Around this time of year, there are always fans that overstate or understate the commitment of their team to draft certain types of players. This is due to the frustration felt by the fans of the 31 teams who did NOT win the previous Super Bowl, and by our own faulty memories. We tend to judge front offices too harshly or too lightly based on their recent success in the post-season, not on their actual success in drafting good players.
Since Cowboys fans have much to be frustrated about, before we get into the full swing of the criticism that is bound to come in May due to the fact that the Cowboys cannot draft enough players to fill every need, and even if they did, the likelihood of drafting successfully at each position is exceedingly low, I think it would be a good idea to look at the FACTS of how the Cowboys have drafted players since Jerry Jones bought the team 25 years ago.
1st round – 24 picks
Defense – 15 picks
- 6 DL – Russell Maryland, Kelvin Pritchett, Shante Carver, Greg Ellis, Ebenezer Ekuban, Marcus Spears
- 4 LB – Robert Jones, DeMarcus Ware, Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Spencer
- 5 DB – Kevin Smith, Roy Williams, Terrence Newman, Mike Jenkins, Morris Claiborne
Offense – 9 picks
- 2 OL – Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick
- 2 WR – Alvin Harper, Dez Bryant
- 1 TE – David LaFleur
- 2 RB – Emmitt Smith, Felix Jones
- 2 QB - Troy Aikman, Steve Walsh
2nd Round – 30 picks
Defense – 10 picks
- 1 DL – Kavika Pittman
- 6 LB – Dixon Edwards, Darren Smith, Randall Godfrey, Kevin Burnett, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter
- 3 DB – Darren Woodson, Dwayne Goodrich, Tony Dixon
Offense – 20 picks
- 8 OL – Steve Wisniewski, Larry Allen, Shane Hannah, Flozell Adams, Solomon Page, Andre Gurode, Al Johnson, Jacob Rogers,
- 4 WR – Alexander Wright, Jimmy Smith, Kevin Williams, Antonio Bryant
- 4 TE – Kendall Watkins, Anthony Fasano, Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar
- 3 RB – Daryl Johnston, Sherman Williams, Julius Jones
- 1 QB – Quincy Carter
3rd round – 31 picks
Defense – 17 picks
- 7 DL – Rhondy Weston, Jimmie Jones, Darren Benson, Mike Ulafale, Willie Blade, Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford
- 4 LB – Godfrey Miles, Dexter Coakley, Dat Nguyen, Jason Williams
- 6 DB – Clayton Holmes, Mike Middleton, Charlie Williams, Kenny Wheaton, Derek Ross, J.J. Wilcox
Offense – 14 picks
- 10 OL – Mark Stepnoski, James Richards, Erik Williams, James Brown, George Hegamin, Clay Shiver, Steve Scifres, Stephen Peterman, James Marten, Robert Brewster
- 2 WR – Stepfret Williams, Terrance Williams
- 1 TE – Jason Witten
- 1 RB – DeMarco Murray
- 0 QB
If we stop for a moment to consider that the first 3 rounds are considered the premium picks, we can look at some of the Cowboys’ tendencies: The Cowboys tend to draft for defense in the first round, and then offense in the second round. The third round leans slightly toward defense, but is more even overall. Also, the Cowboys have tended to draft for D linemen in rounds 1 & 3, and O linemen in rounds 2 & 3.
The Cowboys have had very little success drafting for defensive backs in the 2nd & 3rd rounds, while all of their 1st round DB’s have become starters in the NFL. The Cowboys have had very good success finding linebackers in rounds 2 & 3.
Looking at it from an overall standpoint, the Cowboys have had a total of 85 picks in the first 3 rounds in the 25 years since Jerry Jones bought the team – 10 more than the average NFL team which has had 75 picks in that time. Considering that the Cowboys traded away three 1st round picks for WR’s Joey Galloway and Roy Williams, they’ve still had an above average chance to pick “premium” players. Just looking at these 85 premium picks, here is how the picks have been used by position in the first 3 rounds of the draft:
- 20 – Offensive Linemen
- 14 - Defensive Linemen
- 14 – Linebackers
- 14 – Defensive Backs
- 8 – Wide Receiver (10 if you include Joey Galloway and Roy Williams)
- 6 – Tightends
- 6 – Running Backs
- 3 – Quarterbacks
Since only 23 of the 85 picks (27%) used have been for offensive skill players, it is hard to justify the complaints that Jerry Jones is only interested in drafting flashy offensive skill players. The Cowboys have drafted almost as many offensive linemen (20) as they have offensive skill players in the last 25 years. And if you consider that Daryl Johnston was considered an honorary offensive lineman, the count is almost dead even.
