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NFL Draft

Draft Philosophy: Cowboys Quarterbacks

Jess Haynie



Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: #9 Belongs To Tony Romo 1

My goal this weekend was to share some of my guiding principles about the three glamour positions of any NFL offense. Yesterday we discussed running back and earlier today we looked at wide receiver. We now wrap things up with the most important position in all of sports, NFL quarterback.

If you read my WR article then you saw my breakdown of the very high success rate with first and second-round receiver picks since 2010. In that same timespan there have been 16 first-round picks spent at quarterback and seven in the second round. Here's what those picks have yielded.

  • Franchise QBs: Cam Newton, Andrew Luck
  • Solid Starters: Andy Dalton (2nd), Colin Kaepernick (2nd), Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III, Derek Carr (2nd)
  • Jury Still Out: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariotta, Brock Osweiler, Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Garoppolo (2nd)
  • Busts: Jimmy Clausen (2nd), Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Brandon Weeden, E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith

Seven busts out of 16 picks; about a 44% rate of failure. At wide receiver we had just around 13% of the first-round picks ending up as true busts and everyone else either being a league-leading receiver or at least a solid, contributing player.

You could even argue that I'm being generous with some of these. Kaepernick and Griffin are getting some benefit of the doubt here based on their past seasons over recent play, with the expectation that they could do well in new environments. Many would go ahead and label Manziel a bust but I'd also like to see what he does with a better team and better personal habits.

Cowboys Draft - Draft Philosophy: Cowboys Quarterbacks 2Many want for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys to find their next franchise quarterback in this year's draft. Some want it at the fourth-overall pick in either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. Others want Dallas to take Paxton Lynch in the second round. Some have even suggested taking Lynch in the first, perhaps by trading back into the later part of the round or even still in the top ten after a trade down from number four.

History has proven that you are about 50/50 on getting a viable NFL quarterback with a high pick. For every Peyton Manning there's a Ryan Leaf; a seemingly inescapable balance between both sides of the spectrum. One year can yield several quality players, such as 2004 with Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger all in one draft. Two years later, Jamarcus Russell and Brady Quinn were the first-rounders.

Clearly, nothing is guaranteed about drafting quarterbacks. It doesn't matter how high your pick is or how highly-rated the talent pool is. It's the ultimate crapshoot for any NFL team, with only your faith in your own scouting process and offensive system to lean on.

"Grooming" Mid-Round Picks

The other idea for Dallas this year is to take a guy in one of the middle rounds, somewhere between the third and fifth, for a few years of grooming behind Tony Romo. On paper this is a sound strategy that seems to fit better with the idea that Romo will still be here for another two or three seasons, if not more. However, history isn't kind for mid-round quarterbacks.

Let's sample five years of drafts from 2013 back to 2009 and see what the middle rounds have yielded. This will give us guys who, for the most part, have had three years or more to learn and emerge with their original team or a new one.

3rd Round 4th Round 5th Round
2013 Mike Glennon Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib,
Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones
*No players drafted *
2012 Russell Wilson,
Nick Foles
Kirk Cousins *No players drafted *
2011 Ryan Mallett *No players drafted * Ricky Stanzi, T.J. Yates,
Nathan Enderle
2010 Colt McCoy Mike Kafka John Skelton,
Jonathan Crompton
2009 *No players drafted * Stephen McGee Rhett Bomar, Nate Davis


We'll be nice and assume Kirk Cousins remains a solid player in Washington after last season. That means just he and Russell Wilson have come out of this pack as quality NFL starters. A few have flashed good things, such as Colt McCoy and Nick Foles, but at best these guys are career backups or starters for bad teams

Of the 11 guys taken from 2009-2011 only McCoy, Ryan Mallett, and Ricky Stanzi are even on NFL rosters right now. The other eight are unsigned and most of them have been out of football for the last few years.

The bottom line here is that the notion of grooming mid-round talent into a future starter seems to be a myth. The key word in that phrase isn't "grooming" but actually "talent," and history shows that there isn't much talent to work with once you get out of the first two rounds.

What Should Dallas Do?

The Cowboys are back to a familiar place, needing to consider the future as an aging star is getting close to the end. Their lack of an exit strategy from the Troy Aikman era was a colossal failure and perhaps the biggest blemish on Jerry Jones' record as general manager. They don't want to go back to those days and we certainly don't want to see it as fans.

Cowboys Draft - Draft Philosophy: Cowboys QuarterbacksRemember, Dallas did once try to draft a starter in second-round pick Quincy Carter. Many would argue that Quincy had the talent but his personal issues wrecked a potentially successful career. At the same time, I think we'd all agree that Carter was never going to be one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks no matter how little weed he smoked. If he ever had won a Super Bowl, he'd have been a Joe Flacco at best.

Dallas also tried the mid-round grooming option before with Stephen McGee. He was on the chart above and was one of those guys who's been out of the NFL for a few years, having failed both in Dallas and with the Houston Texans.

While the rate of failure is very high for even first-round picks, there's another consistent trend that has to be considered. Though there are plenty of busts along the way, the truth at quarterback remains the same as any position; the higher your pick tends to yield the best results. And with a rare fourth-overall pick to work with this year, the Cowboys have to strongly consider this opportunity to find their future starter.

If Dallas isn't sold on Goff, Wentz, Lynch, or any other 2016 prospect then they have the luxury to wait. As was said already, Tony Romo is likely to play at least another two years. Truthfully, if they aren't sold on any of these rookies then it wouldn't matter what Romo's projected future is. You don't spend high picks on guys you don't believe in.

Cowboys Draft - How Kaepernick Trade Affects the Cowboys 2But what if they do believe in one of these guys?

