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Understanding the Dallas Draft Process


I am not going to evaluate any players in this article, as I will leave that up to the guys like Chia that do an excellent job, but rather clear up a few things about two related things.

  1. Who is really the guy responsible for a draft or a group of drafts?
  2. What is the best strategy for a draft, Best Player Available (BPA), or Need?



First, to understand who is responsible for a draft, we have to understand how the process of drafting goes as it applies specifically to the Dallas Cowboys.

To begin, I will qualify how and what leads me to this understanding. First I listen very carefully to all the press conferences and try to gleen little nuggets that can be verified with observation as to their truthfullness and also can be verfied by other comments and articles. Also I get information from a ton of different sources, books, articles and guest appearences on radio and T.V.

So, with that background, I will begin with the process and show that the process will lead us to a real conclusion as to who is responsible for all drafts and what the best strategy is/should be.

 

 

THE PROCESS:

A few months before the draft, the Scouting Department, (The guys that have been following the College players all year), put together the draft board and just before the draft the "Draft Room Team", (The guys in the "War Room", Jerry, Stephen, Coaches and Scouts, etc.), goes over it and all are given a chance to give their input, (relative to BPA and Need for their wants and needs, as well as many possible scenerios that might unfold relative to trades and guys that migh fall), and then they will reach a concensus. Keep in mind that Jerry gives the most weight to the Scouts opinion. As you will see in a link below, the Cheif Scout actually "Oversees" and "runs" each draft as this quote shows:

"Overseeing the proceedings was 35-year-old Jeff Ireland, running his first draft as head of college and pro scouting."

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/sports/dolphins/miami-dolphins-gm-jeff-ireland-has-more-responsibility-1198684.html

During the draft the picks come off the board in order,(for the most part...see below as to BPA or NEED), unless a player (or two) fall and then a decision must be made.

For example, In the Felix Jones draft, Mendenhall and Felix Jones both had fallen on the board when the Cowboys were ready to pick.

 Mendenhall was the higher rated pick, but as in all Cowboys drafts, anyone in the draft room can make their (Sales) pitch to change the pick if they can win over the room. Jason Garrett stood up and made his pitch for Felix Jones and won over the room. ( Evidence, one of the Hard Knocks Episodes that shows Garrett making his sales pitch to win over the room.)

In one of the drafts when Parcells was here he tried to "Sell" the room on taking Spears over D-Ware with the 11th pick. I for one am glad he failed in that bid. Here is the link to the "Desire of Parcells" to pick Spears, but as in all drafts, the pick must be a "Concensus."

"Bill wanted Spears, and wanted him badly," said Larry Lacewell, who spent 12 years with the Cowboys before Ireland took his place. "(Parcells) said he couldn't go to a 3-4 defense without him. Jeff wanted Ware, and he stood up to Bill and said that was going to be the pick." 

So, Jeff won that "sales" pitch because they stayed with what the "Board" had. Also this quote further emphisizes that Jeff was indeed running that draft. He told Parcells..."That was going to be the pick!"

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/sports/dolphins/miami-dolphins-gm-jeff-ireland-has-more-responsibility-1198684.html

All major decisions are by "Concensus" as Jerry's philosophy is that "many heads are better than one."  As in all of life there are exceptions, but HERE is a link that is one of many articles that clearly show the "Concensus" management style that Jerry uses in his position as G.M.

When the coaches had finally had enough of T.O.'s act, Jerry had to accept the Concensus and let him go, even though Jerry wanted to keep him.

And the quote from the "Concensus" link:

Josh: No, it's not going to happen. Everyone should've accepted that fact long ago. It's his company, and this is the way he wants to run it. But you have to know he isn't as hands-on as most people perceive him to be. Jerry takes advice from the entire front office, and tries to reach a consensus. Some of those people could change, but he will still be the GM.

http://www.dallascowboys.com/news/news.cfm?id=5330AE0F-D029-654E-864639501FD903F6

Jimmy Johnson tried to "sell" the room to NOT TAKE EMMITT SMITH, and he got over ruled by the head scout who all but stood on the table and won over the room. Here is the link that shows Walt Yowarsky "selling" and getting "Concensus" on taking Emmitt, even though Jimmy had his heart set on taking a Defensive player in General, and a Linebacker in specific.

"But Wooten remembers the eldest scout, Walt Yowarsky, "all but standing up on the table and saying, 'This kid broke every high-school rushing record in Florida. He can catch, he can block, and I've yet to see him get caught from behind. All he does is make yards. You have to take him.'"

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=bayless/050211

Now, to be clear, Jimmy and Jerry were like "partners" in trying to make trades, both in the draft and prior to the draft. In the Hershell Walker trade, Jerry worked the phones with Cleveland, (Read...Greatest Team Ever: The Dallas Cowboys Dynasty of the 1990s, by Norm Hitzges),  while Jimmy worked the phones with Minnesota. In the Emmitt draft, both were working the phones and Jimmy was trying to get a trade for a linebacker by moving up in the draft.....

Several Cowboy scouts had told me Johnson was dead-set on drafting a defensive difference-maker -- North Carolina State defensive end Ray Agnew or Baylor linebacker James Francis.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=bayless/050211

 

So, in reality....The Drafts are NOT PARCELLS DRAFTS....THEY ARE NOT JIMMY DRAFTS....they are a concensus of the draft room with the order of the board lined out by the Scouting Department because they are the ones that see these College players all year long...not the coaches or Jerry Jones.