Also, the distribution of how the Cowboys have drafted defensive players in the last 25 years could not be more even – 14 players for each level of the defense. So much for the accusation that the Cowboys are only interested in drafting defensive backs.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys have had very little success in the 2nd & 3rd rounds with Defensive backs, which may be why so many fans forget that the Cowboys have tried to find DB’s in the 2nd & 3rd rounds. Only Darren Woodson stands out as a success story, despite many Cowboys’ attempts.
So, having taken a look at how the Cowboys have used their premium picks; let’s take a look at the picks the Cowboys have used from the 4th round on. Here is a complete list of the starters the Cowboys have found in the later rounds:
- 1989 – Tony Tolbert (11 other players never started)**
- 1990 – Kenny Gant (1 other player never started)**
- 1991 – Leon Lett, Larry Brown (9 other players never started)**
- 1992 – (9 players never started)**
- 1993 – Ron Stone, Brock Marion (4 other players never started)**
Note: Jimmy Johnson’s record of drafting starters after the 3rd round: 6 for 40 – only 15%. Keep that in mind when you get all excited about players drafted in the later rounds.
- 1994 – 1999 (31 players never started)**
- 2000 – Mario Edwards (4 other players never started)**
- 2001 – Matt Lehr (5 other players never started)**
- 2002 – (5 players never started)**
Jerry’s record in the later rounds after Jimmy Johnson left: 2 for 47 – a dismal 4.2%.
- 2003 – Bradie James (3 other players never started)**
- 2004 – Patrick Crayton, Jacques Reeves (3 other players never started)**
- 2005 – Marion Barber, Chris Canty, Rob Petitti, Jay Ratliff (1 other player never started)**
- 2006 – Pat Watkins (4 other players never started) **
Note: Bill Parcell’s record of drafting starters after the 3rd round: 8 for 19 – a remarkable 42%!!!!
- 2007 – Doug Free, Nick Folk (4 other players never started)**
- 2008 – Orlando Scandrick (2 other players never started)**
- 2009 – (10 players never started)**
- 2010 – (4 players never started)**
- 2011 – (5 players never started)**
- 2012 (5 players never have started)**
- 2013 (3 players have never started)**
Jerry’s record of finding starters after the 3rd round since Bill Parcells left: 3 for 37 – a dismal 8.1%
Note: When I say never started, I mean they never won a starting position. The players may have started a game as an injury replacement. For example: Kyle Wilbur started a few games last year at linebacker and defensive end, but was never considered the 1st string player.
Only 19 of the 142 players the Cowboys have drafted after the 3rd round (13.3%) have become front-line starters. And many of those can only be considered marginal starters. Of those 142 players, only 7 have been to a Pro Bowl – Tony Tolbert (1x), Leon Lett (2x), Ron Stone (3x), Brock Marion (3x), Marion Barber (1x), Jay Ratliff (4x), and Nick Folk (1x).
Looking at the hit rate on picks after the 3rd round, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the Cowboys’ late round picks this coming May. Jerry has proven to be pretty inept without Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells when it comes to picking players in the later rounds.
Of all the later round players, Nick Folk is the only Pro Bowler Jerry picked on his own.
I hope this brief history helps give everyone some perspective on the upcoming draft. Good luck with your mock drafts, and don’t spend too much brain energy on trying to find starters later in the draft – unless you happen to be Bill Parcells.
Cowboys Draft: Reviewing Kansas DT Daniel Wise
Throughout the post draft media process, the Cowboys' decision makers have been adamant that they found multiple draft-able players in undrafted free agency this year. Each of which, of course, will have an opportunity to compete for a roster or practice squad spot this summer.
One of those players who almost certainly had a draft-able grade despite fall through all seven rounds, is Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise.
At 6'3" and 290 pounds, Wise projects as a 3-technique in the NFL, and should compete for that very role on the Cowboys defense. Wise is not an overly bendy or athletic player, but he has a good initial quickness which allows him to penetrate gaps well. Wise plays with excellent effort, having the type of motor that I'm sure Rod Marinelli valued highly during the pre-draft evaluations.
A strong and powerful interior presence, Wise can offer some upside as a pass rusher as well. He has quick, active, and heavy hands. When combining his hands with his get-off, Wise is a real threat as a pass rusher. Maybe his most impressive pass rushing quality, however, is the effort which he plays with. Never giving up on a play, you'll have to block Wise until the final whistle or he will threaten for effort sacks.
In college, Wise was often asked to be a two-gap defender from the 5-technique, but that's just not where he'll be at his best. Rather, he should be used in the role the Cowboys likely envision for him, allowing him to play with power at the point of attack and disrupt the running game.
But what are Daniel Wise's chances of even making the team?
