"It is now the post-Witten era in Dallas and unless a tight end on the roster emerges this season, the position could be high on the wish list next offseason. His athleticism makes Fant an appealing up-and-coming prospect."
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.
Looking Ahead to 2019 NFL Mock Drafts, a Pass Catching Theme Persists
The Dallas Cowboys haven't played the 2018 NFL season yet, but that shouldn't stop us from looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft and seeing what players the team will have their eye on this fall.
With the NFL season fast approaching, that means the college football season is as well, and as we look through these mocks, perhaps you get an idea of whom to watch with a Cowboys perspective this fall.
I scoured the internet looking for the best and brightest minds and their "way too early 2019 mocks." As I perused the mocks, one thing was clear. Many of the national writers see the Dallas Cowboys going with an offensive pass catcher in the 2019 NFL Draft. Namely a TE.
TE Noah Fant, Iowa
Noah Fant, from the University of Iowa, will be a junior in his 2019 season and as a sophomore caught 30 passes for 494 yards (16.5 yards per reception) and 11 touchdowns. The receptions and yardage may not look all that impressive, but if we think about Iowa's offense in the Big 10, we can understand that he's not going to get many opportunities to catch the ball when the team is running it as often as they do.
In fact, the Hawkeyes ran the ball 10 more times per game than they threw it and their quarterback only completed - on average - 15 passes a game.
Fant accounted for 21% of the receiving yards on the season and 42% of the passing touchdowns. He was only 36 yards away from leading the team in receiving despite catching 21 fewer passes than leader Nick Easley. No other pass catcher for Iowa had more than four receiving touchdowns.
If there's something not to like at the moment about Fant, it's his size.
At the moment, College Football Reference has him listed at 232 pounds. There are running backs that weigh more than Fant does and he'll probably need to add about 10-20 pounds in the NFL to be an effective in-line blocker.
Mocked to the Dallas Cowboys by Dane Brugler of The Draft Show on DallasCowboys.com. In a mock draft he did for Sports Day DFW and the Dallas Morning News, he had this to say.
Dane Brugler - Sports Day DFW, Dallas Morning News
Eric Galko of The Sporting News selected the Iowa tight end to the Cowboys as well, seeing him as a special prospect that has the chance to fill the shoes of Jason Witten.
Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington also had Noah Fant to the Cowboys, thinking they are in need of a Jason Witten replacement.
DE Austin Bryant, Clemson
Depending on what Dallas can get out of Right Defensive Ends Tyrone Crawford, Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong, and Charles Tapper, it could have the Cowboys taking a defensive end in the first round for the second time in three years.
Will Brinson's mock doesn't offer much analysis on Bryant, mostly saying that Clemson is going to be good. But here's what Draftek.com's Brett Clancy, who covers the 49ers, had to say about Bryant:
"Clemson's Austin Bryant is the 4th EDGE off the board in this mock and 2nd from his school, but he's still well worth a mid-round pick. Bryant broke out with 8.5 sacks as a junior last year and many thought he'd go pro. I like Bryant's move to stay in school and refine his game, specifically growing a repertoire of pass rush moves to complement his strong edge-setting ability."
Brett Clancy - Draftek.com
Bryant was amazingly disruptive for the Clemson Tigers as a junior, racking up 50 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. At 6-5 265, he could come in and play right defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys on day one.
DT Raekwon Davis, Alabama
We know that the Dallas Cowboys have an affinity for Power 5 prospects and Jason Garrett goes back with Nick Saban.
Despite that relationship, it hasn't led to many Alabama players being selected by the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps, that should tell us something.
One other factor that could be in play with Davis is dependent upon who the defensive coordinator is in 2019. We all know that Rod Marinelli doesn't place premium draft value on defensive tackles, but prefers to find diamonds in the rough to develop.
If Kris Richard takes over as the defensive coordinator in 2019, the story could be a bit different. Seattle, with Richard at the defensive helm, selected defensive tackles in the second round of the 2016 and 2017 NFL Drafts.
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to spend a first on a defensive tackle, this is the guy to do it on.
He was highly productive as a sophomore for the Crimson Tide, racking up 69 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also had one interception that was returned for 19 yards. At 6-7 306 pounds, he has the size and frame to be an immediate impact player on the Dallas Cowboys interior.
If the Dallas Cowboys choose not to resign David Irving in the 2018 offseason and Maliek Collins doesn't take a step forward, then Davis becomes a real possibility.
Here's what Draftek's Cowboys analyst had to say about Raekwon Davis.
"Alabama's Raekwon Davis has played both DT and DE in the Crimson Tide's 3-man line. He can maintain his gaps against the run when needed, but his primary skill set is using his long arms and strong lower body to use a variety of pass rush moves to win with power and speed.
"One red flag on Davis happened 8/27/17: he was struck in the leg by a stray bullet during the wee hours of Sunday morning at a Tuscaloosa bar (Bar 17) where several shootings have occurred over the past few years. Despite HC Jason Garrett's affinity for Nick Saban coached players, this incident might remove him from the Dallas board."
Long Ball - Dratek.com
Interestingly, Draftek did a second round in this mock and they sent Boston College Safety Lukas Denis to the Dallas Cowboys.
S Jaquan Johnson, Miami
Speaking of safeties, Dan Kadar over at SBNation sent one to the Dallas Cowboys in the form of Jaquan Johnson.
Johnson, from the University of Miami, was very productive in his junior season for the Hurricanes, racking up 96 total tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and four interceptions. He returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown.