Now to be fair, one could say..."That was a Parcells PICK, because he won over the room, usually during the draft, if it wasnt already a concensus prior to the draft. But, it would not be fair to characterize any draft as a "Parcells draft, or a Jimmy Draft" unless they did most of the "selling" and everyone else just "caved" to thier wishes, which is not the case even in the Jimmy era as can be seen in the link above with the Emmitt pick. 

 

 

Best Strategy, BPA or NEED?

The short answer is "Both!" Now, to show why it should always be both I will layout some ground work as to the reasoning behind that strategy and why you should never JUST say BPA, and why you should never just say NEED.

First, the grades of the players play the biggest part, so let's look at what I think is the best grading system I have seen. It is from "scouts INC."  See Here.

90-100 - Rare Prospect:

Player demonstrates rare abilities and can create mismatches that have an obvious impact on the game. Is a premier college player that has all the skill to take over a game and play at a championship level. He rates in the top 5 players in the nation at his position and is considered a first round draft prospect.

80-89 - Outstanding Prospect

Player has abilities to create mismatches versus most opponents in the NFL. A feature player that has an impact on the outcome of the game. Cannot be shut down by a single player and plays on a consistent level week in and week out. He rates in the top 10 at his position and is considered a second round draft prospect.

70-79 - Solid Prospect

Still a standout player at the college level that is close to being an elite player. He has no glaring weaknesses and will usually win his individual matchups, but does not dominate in every game, especially when matched up against the top players in the country. He will usually rate in the top third of players at his position and is considered a third round draft prospect.

60-69 - Good Prospect

This player is an good starter that will give a solid effort week in and week out, but he is overmatched versus the better players in the nation. His weaknesses will be exposed against top competition. He is usually a prospect that is missing something from his game. For example, he has the size and skills to be an outstanding prospect, but lacks the speed. He will usually rate in the top half of the players at his position and is considered a middle round draft choice.

50-59 - Adequate Prospect

These are usually players that play at a high level in college, but lack some measurables or skills to play at that same level in the NFL. He may be a player that has a lot of developmental qualities, or could be a player that will contribute right away on special teams or in a situational capacity. He will usually rate in the second-third at his position and is considered a fifth round draft choice.

21-49 - Borderline Draft Prospect

These are players that teams like something about, but certainly do not have the full package in terms of NFL talent. A lot of times, teams will take chances on character players or developmental type athletes with this grade. And often, these are players that come from smaller schools or did not standout at the college level. NFL teams are looking for 'diamonds in the rough' with this type of prospect. He will usually rate in the bottom third of players at his position and will be considered a late round draft choice or un-drafted free agent.

20 - Free Agent Prospect

These are players that did not make our original 'evaluation list' but are prospects that need to be monitored. Especially in the pre-season, these players will fluctuate up and down depending on performance in their final year of eligibility.

 

10 - Not a legitimate Prospect

These are players that lack NFL measurables and/or skills. They are players that we feel would not even make a solid contribution as a training camp body.

 

Now, let's lay out a scenerio that will describe the "both" strategy. Suppose the Cowboys have the 5th pick in the draft and these are the first 7 picks and their grades, (The grades are totally bogus and are given by me to illustrate the strategy.)

 Pick      Player                           Position             Grade

(1)         Andrew Luck               QB                          99

(2)         Matt Barkley                 QB                          98

(3)         Matt Kalil                      OT                           97

(4)         Justin Blackmon        WR                          96

(5)         Trent Richardson       RB                           95

(6)         Morris Claiborne        CB                           94

(7)        Riley Reiff                     OT                           93

Now, with the Cowboys having the 5th pick, and If you were strictly going by Best Player Available, and the picks came off the board in order, you would take Trent Richardson, Running back.

But if the Cowboys biggest need was at Cornerback, who would disagree with either taking Morris Claiborne with the 5th pick, or trading down one spot if you were assured he would still be there and taking him at that spot, UNLESS there was a huge drop off in grades between those picks. For example, if the best available CB was rated 80, then you would go to your next need, say the next biggest need was OT, and pick "Riley Reiff" because he is the BPA, for the teams needs. (Both Again.)

UPDATE: 11-26-11

Just to be clear. My point is that both BPG and Need should be Considered, not that they must coinside, and that it is stupid to just pick based upon need, and it is equally stupid to just pick based upon BPA. (If you had the first two picks in next years draft and you Just picked based upon BPA, then you would pick both Andrew Luck, AND Matt Barkely.

Anyway, that is my take on the "Both" strategy which is opinion, and my observations on what appears to me to be who is responsible for a draft, and that it would be the "Draft Room Team" in their Concensus, unless you would like to say the "buck stops with Jerry because he hires the Scouts and the scouting director" and that would be fair also. But if you did that then Jerry has to be given ALL credit for anything good or bad that happens with the Cowboys, and a lot of fans only want to give Jerry the "blame" for everything bad that happens, and someone else the "Credit" for anything good that happens...ie. 3 Superbowls.

Thanks for reading and I am ready to take my "daggers" and "kudos."   :)

And be sure to follow my Football 101 Series:

 Is This Really Air Garrett  

What Are All These Numbers And Letters

The Receiver Route Tree

Air Garrett Part II

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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