The Cowboys made a concerted effort to improve their defensive line this offseason, specifically on the interior. By adding free agents like Kerry Hyder and drafting Trysten Hill 58th overall, Dallas has improved what was considered a weakness during the postseason a year ago.
Not all of these talented defensive tackles will make the team, though, it's simply a numbers a game. And cutting an undrafted free agent will certainly be easier to do than cutting someone who will be owed real money, or was acquired through premium draft capital.
Regardless, Daniel Wise will have the chance to prove his worth during training camp and the preseason. And based on how he projects through his college tape and physical attributes, he'll likely make those final decisions very difficult on the Cowboys' staff.
Pre-Draft Visitors Highlight Dallas Cowboys 2019 Rookie Class
The Dallas Cowboys are "officially" adding 21 rookies to their roster, eight of which they drafted and the remaining 13 are undrafted free agents. The number of rookies the Cowboys are bringing in isn't all that surprising, but what did surprise me was how many of them were pre-draft visitors.
You may or may not know, but the NFL allows 30 allotted pre-draft visits for each team around the league. Teams don't have to use all 30 visits of course, but the majority of them take advantage of the opportunity and generally use up all 30 visits. It's a chance to introduce these rookies into the atmosphere they could be playing in and work them out in more of a one-on-one basis.
The Dallas Cowboys of course are known as a team who take their 30 pre-draft visits very seriously. Over the past several years they've drafted several players who were brought in for pre-draft visits, and 2019 was no exception.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, paying attention to the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visits is a good idea because the odds of them drafting one or more of them is pretty high. That's why I decided to run a pre-draft tracker this year, and because of it I was able to confirm 27 of the possible 30 pre-draft visitors for the Cowboys.
Here are 2019 pre-draft visitors currently on the Cowboys roster:
- DT, Trysten Hill
- RB, Tony Pollard
- RB, Mike Weber
- WR, Jon'Vea Johnson
- CB, Chris Westry
If you're doing the math, 5 out of 30 equates to 17% of the players the Dallas Cowboys brought in as pre-draft visitors. But, if Dallas only brought in 27 that percentage rises to 19%. To say that the Cowboys value these pre-draft visits would be an understatement, at least as far as 2019 is concerned.
The first three of Trysten Hill, Tony Pollard, and Mike Weber were of course all draft picks and have the best chance to stick around on the final 53-man roster, but I wouldn't rule out Jon'Vea Johnson and Chris Westry. Both were draftable players, but somehow fell through the cracks right into the lap of the Cowboys as UFAs.
I don't really know if it's a good idea the Dallas Cowboys are so transparent with how valuable the treat these 30 pre-draft visits. We've seen teams time and time again trade up right in front of them to draft a player the Cowboys could've possibly been eyeing, and this year was no exception.
After drafting Running Back/Wide Receiver Tony Pollard with the first of their fourth-round draft picks, it looked like the Dallas Cowboys had their sights set on small school Defensive End/Defensive Tackle John Cominsky out of Charleston with their second pick in the fourth. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Falcons traded up a spot ahead of them to draft Cominsky.
This of course isn't the first time the Falcons have done this, which begs the question as to how they knew the Cowboys could have possibly been targeting Cominsky. We can throw a conspiracy theory out there that Atlanta might have been inside source, but that's highly unlikely. More plausible theory is they were paying attention to Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors as well.
It may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to deploy a little more smoke and mirrors when it comes to who they bring in for pre-draft visits in the future. But regardless, there's no denying the Cowboys pre-draft visitors highlight their 2019 rookie class.
Are you surprised the Dallas Cowboys added so many pre-draft visitors to the roster?
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Grades
Another year, another draft come and gone. The difference was that this year the Dallas Cowboys were without a first-round pick thanks to their trade for Amari Cooper with Oakland. Their de facto first-round pick would obviously earn an A+ from how well he meshed with Dak Prescott and gave this Cowboys offense another dimension.
Given how well the Cowboys have done in the first round in recent history -- all but two of their first round picks since 2011 have been in the Pro Bowl, a trend that continued with last year’s pick, Leighton Vander Esch. This season, the Cowboys only had picks from round two and on. So this year was all about finding value and hoping it would fall into their laps.
Obviously time will tell if any of these players work out or not. For the time being, we can grade the picks based on what we do know. Some picks were worth it, while others raised questions, as well as eyebrows.
58 Overall: DT, Trysten Hill
In what has been considered the best defensive line draft in decades, the Cowboys took a bit of a risk with their first “official” pick. Trysten Hill is a first round talent out of UCF, but reports questioning his love for the game had some give him a third round grade.
