Last year's draft class seemed to be better received publicly than this year's class, yet we didn't see some of the players people were excited about get much time on the field last year. They say draft classes need to age to truly be evaluated, so how many players from last year will still make the team and how has your draft grade for it change since? — MARCO ASPAAS / VANCOUVER, WA
Nick: That is true about the classes needing some time to fully evaluate them. But they also tend to be evaluated from top to bottom. Overall, it might have a few players that don't really contribute, but when you think about CeeDee, Diggs and Gallimore all having the seasons they did, it seems like we can already figure this to be a solid class, if not better than that. The key that might set it over the top is if Tyler Biadasz gets the center job this year.
Rob: I agree that you've got to wait at least a couple years to truly "grade" a draft class. Right now, I'd say it looks pretty promising. CeeDee Lamb broke the franchise's rookie record for catches despite playing with Dak Prescott for only five games. Neville Gallimore emerged as a starter in Year One. So did Trevon Diggs and Tyler Biadasz when healthy. Reggie Robinson, Bradlee Anae and Ben DiNucci have competition for their spots this year, but we'll see. If four out of seven picks remain in the starting lineup, and CeeDee becomes a star, that's a strong class in my book.
Every year, it seems we mistakenly get caught up in the unbridled optimism of a new season. With the improvement in team health and an overhauled defense, do you believe that this year the optimism is truly warranted? — LES HOFFMAN / PELL CITY, AL
Nick: In my opinion, optimism is always warranted. If it's not, then what's the fun in that? It's one thing to have unrealistic expectations, but I think it's fun to have some kind of optimism every year. I just think the Cowboys were not as bad as their record last year. Yeah, I know Bill Parcells said "you are what you are." But that's not true in this case, especially now. What they are now is not what they were because of Dak, La'el and Tyron returning. If they all stay healthy, and the defense improves somewhat, then I think this can be a team that is right back in the playoffs again.
Rob: Of course it's warranted right now. Dak Prescott missed the final 11 games and the Cowboys were still in playoff contention the final week. In an era without a ton of roster depth, everything hinges on the health of key players. That's every team. But if they have better fortune there, this is a much more competitive football team. It very well might take a couple offseasons to fit the personnel to Dan Quinn's scheme, but it's hard to imagine the defense struggling as much as 2020. I think the schedule has some real challenges on paper. But yes, I think the Cowboys are talented enough to be in contention for a playoff spot.