How The Dallas Cowboys Become Elite Once Again
By Tyrone Starr
Last season, it felt as if the Dallas Cowboys came out of nowhere to take the league by surprise on their way to a twelve win season and their first playoff berth since 2009.
It’s amazing what three straight seasons of finishing 8-8 will do for the perception of the state of your franchise.
The truth is that the Cowboys have been one of the best teams in the NFL over the last ten years but you might be surprised by that fact. In that time span, Dallas has the eighth best regular season in the entire league at 93-67.
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One reason that may be a shock is due to the lack of postseason success. Of the seven teams ahead of the Cowboys, five have won a Super Bowl trophy since 2005. The other two teams (San Diego and Denver) have had multiple playoff appearances and moderate success in January.
Dallas, on the other hand, has played in just five postseason games, losing three of them.
Obviously, changing the perception of the organization will come as consistent playoff trips coupled with victories follow. Hoisting a Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year certainly will go a long way as well.
But how do the Cowboys go about reaching that elite level once again?
The answer is both simple and yet quite complicated.
The simple answer is the draft. The complicated part is that it does not have as much to do with the first round as it does with the rest of the process.
Choosing the right players in the first round of the draft is exactly how a team like the Cowboys makes the list of the top ten best teams over the last ten years. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware, wide receiver Dez Bryant and the offensive line trio of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin all were day one selections.
If the Cowboys are to take that next step to becoming an elite team however, they need to improve on the rest of their picks.
ESPN analytics writer Sharon Katz wrote a detailed article a couple weeks ago pointing out exactly who the best teams were when it came to getting the best value in the draft. The five best teams at procuring optimal talent in less obvious places were the Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Not so coincidentally, four of those five teams not only join the Cowboys in the top ten when it comes to total wins, but they also each have a Super Bowl ring. Only the Eagles somehow have failed to achieve either.
When I reviewed the drafts of these five teams and compared it to those of the Dallas Cowboys, it was clear to see why each team has enjoyed prolonged success.
The Seahawks have drafted eight players in rounds two through seven that have been named to a Pro-Bowl. The Packers have had six. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have had five each and the Colts have managed three.
Unfortunately, Dallas has only had one player drafted in the second or fourth round make a Pro Bowl in the last ten years while sporting a Cowboys helmet and that was running back Marion Barber in 2007. No current Cowboys player has made a Pro-Bowl that was not drafted in round one in that same time span.
The chasm between these teams’ draft acumen and the Cowboys is not only measured in Pro Bowl appearances.
Each of those five teams have been able to get at least ten quality starters from these later rounds in the draft with Green Bay (13) and Seattle (15) leading the way. The Cowboys have managed nine, however four of them are no longer with the team.
The biggest draft failure in relation to the Cowboys, comes from rounds two and four. Since 2004, Dallas has made 25 selections in these two rounds. From those picks, only six are still with the team. Amazingly, nine played less than a full season in the NFL.
So, as you settle in two weeks from now and get ready to watch the draft, remember that Friday and Saturday are just as important, if not more so than Thursday. If this team is going to take the next step, it won’t be just because of the guy chosen with the 27th pick. It will likely be because of the guys taken at 60, 91, 127, 163, 236 and 243.