Dallas has already had an off-season dealing with talented defensive linemen with questions around their passion for the game (i.e. David Irving) and so obviously people didn’t love this pick.
It’s a high risk, high reward move that we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.
90 Overall: G, Connor McGovern
As far as value goes, McGovern was probably the team’s best pick. In my pre-draft rankings, Connor McGovern was my fourth overall interior lineman; a player who you can play anywhere in the interior and start immediately.
However, guard didn’t really seem like a need. This was obviously a “best player available” pick. What this pick has done instead is raise a bunch of questions.
Who’s job could be on the line?
Does this imply the team won’t re-sign La’el Collins?
Is Connor Williams going to play tackle like he did in college?
Is one of them going to get traded?
Is Travis Frederick really ready to go?
So many questions surround this pick, but there’s no questioning the player. Connor McGovern is likely a future starter on the line and Cowboys fans should be excited about that.
128 Overall: RB, Tony Pollard
If you follow me on Twitter, you know my feelings about Tony Pollard already.
Tony Pollard might be my favorite #Cowboys pick. Has experience at both the RB and WR position, plus had 7 career kick return TDs in college. He addresses all 3 needs in 1. #NFLDraft
Returner has been a need for a year now. I never liked the team trading away Ryan Switzer because it created a huge hole on special teams, as well as the receiving core.
The team also needed a backup running back to take the load off Ezekiel Elliott a bit. With Tony Pollard, they get all three positions filled in the form of a player who's 6'0" 210 pounds, ran a 4.52 40 and compiled 25 total touchdowns. Terrific value in the fourth round.
158 Overall: CB, Michael Jackson
This is the type of corner Kris Richard loves; big and tall. At 6'1" 200 pounds, Michael Jackson fits the profile.
His 2017 tape was actually better than his 2018 tape, and all four of his career interceptions came in '17. However, the team is obviously betting on his potential, especially with corner being a serious need.
With the Cowboys' four primary corners coming into contract years the next three seasons, odds are that at least one will be gone. MJ doesn’t fill in day one as a difference maker but, given some time under Kris Richard, he could be a nice player.
165 Overall: DE, Joe Jackson
Take Joe Jackson, new Cowboy, as well as Michael and Darius Jackson, and the team is just two short of a Jackson 5 reunion.
The team has been very busy trying to rebuild the depth at edge and Joe Jackson is icing on an already stacked cake. In an off-season that saw the retirement of David Irving and another suspension for Randy Gregory, the team was able to extend DeMarcus Lawrence and trade for Robert Quinn.
The edge room was already full but you can never have too many.
Joe Jackson is a fun, productive player from The U, who was teammates with the previous pick, Michael Jackson. In his career, he totaled 24 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss all in three seasons. He’s not the fastest edge rusher in the world but has plenty of power to make up for it. With the team only for sure having DeMarcus Lawrence guaranteed beyond 2019, it’s good to have as much talent as possible.
213 Overall: S, Donovan Wilson
The team really needed a safety and it enraged most people that they didn’t pick one earlier. Especially with Taylor Rapp, Juan Thornhill and Amani Hooker all available at different times.
Donovan Wilson is an interesting pick. His career has been a rollercoaster while at Texas A&M, with a highly productive 2015 season, a dip in 2016, a fractured foot in the 2017 opener, and a rebound 2018 season.
Had his career not been derailed by his injury, he’s likely gone way before the sixth round and the Cowboys are obviously betting on his potential. Meets a need, but not a plug-in right away type of pick.
218 Overall: RB, Mike Weber
Tony Pollard is going to get first crack at the backup running back spot. However, given that he’s also the team’s likely return man as well, it makes sense that they’d want to deepen the running back room to give the team a true RB2.
Mike Weber was Ezekiel Elliott’s teammate at Ohio State, but didn’t come close to the impact Elliott had. Only topping 1,000 yards once in college, Weber is likely in competition with Darius Jackson for the backup spot.
He’s not as flashy as Zeke but can pick up the slack when asked to and is a solid receiver out of the backfield. If Weber can’t beat Jackson for the backup spot, then Weber is a likely candidate for the practice squad.
241 Overall: DE, Jalen Jelks
Jalen Jelks falls into a similar boat that both Hurricanes players are in. Like Joe Jackson, he’s a good solid edge piece (fifth round draft grade), but like Michael Jackson, his prior season's tape was better than his final season.
It's interesting that the Cowboys would pick a player who seems to be better suited to play in a 3-4 as a OLB, but has plenty of starter potential. Otherwise he’s a player that’s likely headed to the practice squad that the Cowboys wanted to make sure they get first crack at. Still, a good value in terms of where he was picked.
Dallas Cowboys Overall 2019 Draft Grade: B
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