At 3-9 and facing a 2-9-1 Cincinnati Bengals team today, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a position to improve their draft stock once again. A loss against the Bengals would put the Cowboys give them the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
While that may not seem like much of a difference, in terms of the player that could be available to them or to another team looking to trade up, the difference could be significant.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, there appears to be a consensus as to who are the top three players in the draft. Pull up a random mock draft and you'll generally see Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Penei Sewell as the first three names off the board. Some mocks may have Micah Parsons or Gregory Rousseau, but they would be the exception at this point in the evaluation process.
Why would it make much of a difference for the Cowboys to be drafting number three instead of four?
First, if they are at number three then they'll have an opportunity to draft the best non-quarterback in the draft. If the consensus is that it's Sewell, then they have a tackle that is a plug and play player that could fill a void left by either Tyron Smith or La'el Collins if neither is available to start the 2021 season.
Secondly, the difference between the number three overall pick and the number four overall pick is equivalent to the number 50 overall pick. Looking at the trade value chart put together by Drafttek.com, the third overall pick is worth 2,200 points by their estimates. The number four overall pick is worth 1,800 points. Again, that's a significant difference that could net you more value in a trade from another team.
Let's say the Miami Dolphins were interested in trading up for Sewell. To come up from number 10 overall to number four, the Dolphins would need to include number 42 overall and number 176 to make it equitable for the Cowboys according to the trade value chart. Number four overall is worth 1,800 points and number 10, 42, and 176 are worth 1,799.8 points. To get to number three overall (2,200 points), the Dolphins would need to include number 10 (1,300 points), number 22 (780), and number 85 (165) to make it work and that would be a slight win for the Cowboys.
So, the difference between numbers three and four is an extra first instead of a second and a third instead of a sixth. Just based on the numbers alone, that's a pretty significant difference.
If it were one of the teams looking to move up for Trey Lance or Zach Wilson to be their quarterback, the value of the third overall pick increases even more so. The owner of that pick could create a bidding war with clubs looking to find their next franchise quarterback. We've seen the price that teams have been willing to pay for the opportunity to draft a franchise-altering quarterback in the last decade.
Currently, the Bengals are in an enviable position. They will have the opportunity to take the best player on their draft board that isn't a quarterback or get a significant haul for the pick. While they might be interested in staying there and taking the top non-quarterback on the board, likely Sewell, they need a lot of help in a lot of areas that would be aided by a significant trade back package that they'd be able to reel in. A team coming up could come after the best offensive tackle in the draft or a quarterback. That's what gives the number three overall pick so much leverage. The premium positions available at three will entice a number of teams to consider making the move.
There will still be tremendous value at number four, but as we've highlighted, there is a significant difference in the overall value of the number three overall pick and number four.
On Sunday, the Cowboys have an opportunity to gain a significant advantage in their draft position, which could help their team down the road tremendously. They obviously won't go into a game trying to lose. NFL coaches and players aren't wired that way. However, getting as many of the young guys on the roster reps as many reps as you can this Sunday and the rest of the season not only bodes well for providing valuable game day snaps for those players, also contributes to the potential improvement in draft position.
You may not want to hear it and I certainly don't like writing it, but this Dallas Cowboys organization has much more to gain by losing. Whether it is to improve the options of players available to them to take with their first-round pick or to enhance the value of their pick in a trade back, the value difference is significant. It would certainly hurt to lose to a Bengals team that is without their starting quarterback and running back, but in a season that isn't going anywhere, other than for the morale of the team, this game doesn't mean anything.