As Cowboys fans rifle through mocks and expert analysis in the run up to the 2014 NFL Draft, it should be noted that not a single “draft expert” predicted a year ago that Dallas would trade down and draft Wisconsin center Travis Frederick.
Many of these experts panned the decision, perhaps a bit miffed at Cowboys GM Jerry Jones for not following them on Twitter or reading their predraft coverage. In their mocks, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was manna from heaven at No. 18. In that spot, Floyd was considered a “value pick,” meaning he was graded much higher by a consensus of “experts” in whom no NFL franchise has ever entrusted its war room.
Turns out Frederick was an impact Day 1 starter at a position of need and wide receiver Terrance Williams, selected in the third round with the extra pick, bloomed into a capable and much-needed replacement for oft-injured Pro Bowler Miles Austin. In Sports Illustrated’s celebrated draft re-do following the 2013 season, both Frederick and Williams were reevaluated as first-round talents.
But the experts said Jones didn’t get enough value for trading down. Many cited former Dallas head coach Jimmy Johnson’s 20-year-old trade value chart as proof, showing the Cowboys received a value equivalent to 91 cents on the dollar in the deal. Other draft charts, such as the one over at footballperspective.com, show the Cowboys winning big on the trade. So no one really knows. One suspects the expert analysis was driven by personality instead of substance. If New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had made the same deal, experts would have hailed his genius.
The experts also said Jones could have had Frederick in later rounds. Really? It’s not as if all 31 other NFL GMs had to covet Frederick to make him disappear before the Cowboys’ next pick. Only one GM had to see Frederick for what he is – a top quality starter at a key offensive position. If you believe the Cowboys reached, then you also tacitly acknowledge that Jerry was the smartest guy in the room on draft day. He saw what no one else saw. You’re also blindly trusting the targeted speculation of draft experts who delight in ridiculing Dallas’ septuagenarian GM.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper ate crow a year later, grudgingly upgrading Dallas’ 2013 draft from a C- to a B. He had both Frederick and Williams in his top 28 picks, acknowledged tight end Gavin Escobar will be a starter, and said running back Joseph Randle has lead-back upside… And he still couldn’t bring himself to admit this looks like a Grade A crop of prospects. Oh well. Maybe he’s right. It’s still early.
And that’s the point. Years of following expert draft coverage have revealed two essential truths we should all remember as we prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft: First, none of these experts knows what’s going to happen. They’re just guessing, and they guess wrong way more often than they guess right.
Second, and more importantly, once whatever is going to happen actually occurs, none of them have any clue whether it was smart or not. These experts are consistently wrong not only about where prospects will be drafted, but also about how well they will play in the NFL. Only time will tell. This Cowboys war room has hit more than it’s missed since head coach Jason Garrett joined the war room in 2011. Whatever happens May 8 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, I’m ready to give it the benefit of the doubt.