Heavily criticized 2013 draft class coming up big for Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Remember what a fool Jerry Jones was during the first two days of the 2013 draft?

The Dallas Cowboys’ doofus of an owner/general manager got fleeced by the San Francisco 49ers in a first-round trade-down deal, reached for a midround-graded center late in the first round and selected a soft, small-school tight end in the second round.

Just another draft disaster for Dallas, further proof that Jones needs to give up GM duties to give the Cowboys a chance to return to glory.

Or so many of us thought. Hindsight being 20/20, Jones and his Valley Ranch advisory committee put together a heck of a draft class.

It didn’t take this season’s 6-1 start to see that the deal with the 49ers worked out just fine for the Cowboys, no matter what the various trade-value charts indicated. First-round center Travis Frederick and third-round receiver Terrance Williams -- ranked 22nd and 23rd on Dallas’ draft board, respectively, much higher than media draft experts had them -- made impacts as rookies and were clearly capable of being part of the Cowboys’ core for years to come.

That pair of players acquired by giving up the 18th overall pick -- and passing on defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, the fifth-ranked player on the Cowboys’ board -- have continued to progress this season. Frederick, a brainy bully, is playing like a Pro Bowler for the NFL’s premier offensive line. Williams, a big-time bang-for-buck No. 2 receiver, has six touchdowns on 19 catches after his 18-yard score in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the New York Giants.

Hey, at least GM Jerry’s army of critics still had Gavin Escobar to pick on. Geez, how many second-round tight ends are the Cowboys going to draft during Jason Witten’s career before figuring out that’s a luxury pick that goes to waste under coach Jason Garrett?

Wait, what’s that? Oh, Escobar has three touchdowns in the past two weeks, huh?

Perhaps Escobar’s 2-yard score in last week’s win over the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks could have been put in the sun-shines-on-a-dog’s-rear-every-once-in-a-while category. But it’s impossible to dismiss Escobar’s performance against the Giants, when he caught all three passes thrown his way, gaining 65 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

“I try to shut all that noise out, but you definitely hear it sometimes,” Escobar said, referring to the popular opinion that he was a bust. “It’s good to have a game like this. Maybe not so many haters out there today.”

The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Escobar will probably never be considered an overpowering blocker, but he has developed enough in that facet of the game to have his snaps increase significantly the past two weeks. That’s one reason why tight ends coach Mike Pope, a Giants assistant the previous 23 years, received a game ball from Garrett after Sunday’s win.

But the Escobar pick was always about his potential as a pass-catcher. When the Cowboys made the pick, they envisioned Escobar as a mismatch problem for defenses, particularly in the red zone. They believed Escobar could make the kind of plays he did Sunday, when he got wide open in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard score in the first quarter and extended to make a touch catch between two defenders for a 26-yard touchdown on a seam route in the third quarter.

“I just couldn't believe all those collisions that he had at the end of that catch, and what he was doing physically out there, and those soft pillow, powder-puff hands,” said Jones, seizing the opportunity to gloat a bit about the second-round pick who took a little while to pan out. “And the ball just disappears in them. Seriously, I don't know if we have -- that's the best hands that we've got, some of the best hands I've ever seen.”

That’s a bit of hyperbole, but you can’t blame GM Jerry for boasting a bit about a draft class that received such heavy criticism. And we haven’t even mentioned that third-round safety J.J. Wilcox is starting for a surprisingly decent defense or that fifth-round running back Joseph Randle is a decent backup when he isn’t shoplifting from Dillard’s.

Well, anyone wanna talk about fourth-round bust B.W. (Burned Whenever) Webb, the cornerback the Cowboys cut this summer?

Nah, not with the Cowboys sitting at 6-1 with significant contributions from that 2013 draft class.