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.
Could Cowboys Take Another 2nd Round Risk On DT Jeffery Simmons?
The Dallas Cowboys have taken a few risks when on the clock in the second round of the NFL Draft in recent years. Randy Gregory and Jaylon Smith, both important starters on defense, were drafted to the Cowboys after they went down on many teams' draft boards. In 2019, they'll have the opportunity to take yet another risk. Recently, one of the best defensive tackles in this year's class, Jeffery Simmons, suffered a torn ACL while going through a drill during his workout in Florida.
Simmons took to Twitter to share the unfortunate news that will drastically affect his draft stock only a couple of months before the Draft.
Before the injury, Jeffery Simmons was seen as a top draft prospect. Some even envisioned him being drafted in the top 10. As a 21-year old defensive tackle from Mississippi State, Simmons had an impressive career during his time in college football. In three seasons he managed to rack up 157 tackles and seven sacks.
If one thing is clear it's that the Mississippi State product will be an impact player when he gets on the field on Sundays. His quick reaction on the get-off will still interest a lot of teams despite his injury. A sound defender on the running and passing game, he'll pay big dividends for whichever team decides to pull the trigger on him come April.
Due to their recent second round draft history, I can't help but wonder if the Dallas Cowboys will consider him when they're on the clock in the second round. This year though, there will be a big difference. Pick #58 will be the first time the Cowboys will be on the clock in this year's draft after trading away their first rounder for Amari Cooper last year.
It will be tough for them to wait until the third round to pick a player they could actually put on the field for the 2019 season. Specially considering the fact that they're a football team with title aspirations this year. Despite their history and the fact that Simmons will be one hell of a pro, I believe the team will not want to make such a pick in the second without a first round selection.
The team has a big need at DT, although Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins were very serviceable in 2018. We'll see how tempted they are if Jeffery Simmons is still on the board when they're on the clock.
Cowboys Draft: Film Notes on Maryland Safety Darnell Savage Jr.
The Dallas Cowboys defense was one of the better units throughout the season, but it wasn't without its flaws. An area where they struggled was in creating turnovers and at times against the run. As good as they were in 2018, they have positions where they can use upgrades; defensive tackle and safety. Xavier Woods showed a lot of promise in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys and should continue to be a prominent player moving forward, but Jeff Heath's full-time role may have run its course. Today we're going to look at Darnell Savage Jr, safety from Maryland.
Per College Football Reference, Darnell Savage Jr. stands at 5-11 and weighs in right at 200 pounds. In his last three years at Maryland he played in 35 games. He averaged 56.67 tackles, 2.67 interceptions (3.5 per season over his last two seasons and four in his senior season), and three tackles for loss over his final three seasons. He had eight pass deflections as a junior and two more as a senior.
Savage could be a player that's in play for the Dallas Cowboys at number 58 of the second round.
I watched the Texas and Temple Games from 2018.
Darnell Savage Jr. Film Notes
- Maryland lined him up in two-deep cover two looks a lot and dropped him into different coverages. From his two-deep alignment, he would move into cover-3, cover-4, and man coverages.
- Temple or Texas looked to avoid him as part of their game plans. The one time the either Texas or Temple through his way, he came down from his 2-deep look into man coverage and jumped a five yard out route and intercepted the pass, taking it to the end zone for a touchdown.
- He's excellent in diagnosing bubbles screens and swing passes. On several occasions he met the ball carrier five yards behind the line of scrimmage and dropped him for a loss.
- Savage wraps up in the open field against. Once he diagnoses the play, he gets moving toward the ball in a flash.
- Willing to take on bigger blockers and receivers with the ball in their hands. Stymied the 6-4 225 pound Lil' Jordan Humphrey from Texas on a bubble screen after Humphrey had broken one tackle. Savage wrapped him up and brought him to the ground.
- Temple attempted to run a reverse after the hand off and Savage came all the way from across the field to meet the runner for a six yard loss.
- Plays with excellent speed and aggressiveness when he sees the play. Sometimes Savage gets caught watching the action on his side of the field and doesn't recognize what is happening in the middle or opposite side of the field.
- Several times on the read-option, it appeared that he didn't recognize that the QB had given the ball away. It could be that he was schemed to take the quarterback, but one time the runner went against the grain to Savage's side of the field and he was unable to get to him before he scored a short touchdown.
- Maryland had Savage cover tight ends and wide receivers and again, Temple and Texas didn't throw his way much at all.
- Again, in a two-deep safety look came up from 10 yards deep to make a play on a toss to the running back and tackled him for a four yard loss. It's dangerous to run things to the perimeter with this guy. If he gets to the line of scrimmage unblocked, he's bringing you down.
- When blocked on runs to the perimeter, he does a good job of stringing the play to the outside. Savage works his blocker and doesn't give up on the play. He fights to get unblocked in order to make a play.
- When a team runs play action or hands the ball off out of shotgun or pistol formations, Savage is slower to react and diagnose the play. He'll need to get quicker in processing what's happening there at the next level.
