Do-it-all second year player Sean Lissemore sacks Josh Freeman, as he look to expand from a depth role to starting job. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

The Dallas Cowboys Most Crushing Problem isn't the Secondary- It's Depth.

Since 2003, the Cowboys have actually done deceivingly well at drafting, and the number of non-injury-replacement-starters they have accumulated is actually the same as the vaunted Green Bay Packers.

Unfortunately, while the Packers have been busy hording depth the last few years and have a fairly deep team all around, the Cowboys are a shell, with above average talent at a few key positions, two top five position players (DeMarcus Ware and Tony Romo) and loads of ineptitude at truly every other position in all replacement levels.

In a historical analogy, the key position starters are Napoleon’s win at the Battle of the Pyramids, the stars are the Battle of Austerlitz and the rest is Waterloo, or in a scientific one, the “Big Island” of Hawaii, which descends straight into the water with the vast majority of the island under sea level (sea level being mediocrity in this analogy) with a small amount peaking atop the water, and is incredibly explosive.

There are literally one thousand ways to say it, but the easiest way to describe the Cowboys drafting is in two words- not grossly incompetent or above average or low character- but mid-range soft.

Since 2003, the Cowboys have drafted 63 players, and while 14 are still starters (same as the supposedly “New America’s Team”) only ten others have made serious contributions to the team in any way or have the potential to contribute in any way.

(The second part was a clause for 2009 and 2010 players only. 2011 rookies were not included in statistics unless directly noted, because their total value to the team can’t yet be assessed -case in point Bruce Carter. Sean Lissemore and Victor Butler were the only two players brought in through this second option. Notably, removing them from the equation displays that no players drafted in 2009 or 2010 have made a meaningful contribution, a worrying statistic.)

This lack of depth has caused the Cowboys great pain in the last two years, costing them wins when key players like Dez Bryant and Marcus Spears were placed on injured reserve and no one stepped up to fill the void.

While the positive impact that unfortunate scenario had (Tyron Smith) may make some fans question the consequences of these failures, the positive impact of the high draft slot hasn’t helped to the extent anyone was hoping for-by the end of the season one player had been released, two had seen time on the practice squad, one was on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and another was on Injured Reserve.

Demarco Murray, one of the two in this fast growing list of wrecked-season Cowboys, broke-out in a game against St.Louis, started seven games and was promptly injured five rushes into the fourteenth week.

No one stepped up to fix the leak in a newly ineffective position. Tailback was a major anchor on the team for the last three (more accurately 3.9) games, and arguably was the second largest factor (behind the astounding “anti-clutch” ability of the defense) in the Cowboys losing to the Giants.

Lack of depth has been the ball and chain holding the team back from the chance of prosperity, and the scary thing is, it isn’t something easily fixable like a low number of draft picks (a plague currently afflicting Oakland), but something that might be more corrosive-scouting.

The Cowboys are undoubtedly the best at scouting 7th round and undrafted free agents (current starters Jay Ratliff, Tony Romo, Tony Fiametta and Miles Austin are from this avenue, as are intriguing prospects such as Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent, two players who will receive more playing time next year [significantly more so in Lissemore’s case,] but in the third, fourth and fifth rounds the Cowboys have had perpetual failings at truly every level.

A depressing statistic- since 2009, the Cowboys have drafted 11 players in those three rounds. Three were on the roster at the beginning of the season, and only two (Victor Butler and Orlando Scandrick) factor to be on the roster come September 6th. (David Buehler will assuredly be cut save for a catastrophic injury to Dan Bailey, and even in that doomsday scenario the odds are significantly higher than a coin toss he would be cut in favor of a veteran-read capable, competent and legitimate-kicker.)

That brings up the question “Why? Why would a franchise that has immense success with high round and low round picks fail so spectacularly in the middle?” A theory states that Dallas recognizes the role of the middle rounds to add depth and attacks the safe players with vengeance, looking to get the best depth possible.

While a legitimate idea, another may be more plausible-two legendarily bad drafts have wreaked havoc ten years into the future, forcing the shocking lack of depth.

8 of the 11 mid-round picks were made in 2009, unquestionably the worst Cowboys draft since the two headed monster of 2000 and 2001 (ripples that can be felt today and actually through chain reactions have a major effect on today’s team because they were forced to draft primarily for need instead of best-player-available during their peak years in the middle of the decade, causing them to spend time filling holes through free agency instead of getting younger through the draft, a trap that caught up to them in 2011, when they were forced to cut their high priced free agents to alleviate cap space for rebuilding.)

With the free agents they delayed the inevitable, and despite the 2007 and 2008 highs, that only made rock bottom worse.  Had solid drafts existed in 2000 and 2001, depth could have been built up over time in a best-player-available strategy in 2006 and 2007, leading to less of a shock in 2010 and 2011.

Some of the depth would have left through free agency in 2010, 2011 and this class, but the shock it would have had on the organization wouldn’t have been nearly as vicious as the 1-7 start to the 2010 season.

Just goes to show how two bad drafts to start the millennium can haunt a team in the next decade, and drafting for depth can cause a total lack of it. The Packers surely recognize the tragic irony.

These of course are two theories on the fall from grace the Cowboys have seen in the past two years, seeing themselves topple from the top of the food chain, to a league average team, drafting ahead of traditional losers like the Seahawks in the 2011 draft and the Titans in 2012, as if sharks suddenly became hunted by clown-fish.

Depth is a serious issue receiving little press time, in reality it is an ailment just as pressing (if not more so) than the gaping hole at cornerback. Of course, not everyone shares this view. What do you think? Feel free to comment on what you think in the comment boards below.

Draft Years Current Starters from Draft Other Significant Players Packers Starters from Their Drafts
2003 3 0 1
2004 0 3 0
2005 3 3 1
2006 1 0 2
2007 2 1 3
2008 3 1 3
2009 0 1 3
2010 2 1 1

Who would you draft with the 14th pick if you had to pick a DB?

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Tags: DeMarcus Ware Drafting Josh Brent Scouting Sean Lissemore Tony Romo

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