Here are Kadar's thoughts on the second team All-ACC player:
"There was a lot of talk during the draft that the Cowboys were in talks to trade for Earl Thomas. If they want to address safety next draft, Johnson was a second-team all-conference player who some thought would go pro."
Dan Kadar - SB Nation
Obviously, this pick will depend on what happens with Earl Thomas over the next nine months and the development of Xavier Woods, but Johnson will be a name to watch for teams that need a safety.
WR Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Another Hurricane to have on your NFL Draft radars is Wide Receiver Ahmmon Richard, who is going into his junior season at Miami.
The Dallas Cowboys have begun the process of overhauling their wide receiver corp with the departures of Dez Bryant and Brice Butler in the 2018 offseason. In 2019, it's likely that Terrance Williams (contract) and Cole Beasley (age) could be next to go.
That would leave them with Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson as their WR depth chart. It's certainly a solid group, but adding a talent like Richards could help.
The Draft Wire's Luke Easterling believes, "Richards would be another great addition with impressive size and speed."
In two seasons at Miami, Richards has averaged 18.8 yards per reception, and 68.65 yards per game. He's got deep-threat ability which would combine well with Gallup and Hurns.
WR Collin Johnson, Texas
If Richards doesn't do it for you, then lets head a couple of hours south of Dallas to the University of Texas and Wide Receiver Collin Johnson.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has the Dallas Cowboys going with the junior wide receiver and had this to say:
"The Dallas Cowboys made interesting moves at wide receiver in the 2018 draft—trading Ryan Switzer to Oakland, acquiring Tavon Austin from Los Angeles, not selecting a receiver early—and will head into the upcoming season with a need for a playmaker down the field. Texas' Collin Johnson at 6'6" can be the downfield weapon and red-zone nightmare the Cowboys so badly want.
"Johnson does need to improve upon his production from the last two seasons and prove to scouts he can run well enough to separate from NFL defenders, but his size and hands are already getting buzzed about as teams prepare for the upcoming college season."
Matt Miller - Bleacher Report
I'll agree with Miller that Johnson will need to increase upon his production. Some believe that the quarterback limitations in Austin have been a factor, but at the moment, I'm leery of taking a wide receiver from the Big 12 that doesn't have excellent production in the first round of the draft.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
It's obvious from these mock drafts that analysts see the Dallas Cowboys continuing to invest in pass catchers for their offense and that is a reasonable thought.
Obviously, a lot will change between now and next April when the Dallas Cowboys go on the clock, but this gives us a bit of insight on who to watch in this upcoming college football season.
What names will you be watching in college football this season?
Does Marquez White Assault Charge Alter Cowboys Plan in Supplemental Draft?
Last night, it was reported that Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Marquez White has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The incident comes from a traffic confrontation that took place back in October, where White -- according to his camp -- was justified in drawing his weapon for self-defense.
A promising young player that stuck on the Cowboys practice squad in his rookie season, the sixth round pick doesn't need this case hanging over his head as training camp approaches. When considering the timing up against this week's supplemental draft, and the rare crop of defensive back talent available in it, White could soon be fighting for relevance on the Cowboys roster.
Becoming complacent in building one of the best young secondaries in the league won't be an issue for the Cowboys under new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. The Cowboys were relying on White to be a depth option behind projected starters Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis.
White's spot on the depth chart may very well hold up, but by the end of the week he could also have added competition in Adonis Alexander or Sam Beal.
Respectively, the former Virginia Tech and Western Michigan cornerbacks are two of the most talented supplemental prospects to enter the draft in years -- both likely to be the first players drafted since 2015.
Alexander and Beal are also joined by Mississippi State Safety Brandon Bryant as another backup option for Dallas.
A lengthy cornerback with the toughness to play on the boundary, Alexander is a similar player to White, and one that Richard should love for his physical traits. Whether or not this natural skill outweighs some maturity issues that saw Alexander fall from freshman starter to suspended at VT will determine if the Cowboys feel comfortable sending away a 2019 draft pick for his services.
Where Alexander's career leaves his arrow trending downward on the eve of the supplemental draft, Beal is a rising prospect that some are calling the best to ever enter this draft.
An all-conference cornerback as a Junior out of Western Michigan, Beal improved with each passing college season, determined to finish out his degree along the way. However, once Beal's eligibility for his Senior season was called into question, the feisty 6'1" CB decided to turn towards the NFL.
Beal's professional football faith is now in the hands of any team that's done their homework on him. Projected to be taken as early as the third round, teams impressed by Beal's tape could be giving away a premium pick in next year's draft to add him just before training camp.
Should this team be the Cowboys, Beal's presence would put more than just White on notice. The Cowboys are also expecting corners like Duke Thomas and Kam Kelly to fight for roster spots. In a perfect world, say the one the Cowboys were living in yesterday before this White news broke, Thomas or Kelly could replace White on the practice squad as the Florida State product took another jump in Oxnard.
As I've written before though, teams must be relentless in their search for talent. The Cowboys have drafted well, but passed on big name free agents in recent years. The result is a young roster full of potential and ready to compete.
If either Adonis Alexander, Sam Beal, or even Brandon Bryant help them do so this year, we could be right here talking about a new Cowboys rookie in the middle of July. Marquez White would be happy to see this talk overshadow his legal situation for the moment.
This won't be the case when he's competing against another player that will likely cost the Cowboys more than the sixth round pick they invested in him two years ago.
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?
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