Are the Cowboys just bad at the draft?

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
12:15
PM ET
Todd Archer ran some numbers, and his conclusion is that the Dallas Cowboys struggle with the draft. Here's some of his data:
Since 2007, the Cowboys have drafted 47 players and only 18 remain. That’s not good. After a quick perusal of the NFC East, it’s the worst percentage (38.3%) of any team in the division. From 2007-12, Philadelphia has 28 of 59 picks left (47.5%); Washington has 24 of 48 picks (50%) and the New York Giants have 24 of 46 picks left (52%).

...

In the last three years, which should be the core of a team, the Cowboys have 15 of 21 picks left. The Eagles are the worst with 23 of 33 picks. Washington is the best at 21 of 27 and the Giants have 16 of 22 picks remaining.

The point of entry for Todd's analysis was a discussion about whether they should have moved down in the 2011 draft, when they stayed put and took Tyron Smith at No. 9 and whether they were wise to move up in 2012, when they used their first-round pick and their second-round pick to draft Morris Claiborne. Todd thinks last year's move and 2011's non-move were mistakes. I agree, as I think most of you know, about last year. Because I think Smith will be a franchise left tackle, I don't hold the 2011 decision against them.

But what I see here is a clue about how the Cowboys play the top of the draft, and it's a discouraging one. It appears to me that Jerry Jones, who ultimately makes these decisions, falls in love with a player and does what he can to get him, the rest of the draft be damned. And a roster as thin with top-level talent as Dallas' has been for the last couple of years needs to make the second, third and fourth rounds more productive than the Cowboys usually have.

They love Claiborne as a keystone piece for the future, and that's fine. But had they held onto that second-round pick, they might have been able to come out of the first two rounds with, for example, Fletcher Cox and Peter Konz. (Yes, they'd have had to move up for Cox, but likely not with a second-rounder in the deal.) Two starting pieces instead of one. This is the approach Dallas needs to take this year -- finding a new starting offensive lineman in the first round and then looking for immediate contributors, on either line or at safety, in Rounds 2 and 3.

When they dealt away their second-round pick last year, a lot of Cowboys' fans said that was OK because they always mess up the second round anyway. But 2011's second-rounder was Bruce Carter and 2010's was Sean Lee. They also got DeMarco Murray in the third round in 2011. These are players on which they're attempting to build their future core, and it would be wise to keep in mind the value those picks (and those that follow them) have when things get hot and heavy tomorrow night and the temptation to grab a player they love overrides the value of the pick or picks needed to get him.

Remember, when we critique a draft in progress on this blog, we're not making predictions about how guys will play, because we can't and neither can anyone else. We're looking at the value of the picks and how they were used -- whether they could have waited until the fifth or sixth round for a guy they took in the fourth, for example. That's what you'll find here Thursday night through Saturday night, and we'll have a close eye on the Cowboys, of course, since this is a gigantic draft for them and they can't mess it up.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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