The Dallas Cowboys have had an incredible 2020 NFL Draft so far, addressing their top needs with talent that wasn't expected to be available. Is this the right time to consider adding someone to their quarterback pipeline, and could available prospects Jacob Eason or Jake Fromm make that worth doing as soon as the 4th Round?
With Day 3 comes a shift in mentality regarding your drafted players. While you hope for immediate contributors in any round, the expectation is far less realistic once you get out of Rounds 1-3. Players taken today are more for development.
The Cowboys haven't historically invested much draft capital in the QB position. You can look at all 31 of the drafts since Jerry Jones bought the team and see just how rare it is for Dallas to use picks on passers.
- 1989 – Troy Aikman (1st round)
- 1989 – Steve Walsh (1st round, supplemental draft)
- 1991 – Bill Musgrave (4th round)
- 2001 – Quincy Carter (2nd round)
- 2004 – Drew Henson (traded 3rd-round pick to Houston)
- 2009 – Stephen McGee (4th round)
- 2016 – Dak Prescott (4th round)
- 2018 – Mike White (5th round)
That's only seven times in 31 years, about 23%, that the Cowboys have tried to acquire passing talent. And while you may think that made sense given the long runs of players like Aikman and Tony Romo, other teams like New England and Green Bay have routinely drafted quarterbacks even while having future Hall of Famers in their prime.
The Cowboys' mentality appears to have shifted in recent years, beginning with the Prescott pick in 2016. Romo was still “the man” in Dallas and projected to remain so for at least another 2-3 seasons. But they still spent a mid-round pick on Dak in the hopes of grooming Tony's eventual replacement.
We all know how that worked out, and how profitable that late 4th-round pick proved to be.
But even once Dak Prescott emerged as the QB of the present and future, the Cowboys didn't go back to their previous methodology with the depth chart. Despite having undrafted Cooper Rush as an intriguing backup option in 2018, Dallas still spent a 5th-round pick on Mike White.
Last year, the Cowboys released White at final cuts but then signed rookie Clayton Thorson, who'd been a 5th-round pick by the Eagles in 2019 but didn't make final cuts. He spent last year on the practice squad.
This recent behavior suggests that Dallas is looking to do more to develop quarterback talent behind their starter, following the model of teams like the Patriots and Packers. And now that former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy has arrived, that effort may intensify.
The Fourth Round of the 2020 NFL Draft is beginning at the same time the article is being published, and the top two passers still available are Washington's Jacob Eason and Georgia's Jake Fromm. If they fall to Dallas' next pick at #123, or especially if one slipped into the 5th Round, should the Cowboys be interested?
Eason and Fromm were both projected as Day 2 picks in the 2020 class, even having 2nd-round potential according to some scouts. They're sliding because most NFL teams already have a young quarterback on the roster and are focused on other positions.
If you put any stock in the pre-draft grades and analysis, both of these quarterbacks have more perceived upside than Cooper Rush, Mike White, or Clayton Thorson did as rookies.
For that matter, Eason and Fromm have more perceived upside than Dak Prescott and Tony Romo did in their drafts as well.
No, that's not to say that either of these guys will having the shocking success of Dak, Tony, Tom Brady, or anyone else who overcame their humble beginnings as rookies. Only half of even the 1st-round quarterbacks tend to have successful NFL careers, and the success rate plummets as you go into later rounds.
But if we're talking about these Day 3 picks like lottery tickets, then what could possibly pay out better than hitting on a quarterback?
And given their contract situations right now with both the starting and backup QBs, the Cowboys shouldn't be lackadaisical about the position.
Neither Dak Prescott or Cooper Rush are currently under contract beyond next year. Technically, Prescott isn't even signed for 2020 until he signs his franchise tag offer. But that aside, Dallas doesn't have a lot of security right now at their most important position.
Even if the Cowboys and Dak agree to a long-term deal in the next few months, the backup position would still need an answer for 2021. If Cooper Rush is ready to move on after this season, Dallas would love to already have a second-year prospect ready to step up into a backup role.
It doesn't necessarily have to be Jacob Eason or Jake Fromm, either. The Cowboys have two QB-focused guys in major coaching positions with Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore. They may have their eyes on another prospect that suits their personal preferences.
But one thing we've seen so far in this 2020 draft is Dallas sticking to their board to select for superior talent over positional need. And according to some lists, Jacob Eason is the best player available at any position going into Day 3.
If the Cowboys do take a quarterback this year I doubt it happens until the 5th Round, where the team currently has two picks to use. They will likely use their 4th-Round pick today on a safety, pass rusher, or offensive lineman.
But if either Jacob Eason or Jake Fromm are still available when Dallas is next on the clock, I am confident that the quarterbacks will be under consideration.