The 2020 NFL Draft brings hope for all 32 teams. Can the Dallas Cowboys expect their hope to translate into impact rookies?
The Dallas Cowboys will soon make their 2020 NFL draft selections. Chances are you are hoping for several impact players to help Dallas in the 2020 season.
In the nine drafts that have occurred since 2011, only 40 times has a team drafted three or more players who posted a Pro Football Reference Approximate Value (AV) of five or more in their rookie year. The Cowboys only did this once in the 2016 draft when quarterback Dak Prescott (16 AV), running back Ezekiel Elliott (16 AV) and defensive lineman Maliek Collins (7 AV) did the trick.
While the Cowboys have done a good job of drafting in the past nine years, they have not found many impact rookies. This isn’t only a Cowboys problem. The chances are higher that a first-round pick will have some impact in their rookie year with 166 of the 287 first-round picks or 58 percent having an AV of 5 or more. Dallas has had eight first-round picks in this time frame having traded one of them for wide receiver Amari Cooper.
For players taken after the first round, only 249 of the 2003 total draft picks or 12 percent meet an AV of 5 or more. With only seven picks in the draft including one first-round pick, Dallas has an expected value of finding 1.3 impact rookies (1 first-round pick x 0.58 + 6 non-first round picks x 0.12).
By far, the biggest reason Dallas has excelled at drafting in the last decade is their hit rate with first-round draft picks. Six of the eight picks have had AVs greater than or equal to five: offensive linemen Tyron Smith (9 AV), Travis Frederick (8 AV), Zack Martin (14 AV), corner Morris Claiborne (6 AV), running back Ezekiel Elliott, and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (11 AV). Only corner Byron Jones (4 AV) and defensive end Taco Charlton (2 AV) missed the mark.
Dallas has found three players in the third round with impactful rookie seasons: running back DeMarco Murray (7 AV) in 2011, wide receiver Terrance Williams (7 AV) in 2013, and defensive lineman Maliek Collins in 2016. Besides Prescott, the Cowboys have had one other fourth-round pick make a rookie impact – Anthony Hitchens (6 AV) in 2014.
Surprisingly, Dallas has not had a single second-round pick make a rookie impact in the last decade. This can be partly explained by an organizational strategy to pick high-risk high-reward players like Bruce Carter (2011 – 1 AV), Randy Gregory (2015 – 1 AV), Jaylon Smith (2016 – 0 AV). But there have been more than their fair share of disappointing rookie seasons from Gavin Escobar (2013 – 1 AV), DeMarcus Lawrence (2014 – 1 AV), and Trysten Hill (2019 – 1 AV).
So temper the expectations for the Dallas Cowboys 2020 rookie class. History has shown that you can catch lightning in the bottle but the chances are uncommon.
The real difference the 2020 draft class will make is in 2021 through 2023 when the rookies have adjusted to life in the NFL, made their strength improvement between their first and second year, and compete for starters snaps. The 2020 draft will likely find only one impact rookie – anything more than that is a bonus.