Assuming Romo gets back to Pro Bowl form then Dallas won't expect to be back in the top five or even the top half of a draft. This may be their best shot to find elite talent to eventually take over when Romo's done. Future winning will limit their opportunities to roll the draft dice with the same chance of success.

If the Cowboys truly believe that Goff or Wentz can be the next name in line from Staubach, Aikman, and Romo then they may just have to make the move. Maybe it's a year or two earlier than they'd like to make it but this fourth-overall pick, which only came because of a disastrous season with injuries, probably won't be there for you again.

If they don't love one of these players, or if the guy they love ends up drafted by Cleveland with the second pick, then Dallas can walk away from this draft without panic or regret. They can wait for the next opportunity to strike and hope that the talent is available when they're on the clock.

If they do draft Goff, Wentz, Lynch, or someone else with a high pick then at least I'll know that Jason Garrett and Will McClay both think that kid has "future star" written all over him. Given their track record in the draft so far, I'll be confident in that.

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

NFL Draft

Report: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch Visiting Cowboys

Kevin Brady



2018 NFL Combine: 3 LBs Who Impressed
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer, teams are beginning to hold their official visits with prospects of their own choosing. The Cowboys have already met with a few different prospects thus far, and they've reportedly added a linebacker to that list this week.

Multiple reports are saying the Cowboys will meet with Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch this week, adding him to the list of 30 potential visits.

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

BoiseState LB Leighton Vander Esch will be a pre-draft visitor for the #Cowboys. Add him to your list of 30, per Tony Pauline.

Vander Esch is a bit of a controversial prospect in the draft world. As I've stated before, he tested like a freak athletically, and his combine profile alone would put him in the discussion on day one. The problems I have with Vander Esch have nothing to do with his athleticism, however, and everything to do with his actual football-playing ability.

On film, I see a player who struggles to get off blocks and will have trouble finding a home with the Cowboys. Still, I wouldn't mind the Cowboys drafting Vander Esch - that pick cannot come in the first round though.

Vander Esch is a long, rangy, and athletic linebacker who is at his best playing laterally and tracking down plays. As a blitzer, Vander Esch has some rather clear issues. He often runs directly into blocks and is unable to shed at the point of attack. I also don't think he is as instinctual a player as some of the other linebackers in this class, such as BYU's Fred Warner or Alabama's Rashaan Evans.

The way things are looking, however, Vander Esch is going to be a first round pick. And if not, he'll almost certainly be a top 50 pick. I wouldn't be very comfortable taking him at 19, and I'd have to think twice before even taking him at 50 for that matter.

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NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott

Sean Martin



2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott
(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire)

With more pressing needs on offense at guard and wide receiver, and defensively at DE or LB, the Cowboys' concerning lack of proven ability at safety has taken a backseat in this offseason's roster build. With the expectation that new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will elevate the play of the entire Cowboys' secondary, the team is doing their due diligence on safeties available in the 2018 NFL Draft - starting with Texas' DeShon Elliott.

Josh Norris on Twitter

It appears Texas S DeShon Elliott is visiting the #Cowboys today

With 63 tackles and six interceptions in his final season at Texas, Elliott took full advantage of being a starter in the Big 12 for the first time in his career, flying onto the NFL Draft scene.

Elliott is a well-balanced, average athlete with the upside to be targeted late in April's draft and make a difference.

If they had to play a game tomorrow, the Cowboys would be rolling with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier at safety.

Finding an expanded role this season for Frazier should be a priority in Dallas, as should supplementing Heath and Woods with additional talent. DeShon Elliott would fit this group well, along with the Cowboys' scheme, given his range and disruptive ability.

Should Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and now Byron Jones help the Cowboys reach their full potential at CB, the Cowboys safeties will not be tested in single coverage up the field often. This is an area that Elliott was exploited in at Texas plenty of times, performing better as a true free safety or second-level player.

Continuing to add young talent at the right price is key to the Cowboys' ongoing rebuild on defense, now visiting with a local safety prospect that should be available to them in the later rounds. Texas' DeShon Elliott is officially a name to consider come draft week in Dallas.

Tell us what you think about "2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton Fits Cowboys’ “Type”

Kevin Brady



Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Last week, I detailed what the Cowboys tend to look for when drafting a wide receiver. In terms of a combine profile, Dallas clearly has a "type" of wide-out they like to target.

The Cowboys certainly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but with the plethora of other holes to fill, they may not be able to do so until the 3rd or 4th round. Luckily for the Cowboys, there is at least one receiver which both fits their profile and should be available early on day three.

That player is Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

Working on something for @InsideTheStarDC... here's the height, weight, 40 time, and 3 cone for every WR DAL has taken since 2010.

First, let's re-examine what the Cowboys like to look for. As you can see from the above graphic, the Cowboys draft targets all seem to fit a similar profile. If we treat Dez Bryant as their "ideal" draft pick, the trends become even clearer. Dallas wants to find a wide-out who is about 6'1" 205 pounds, runs nearly a 4.5 40 yard dash, and about a 6.9 three come time.

DeaSean Hamilton, coincidentally, is 6'1" 203 pounds, ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at the Penn State pro day, and ran a 6.84 three cone at the combine. Penn State's all time receptions leader stole the show at the 2018 Senior Bowl, putting all of "Draft Twitter" on notice to his talent.

An efficient and smooth route runner, Hamilton looks natural coming in and out of breaks, creating separation with his precise routes. The Cowboys don't have many receivers on their roster who can win with their route running, and adding a player like Hamilton would greatly help third year quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward.

With the ability to play in the slot, as well as potentially being a Z receiver for the Cowboys and a replacement for Terrance Williams, Hamilton would be an excellent draft target in the third or fourth round. And, keeping in mind how nicely he fits their typical draft profile, I'd expect Dallas to target Hamilton during the 2018 NFL Draft.

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