Hitchens is fourth-round gem

LONDON - The fourth round hasn’t been good to the Cowboys recently

B.W. Webb (2013), Matt Johnson (2012), David Arkin (2011), Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (2010), Stephen McGee (2009), Brandon Williams (2009) and Victor Butler (2009) would all be labeled disappointments.

The Cowboys expect players taken in the first three rounds to be significant contributors. The fourth round is a little trickier. You can find good players isuch as Bradie James, Marion Barber and Doug Free in the fourth round.

For now, it looks like like linebacker Anthony Hitchens will add his name to the list of quality fourth-round picks.

Hitchens, starting at weak side linebacker for the injured Justin Durant, knows all three linebacker positions, and he’s been a solid contributor as a rookie. He had a team-high eight tackles against Washington.

“One of the things everyone does when they’re first doing something is they try to do things the right way,” coach Jason Garrett said. “At some point, you have to get over that hurdle. You still do things the right way, but you do them instinctively. That comes from preparation and time in meeting rooms and on the practice field.

“So when the ball is snapped, you just go play. We’ve seen that at different times of the season -- on the fourth-down stop against St. Louis you saw a guy pulling the trigger and going to make a play. That was the same guy we saw in college.”

Will McClay, who’s in charge of the Cowboys’ draft, prefers productive players from big schools because he figures they quickly transition to the NFL. That’s because they’ve played good competition, performed in front of large crowds, and they’ve been in a demanding strength and conditioning program.

That type of criteria is one of the reasons the Cowboys took Hitchens in the fourth round.