pick Sean Lissemore, from William & Mary, to that of All-Pro nose tackle Jay Ratliff.
The Cowboys will still work the free-agency wire. Jones said he wants a veteran offensive lineman, and although the team projects Alan Ball as its starting free safety, don't be surprised if a veteran player gets a look there.
Dallas plans to sign close to 16 undrafted free agents. It's a point of emphasis around Valley Ranch with the success of undrafted free agents Tony Romo and Miles Austin.
Overall, Jones said he thinks his team improved during the past three days given its personnel subtractions. The Cowboys let go of veteran left tackle Flozell Adams to promote a younger Doug Free. Free safety Ken Hamlin was cut so the team could find a ball-hawking player in the draft or in free agency.
The Cowboys also placed backup wide receivers Sam Hurd and Patrick Crayton on the trading block, opening the door for Kevin Ogletree and Bryant to gain playing time.
Dallas drafted only six players, the fewest since 2008. In that draft, the Cowboys added two dynamic players in running back Felix Jones and cornerback Mike Jenkins, both first-rounders.
It's sounding as if the Cowboys have struck again this year with the high expectations on Bryant and Lee. But don't book the hotel in Arlington yet for the trip to next year's Super Bowl. Plenty of work is left to be done.