Dallas Cowboys: Five simple rules for a great NFL (or fantasy) draft

Apr 29, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys number one draft pick Ezekiel Elliott poses for a photo with owner Jerry Jones at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys number one draft pick Ezekiel Elliott poses for a photo with owner Jerry Jones at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

My 5 simple draft day rules will help the Dallas Cowboys and your fantasy team before the season starts. Should I mention: Don’t draft retired players?

Unfortunately for you, I get to share my thoughts and opinions about the Dallas Cowboys‘ drafts. My rules for a draft are quite simple. I’ve found that they are effective for NFL franchises or picking players for your fantasy team. There are a few exceptions to every rule because drafts are a living, breathing thing and the unexpected usually happens.

In addition to trades between teams that ruin the draft order, there are the random picks the pause the Earth from spinning on its axis. Who could’ve predicted that the Jacksonville Jaguars would’ve selected punter in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft? That’s just like predicting your cousin’s buddy would select recently retired wide receiver Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans. Sorry, no do-overs!

Without further ado, here’s Rule #1: Players in the first three rounds are starters. In the real world, a first round pick is the employee that doesn’t need six weeks of training. His role with the team is already planned and he’s going to be an immediate contributor. Players in the 2nd and 3rd rounds should be starters midway thru the season.

Rule #2: Draft the best needed player available. Every draft will have a “big board”, a list of players ranked on their NFL potential. In my mock draft, the Cowboys had the 28th pick, but the player I selected was ranked in the top 20. Value helps make a selection great. These are considered to be the steals of the draft. Don’t be too cute with value hunting however. For many years, owner and general mismanager Jerry Jones would trade down in an attempt to get his wanted selection and an additional draft pick. I’ve always been against that.

Rule #3: Draft from quality football programs. Jerry Jones loves finding that diamond in the rough. Why try to find that star player from Hillman College, when there are tons of diamonds at NCAA Division I schools with powerhouse football programs? I’ll probably be satisfied with any player from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Texas, FSU, LSU, Boise St., Ohio State, Wisconsin, Auburn, Stanford, etc. Just avoid schools like Connecticut, William & Mary.

Rule #4: Avoid the “projects”. I don’t have anything against “project” players, I just don’t want them drafted. Perfect example from the 2016 NFL draft is tight end Rico Gathers. Gathers played basketball in college and last played organized football in middle school. Time will tell if he makes his mark in the NFL, but why bother? Football is supposed to be a collection of players with specialized skillsets. Don’t ask a roofer to fix a leaking toilet and don’t ask a painter to repair your car’s brakes.

If you really wanted a tight end, just draft someone that has spent a few years playing tight end at one of the NCAA powerhouses. I found a list of the best undrafted players in 2016. Imagine being tight end Jake McGee of Florida or Devon Cajuste of Stanford and seeing Gathers get drafted without any college football experience at your position.

Rule #5: Finish Strong. Often, I get a few comments because I was critical about a late round pick, but every draft pick counts. Think about 2015 with the Cowboys finding solid additions from two 7th round selections: linebacker Mark Nzeocha and tight end Geoff Swaim. I also had high hopes for defensive end Ben Gardner, safety Ahmad Dixon, defensive tackle Ken Bishop and cornerback Terrance Mitchell from the 2014 7th round class.

Don’t throw away the end of the draft because there will always be a large pool of undrafted free agents (UDFA) to wade through. Receiver Cole Beasley was signed in 2012 as an UDFA, after the Cowboys selected receiver Danny Coale in the 5th round.

Next: Dallas Cowboys Draft: Ten Final Seven Round Mocks

Most notably, UDFA quarterback Tony Romo emerged as the face of the franchise and became the most prolific passer in team history with 34,183 yards and 248 touchdowns. In 2003, the Cowboys used their late round picks to draft defensive back B.J. Tucker, wide receiver Zuriel Smith and guard Justin Bates instead of #9 – aka – Mr. Romo. You just never know, but have fun and choose wisely.


Find Me on Facebook – CowboysRob