Entering the 2014 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys now have 11 draft picks. Think about that for a second. Eleven draft picks for a team that has long suffered from two major issues. The first being stuck in salary cap hell. The second issue was a lack of quality depth. Both of those issues can be corrected during this off-season.
For years, Jerry Jones over valued his own players and paid to prevent them from becoming free agents. That’s an honest evaluation / criticism. Major contracts were given to often injured, old and under performing players. However, it wasn’t long ago when the salary cap and rookie salary structure dictated that paying a proven veteran was the best investment.
In 2011, during the NFL lockout, the owners and players finally agreed to a rookie wage scale. Prior to that, draft picks, especially first rounders, were a huge financial risk. Would you rather pay $30 million to a 27 year old, proven veteran or a 22 year old kid based purely on his speculative potential?
With the rookie wage scale in place, the best and cheapest way to build and improve a team is with the draft. Jason Garrett recently said it best, “You don’t want to build your team with guys based on what they’ve done in the past.” That’s because rookies are now cheap! Eleven rookie contracts will allow us to finally get our financial house in order and build for the present and the future.
The added benefit of acquiring quality depth comes with eleven draft picks. At the minimum, there’s nine groups: Offensive Line, Tight Ends, Wide Receivers, Running Backs, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Safeties, Cornerbacks and Quarterbacks. Depending on how much you want to specialize the groups, you can draft a player at every position with eleven picks.
My father used to tell me, “Any man can tell you what he knows, but a great man will admit what he doesn’t know.” That’s why I haven’t done any in-depth mock drafts or college football scouting reports in my articles. I have minimum knowledge of college football and its players. What I do know is the “Powerhouse” (or perhaps they’re just popular) schools: Clemson, Alabama, Texas, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, USC, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Penn State, Ohio State, Oregon, Michigan, etc.
These are the schools or organizations where our Dallas Cowboys should focus on drafting players. There are plenty of players that will be drafted this year that may not succeed in the NFL. That includes players from the “powerhouses”. Last year, injuries forced the Cowboys to make starters of many players from smaller programs that were labeled as developmental and projects. With smart choices, we can have more players become future stars instead of becoming answers to Cowboys draft day trivia questions.
Many of our picks will be in the seventh or final round of the draft. There’s still talent to be found and it means we won’t have to fight for many of the possible undrafted free agents that our scouts suggest bringing into camp. I’m aware that DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora put a school like Troy State on the map (no offense to Troy State). Tony Romo and Miles Austin continues to provide eternal hope for undrafted free agents from Division 1-AA schools. However, these are usually more exception than norm. My message is – “Don’t look for diamonds in the rough, look for diamonds at diamond mines.”
My formula for the Cowboys’ sixth Lombardi trophy looks like this: Smart Free Agent Signings + Removal of Old, Injured Players with Huge Contracts + Salary Cap Management x Eleven Draft Picks.
Do the math, then realize the 2014 Cowboys will be young, strong and fast. Think about that for a minute. Young. Strong. Fast. Excited yet? Then throw on your Cowboys jersey and walk around like Ric Flair. Are you ready for some football!