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.
Many 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 *|
|Kirk Cousins||*No players drafted *|
|2011||Ryan Mallett||*No players drafted *||Ricky Stanzi, T.J. Yates,
|2010||Colt McCoy||Mike Kafka||John Skelton,
|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.
Remember, 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.
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.
Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
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