Admittedly, May and June can be tough months for football fans. We are almost stuck in football limbo as the draft has ended and training camp is still months away.
So, when something as simple as a tweet proposing a hypothetical scenario arises, we all dive in head first to talk about that topic.
Respected NFL Draft analyst and Dallas Cowboys’ fan Dan Turner proposed one of these hypothetical scenarios last week. Turner asked how you would rank the Cowboys five major selections of the past two drafts if they were all in the same draft class?
If B Jones, R Gregory, La'el, Zeke & Jaylon had all entered draft at same time and none had inj / off-field, how would you have ranked them?
— Dan Turner (@dtsturner) May 13, 2016
It is certainly an interesting question, and one that sparked a ton of debate on social media amongst fans. But what this scenario really got me thinking about was just how great these past two classes can be for the Cowboys.
And, has any team ever had a two-draft stretch like Dallas has had?
Of course, some of these players are yet to even play a snap for the Cowboys, making it difficult to access the greatness (or not-so-greatness) of the draft class fully.
But we can consider the pre-draft rankings of past classes and the careers which those drafted have sustained.
Let’s take a look.
|Player||Proj. Rd.||Position Ranking||Overall Ranking|
|La’el Collins||1-2||2nd (as OG), 3rd (as OT)||46|
Finding a way to add three players who were each rated as top 5 players at their particular position is ridiculous enough to consider.
But, when you consider what Dallas then managed to do in this years draft, it then becomes unprecedented.
|Player||Proj. Rd.||Position Ranking||Overall Ranking|
I have to say, I obviously knew how great Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith were considered to be, and I knew how high Smith would have been drafted without the knee injury, but actually seeing the rankings in a chart form was jarring.
I mean, are you kidding me? The Cowboys added two top ten prospects in one draft class, and did so the year after adding three top 50 prospects in one draft class.
But the question this information brought me to research just how great these drafts are historically.
Has any team ever found this level of success in back to back draft classes?
The short answer is no.
There are three explanations I have been able to come up with for why the Cowboys have been able to draft so unprecedentedly great these past two years.
- Typically when a team has a great draft, they put themselves out of position to grab top 10-15 players in their next draft.
- The Cowboys front office just drafts better than most.
- And, of course, these past two years have seen some pretty outstanding circumstances.
The first point is evident through the 2000 New York Jets draft class. They selected a stunning four times in the first round, adding Anthony Becht, Chad Pennington, Shaun Ellis, and John Abraham.
Because they were in a position to add top 20 rated players with the 12th and 13th overall picks, they didn’t have the chance to draft in the top 15 the next season.
They instead took Santana Moss in 2001, which while still a good pick, doesn’t compare to what the Cowboys have potentially done these past two drafts.
Many teams have top 10-15 picks year after year and still don’t have the classes which the Cowboys have had, however. And, to that I say the Cowboys just draft better than most.
The Cleveland Browns have had a top 15 pick 13 times since 2000, and yet have not been able to turn it into any sustained success.
Dallas understands the draft process, scouts the players, and makes their picks better than the majority of the league. This cannot be understated.
We cannot ignore the outstanding circumstances which have allowed Dallas to add all of this talent, however.
La’el Collins would have been long gone by the time the Cowboys decided to sign him in 2015 if it weren’t for an off the field issue which he turned out to be uninvolved with.
Randy Gregory would’ve been selected in the first round, or at least the early second if he had not failed a drug test at the NFL combine.
Jaylon Smith would have never made it to 34th overall in 2016 had it not been for his possibly season, or career, ending knee injury.
This would mean no Zeke, unfortunately.
Of course there have been some unbelievable circumstances which have yielded the Cowboys the chance to add five first round type players in two years, but you still must give the organization credit for being willing to take chances and capitalize on their opportunities.
During my research, I found only one two-draft stretch which I felt compared to what the Cowboys have done.
Consider the 1996 Baltimore Ravens.
With the fourth overall pick they selected the great Jonathon Ogden, who would go on to have a Hall of Fame career. They then snagged none other than Ray Lewis later on in the first round.
It was a draft class for the ages, and one which would set the stage for a Super Bowl ring in 2000.
Things didn’t change overnight for the Ravens, however, as they once again had the fourth overall pick in 1997. Their fourth overall selection, Peter Boulware, was a four time Pro Bowler and Defensive Rookie of the Year. Another winner for the Ravens.
Their 34th overall selection, Jamie Sharper, enjoyed a nine year career in the league, and was a rather highly touted linebacker coming into the draft out of Virginia.
The Ravens found the talent in the top of these drafts and capitalized on their opportunities, setting themselves up for a Super Bowl run.
Twenty years from now we very well may look back at the past two Cowboys drafts as necessary risks, and smart roster building moves which set the stage for greatness over the years to come.
There is a strong possibility we look back on these classes in the same way we look back at those Ravens. And I can’t wait to find out if we will.