A Refining of a Theorem

So there I was, attempting answer my own question: Is Dallas any better or worse at drafting talent in the 2nd half of the draft than the rest of the league? I knew this would be a monumental task since I would need to go back several years in the draft just to get a big enough sample size to be able to make some general conclusions about the data I was looking at. As I thought about where to start, I decided I'd go with my premise that you find upper echelon talent in the draft, and fill your JAG holes (I'm not sure why, but I really like this term) through free agency. So I decided to go with the simplest measure of the league's best players: a pro bowl invitation.

It's no secret that the talent levels drop off with each round you go into the draft, but it amazed me to see how much when I looked back at every draft since 2004. And since I was so amazed, I've dedicated a fanpost to it. I'll try to finish the one on our drafting habits in the upcoming weeks.

See what amazed me after the jump...(some people are very easily impressed)<---me

I went to back to 2004 somewhat arbitrarily, but also because being 8 years ago, it outlives the career of most average to below average NFL players. I also left 2011's draft class out of the data because those players have not yet had enough time to prove themselves, and would have skewed the numbers. If you want proof, there were a total of 5 pro-bowlers from the 2011 class, only one outside the first round.

Another caveat: 2 of the 6th round pro-bowlers are a K (Folk) and a P(Andy Lee, SF), and one of the 4th rounders (Gostkowski, NE) was also a K.

So without further ado, here is another of my favorite tables:

Pro-Bowlers by draft round from 2004 through 2010

Round 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 total (PB/picks) % PB by round
1 8 6 7 12 16 12 15 76/224 34%
2 1 2 3 6 6 5 3 27/224 12%
3 1 1 1 1 0 2 6 12/224 5.4%
4 1 0 0 5 7 2 3 18/224 8%
5 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 9/224 4%
6 1 0 0 1 1 2 1 6/224 2.7%
7 1 0 0 0 1 2 1 5/224 2.2%

Holy Cow Batman! The rate at which Pro-Bowl caliber talent can be selected drops by a factor of 3 from just the first to the second round. This makes me immediately think of two re-occurring themes I've heard in our comments and posts recently:

1) Those that say we can pass on a particular player (in this case DeCastro or Kuechly) because there is so much depth later in the draft or the team has up and coming players at the position:

How much better is DeCastro than that depth?

How important is his position to our team? i.e., can we get by with less talent from the draft at the OG position than the S, ILB, OLB, DE, or WR spots? What positions require the most talent besides QB to be successful in the league?

Are either going to be a Pro-Bowler/All-Pro?

2) Those that think we should select a less superior player in the first round because it more closely fits our team needs:

Where will our stars come from, if not the first and occasionally second round of the draft?

Can we afford to pay for other teams' players or hope we catch lightning in a bottle and hit an under the radar Pro-Bowler in a late round pick?

Looking at the numbers of star players found in later rounds of the draft, it would seem to me that the best strategy for the team would be:

1) To select purely the best available player (or trade down/up a few spots depending on players rising/falling and those teams around me) in rounds 1 and 2, and to aquire as many first and second round picks as possible.

2) Rounds 3-7, pay a little more attention to need while still keeping an eye on your board rankings. Find some camp bodies in the late rounds, or some small school prospects unless someone is rated so highly you just can't believe he is still available when you go on the clock.

In conclusion, it would seem my theory of staying as true as possible to BPA is imperative in the first two rounds of the draft. The chances of us infusing superior talent in the later rounds is akin to pulling the handle on a slot machine in Las Vegas.

I am not advocating we take DeCastro or Kuechly (though I like the idea of both from what I've seen) simply because I don't have enough information about all of the prospects to make what I would feel is an informed decision. But I hope some of these questions are being asked by the Front Office as they start the process of deciding who our future Cowboys will be.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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