How the Cowboys draft woes are affecting the future
By Tyrone Starr
As training camp begins, the Dallas Cowboys present a very top heavy roster due to consistent misses in their last five drafts.
If you know anything at all about how to build a team in today’s NFL, you know the best way is to build through the draft.
Creating a talented roster, one that you can control both fiscally and proprietorially, filled with young talent is without question the shrewdest maneuver a front office can do to ensure success for years to come.
When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, their win/loss record over the last five years directly correlates with their draft results over the last five years.
Since 2011, the Cowboys won forty-one games and have lost forty-one games. They could not possibly be more consistently average. Their drafts mirror their outcomes on the field almost to a tee as well.
Not counting this year’s draft class, between 2011 and 2015, the Cowboys have had 39 draft picks. Of those 39 players, eight guys are no longer employed by any team in the NFL and another ten guys are still active but do not play for Dallas.
That means in five drafts, the Cowboys flat missed on almost half of their choices.
These numbers do not include defensive end Randy Gregory, who may or may not ever play again but certainly will not be contributing to the team this year.
They do not include defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence who will be serving a four-game ban for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
They also do not include three tight ends (James Hanna, Gavin Escobar and Geoff Swaim) with no shot at overtaking the starter at that position, nor does it include safety J.J. Wilcox or wide receiver Devin Street, both whom could very well be part of the first 18 once this year’s training camp is complete.
In fact, of the 39 overall selections, one could make a case that only seven (offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, wide receiver Terrance Williams, Lawrence, defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford and defensive back Byron Jones) are starting caliber players in the NFL.
You cannot expect to sustain greatness while hitting on just 18% of your five-year draft plan.
Now, granted all three offensive linemen are All-Pro level guys and that certainly helps to a degree as they were all first round picks but beyond that, it gets bad.
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No one expects you to score big in the later rounds (five through seven) even though it can obviously be done. We can give this team a small pass for only getting one contributor, so far, from this range (Hanna).
Where the Cowboys are truly hurting themselves is in rounds two through four.
Lawrence (second round), Williams (third round) and Crawford (also third) are the only three starters in five years from this range.
Linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber (both fourth round selections) are contributors to the team but certainly not what you would consider “irreplaceable.”
This issue becomes problematic is two major ways.
- Obviously, you want to hit on your first round picks but the flip side is when they become great, they all will expect to be compensated accordingly. Sure, it’s a good problem to have but you’re not really getting any cheap talent either.
- If you keep missing, especially in rounds 2-4, the roster will essentially become void of depth and in the NFL, everyone is one hit away from being done for good.
There is no obvious young guy waiting in the wings to take over the quarterback spot. Yes, the Cowboys have Kellen Moore (undrafted) and Dak Prescott (this year’s fourth round choice), but no one wants to see them under center anytime soon.
There is no young shut down cornerback on the roster. There is no dominating young pass rusher either (although Lawrence has potential).
These, along with left tackle, are the essential building blocks to a championship team.
As it stands right now, Dallas is set with Smith at left tackle. Quarterback Tony Romo is a top-level player but he’s also aging and has been prone to injury. Lawrence has not proven anything and comes with questions surrounding his judgement. At corner, no one besides eight year veteran Orlando Scandrick is guaranteed to be on the roster in 2017.
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With huge contracts already in place for Smith, Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant, along with upcoming big payday’s for Frederick and Martin, if the Cowboys are to become part of the league’s elite again, they need to start drafting like it.