- One of the more impressive plays I saw him make was on a trick play. Temple attempted to run a wide receiver pass to the outside. Everyone bought the wide receiver reverse and even Savage did too, but was able to use his quickness and speed to make up five yards of separation that the Temple receiver had on him to be in good coverage. The Temple receiver wasn't able to come down with the catch and Savage's coverage affected that.
Darnell Savage Jr. doesn't have a ton of height, but he's an explosive player who can play down in the box and in two deep looks for the Cowboys. He's a guy that would pair well with Xavier Woods as you could use those two interchangeably depending on the matchup you face week-to-week. He's an aggressive player who uses his speed to get into the play and cause disruption. Savage could be around for the Dallas Cowboys at 58 and if they don't sign one of the big name free agent safeties, should be the selection. If he isn't a day one starter, he'd be starting by the end of the season.
Pre-Combine Position Rankings: Sorting Out The Tight Ends
It's pretty much universally agreed that the Dallas Cowboys have a need for a starting tight end, particularly one who can stretch the field as a receiving threat.
Despite not having a first round pick, this class should give the Cowboys an opportunity to add tight end talent to their roster through the NFL Draft.
Will that be TE1 talent, though? Or will it just be another replacement-level tight end on a roster which already seems full of them?
Let's get into my top 5 tight ends of this 2019 class, and see what they could potentially bring to the Cowboys this season and beyond.
1. TJ Hockenson, Iowa
The clear TE1 in this class is TJ Hockenson. The 2018 John Mackey Award winner earned his way to the top of this list with his versatility, lining up in-line and as a slot receiver for Iowa during his college career.
At 6'5" 243 pounds, Hockenson looks like he was made in a tight-end producing lab, and he has the athleticism and ability to maximize his build.
In the run game TJ Hockenson is a good blocker, showcasing excellent effort and competitiveness through his blocks. A technical route runner with good hands, a plus-catch radius, and legitimate yards-after-catch ability, Hockenson has a chance to be the very first offensive skill player off the board this Spring.
2. Noah Fant, Iowa
Hockenson's teammate at Iowa, Noah Fant, comes in at number two on my tight end rankings. While Hockenson is the more well-rounded of the two players, Fant certainly has more athletic upside. I expect him to test better than Hockenson will at the combine, and has the receiving skills to be a real threat at the next level.
Noah Fant fits the bill for a modern NFL tight end, flexing out wide and threatening defenses vertically with his receiving ability. A long player with good route running ability and speed, Fant is able to create separation against defensive backs in a variety of ways.
Fant is far from a one-trick pony, and would be an excellent addition to a Cowboys offense which is yearning for this type of flex-threat from the tight end position.
Unfortunately, he won't last anywhere near 58th overall.
3. Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
Can I interest you in a tight end who averaged 16.3 yards per catch and scored 7 touchdowns last season? If so, meet Alabama's Irv Smith Jr.
Smith is the number three tight end on my board entering the combine, and I really don't expect him to drop whatsoever in the coming months. Smith is an athletic player who runs good routes and offers excellent run blocking ability. He's not as refined as Hockenson nor as athletic/explosive as Fant, but he combines the in-line and flex abilities of the two to a certain extent.
Smith is the first somewhat-plausible target for the Cowboys on this list, though I'd still be surprised if he lasted until 58th overall.
4. Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Jace Sternberger came out of nowhere last season at Texas A&M. Relatively unknown before the 2018 season, Sternberger finished the year with 800+ yards and 10 touchdowns on 48 catches, and earned All-American honors for his production.
Now he has a chance to be a second round pick in the 2019 draft, and is finding himself mocked to the Cowboys by many major draft media outlets. Sternberger fits the prototype of the modern receiving tight end, with better speed and hands than most others in his class. Though he is still raw in many areas, his upside is intriguing, and there's no doubt he's a pretty good player as is.
Like the first three, it's hard to imagine I will move Sternbeger any lower than fourth in this class, and he is a legitimate option for the Cowboys 58th overall.
5. Isaac Nauta, Georgia
While the first four tight ends on this list will make their money with their passing game production, Georgia's Isaac Nauta looks like more of an old-school run blocker. Nauta is right up there with any tight end in this class in terms of blocking, and would be an immediate contributor to the Cowboys' run game in that area.
He's still growing in multiple areas as a receiver, however, such as his route running and yards-after-catch ability. Still, I think Nauta is much better as a receiver than his college production would suggest. He, like others in that talented Georgia offense, got lost in the shuffle a bit, and didn't get the number of targets he could have seen elsewhere.
There's a real possibility Nauta is available at 58 when the Cowboys pick, and I wouldn't be surprised if he were the pick either.
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Will Cowboys OT La’el Collins Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
3 Free Agent Targets for the Dallas Cowboys Offense
Player News2 weeks ago
A Lot Had to Happen for Amari Cooper to Join the Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
2019 Player Watch: Cowboys Should Keep an eye on Kyle Rudolph’s Situation
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Will Cowboys S Jeff Heath Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Will Cowboys WR Terrance Williams Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
5 Pre-draft Moves Cowboys Should Consider Making in Free Agency
Star Blog1 week ago
3 Uncertainties Surrounding The Cowboys Offseason