In the first two parts of this series, we assigned scores to each position on the team. If you haven’t already, give those a read before continuing here to help you better understand this final part:
- Cowboys Offense: Identifying Needs & Strategies, Part 1/3
- Cowboys Defense: Identifying Needs & Strategies, Part 2/3
Now that we have a unit by unit assessment, let’s look at the combined needs of the Cowboys based on the priority scores. In review, these scores are based on two criteria. The first criteria is the overall importance of the position. Each position has a strategic importance score. The second criteria looks at the quality of the person who will play the position if the Cowboys do not address it.
So, for example, the Cowboys do not have a backup guard right now, so it is a critical (or urgent) need. The Will linebacker has Sean Lee slated, so while important it is not critical. The Sam linebacker only has Anthony Hitchens (so average critical), but if he moves to middle linebacker, then it only has Mark Nzeocha, so it become a moderately high to high critical need.
Let’s look at the most important and critical (urgent) needs the Cowboys will have this offseason:
- Corner = 36
- Starting DE = 36
- Starting Three Technique = 36
- Backup QB = 30
- Running Back = 28
- Middle Linebacker = 28
- ROT/Swing Tackle = 25 to 28
- Blocking TE = 25
- Third Down RB = 25
- Strong Side LB = 24
- 2nd or 3rd Receiver = 24
- Backup Three = 22.5
- 4th Corner = 20
- Backup Guard = 20
- Fullback = 20
- Backup Free Safety = 15
- Fourth Guard/Backup Center = 14
So what does all this mean? What does it tell us? Are there any insights we can gather from this process?
Here are 15 insights that I believe these numbers tell us:
- If you have a score of 30 or more, you need to try to address it as early as possible in free agency. These are impact positions that need impact players. You can’t wait around and hope you cover it in the draft. I suspect the Cowboys will try to sign at least three of the four positions with a score of over 30 before the 2016 NFL Draft.
- The Cowboys will spend the most dollars on the roles with the highest scores. Common sense really.
- Having 11 positions with a score above 24 is daunting and certainly above average. That means the Cowboys have more work to do than normal. I think it will be hard to fill all of the gaps with free agents and by re-signing players. That means the “sign the best player available” draft approach will be compromised some this year.
- In a perfect scenario, you would like to fill all positions that score 25 or higher prior to the draft so that you do not have gaps and can draft the best player available, but that is probably impractical for this year. There are just too many starting needs that must be addressed. So if possible, the Cowboys will need to spend their highest draft picks on any remaining positions in excess of 25 that are unfilled in free agency.
- My guess is the Cowboys will try to re-sign five players and another four or five free agents. Likely targets for re-signing are James Hanna, Mackenzie Bernadeau or Ronald Leary, Lance Dunbar, Jack Crawford, Jeff Heath, Morris Claiborne, and Kyle Wilber. Either way, they will need at least 10 signings combined. I’ll address possible free agents in a later article.
- The Cowboys will need to have up to seven rookies on the roster. They will probably have four sixth rounders which can help to fill two of the developmental roles, so the Cowboys will need to find five impact or contributing players from this draft. That is a high number and should lead to a strategy of trading down to pick up at least one or two extra picks in the second and third rounds.
- You can wait to address any position with a score under 24 until after the draft. This will allow you to wait to see what players you draft and what holes remain before filling the remaining positions. Of course, if you can re-sign players or get free agents for reasonable amounts, sign them early.
- Since the backup QB is both important and critical, but there are no game changing QBs in the draft, look for the Cowboys to make a trade or sign a splash free agent.
- It would not surprise me if the strong side linebacker and a backup corner are also addressed prior to the draft. That will give the Cowboys more flexibility to take the best player in the draft.
- Looking at the board and the Cowboys needs, it looks like the Cowboys are most likely to draft a defensive back or end with the fourth pick or trade down for additional picks. Depending where they draft down to, they can then go after Defensive Tackle (Three technique), Running Back, Offensive Tackle, Middle Linebacker, and Receiver.
- I would not be surprised to see the Cowboys trade down twice to pick up additional picks. For example, trade down to 10 for a second, then trade to 18 – 22 for a third and fourth. There will still be good players available at 20 for several needs and it could allow them to have as many as seven picks in the top 100 (first, two second, two third, and their 4th) as well as two additional fourths (from trade and compensatory) and four 6th rounders (their sixth plus three compensatory).
- I think two of the three most important and critical positions (DT, DE, Corner) are signed before the draft. The other remaining position will most likely be the first pick. I am predicting it will be a DE or Corner. One of the two will be the biggest signing in free agency and the second will be the first round pick.
- If corner or DE is to be addressed with the first pick then LB, receiver, and running back are the most likely picks for rounds 2-4.
- I believe a developmental guard, corner, and free safety are likely to be drafted in the later rounds.
- If the Cowboys do trade down to add picks, as in the scenario above, I believe they will pick up a developmental QB in rounds 2-4.
If the goal of the team is to win in the next three years then the strategy is to bring in players that can have impact now. But you do not want them around after three years. So I expect to see more free agent signings than in most years. If they sign more free agents, look for two or three year contracts.
I also look for them to draft down and pick up more picks. If they drop down and pick up picks, they can afford to use an earlier one on a QB.
Now the goal is defined, and the strategy for accomplishing this being formulated, a plan can be made and executed. It is this plan that should help the Cowboys look at the critical holes and find actionable steps (players) to address them. Looking forward to starting to evaluate players. I will try to look at 5 a week between now and the draft.