With the first significant practices of the 2012 season in the books, hopes are running high for fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, this is the time of year when draftees and UDFAs often look like the next superstars. We do have to remind ourselves that they spent time practicing against other rookies. It will be a long time before we start to get an idea of who will actually make the team this fall.
But for now, optimism reigns for many of us. Everyone clearly expects Pick 6, Morris Claiborne, to have an immediate and positive impact. Realistically, however, everyone else, from third round pick Tyrone Crawford down to the tryout players that came in for the rookie minicamp, is fighting for a roster spot with no assurance that they will succeed.
There have certainly been some nice reports out of the first two days of the minicamp (there was apparently a practice on Sunday, day 3, but it was closed to the media according to a tweet from Bryan Broaddus). The feeling I got from writing my posts on Day 1 and Day 2 of Camp RKG was that this is a pretty good bunch of rookies, and the team is likely to get a fair number of roster players from them.
So, for a little bit, let's mix up a batch of that Kool Aid and talk about some good things that may come out of this year's new guys.
Read on after the jump, and maybe put your two cents' worth in.
In the comment thread for the related Jason Garrett article above, Archie put up a link to an enjoyable video from the Dallas Cowboys mothership about the draftees. If you haven't watched it, it is worth a few minutes for some feel good time. But towards the end, Jason makes a very good point. He says that these are not undersized guys that will run through a wall for you, but won't make the team in the end. He characterized them instead as good players that have the measurables, talent, and resumes that the team wants. The coaches also talk openly about having sweated through some picks because they were afraid that some of the guys they wanted were going to get taken before they could make the selection. If they got these things right, then this may be a very good group, with most of them making the final 53 and making some significant contributions this year. My dream, of course, is for all seven of them to catch on, but I realize that this would be very unlikely. However, players like Danny Coale, Matt Johnson, and Caleb McSurdy did some good things during the minicamp, and all of them could address a need the Cowboys have.
A big thing that stood out for me is that JG5000 mentioned his Right Kind of Guy criteria. I am of the opinion that this was very much his draft, perhaps even more so than 2011. At least part of that is based on the fact that he had not completed his change-out of the coaching staff, and now he has people like Bill Callahan and Jerome Henderson consulting on who the team should select. I think that is going to pay dividends, both in the draft process going forward and in the evaluations to put together the opening day roster.
The UDFAs also look to have some very intriguing names. I have my eye on OG Ron Leary, OT Levy Adcock, RB Lance Dunbar, DE/OLB Adrian Hamilton, and the CB trio of Lionel Smith, Troy Woolfolk, and Isaac Madison. I think at least a couple of these guys, and maybe as many as four, could break through (and would love to see even more, if they provide an upgrade over someone else). In my reading through some recent articles, I came across this one on UDFAs called Diamonds in the Rough from the mothership, written by "Featured Blogger" Jonathan Bales, originally fron Thedctimes.com. He took a look at the history of UDFAs over the last decade or so, and how successful various teams have been. Dallas has two of the biggest success stories in that time in Tony Romo and Miles Austin, so it is reasonable to expect that they could turn up some winners with this year's crop.
I really liked this piece, at least partly because Bales seems to be a statistically adept kind of guy.
Since 2000, the teams who have seen the largest portion of their approximate value come from undrafted players, in order, are the Chargers, Colts, Eagles, Ravens, Redskins, Packers, and Steelers. Notice anything about those teams? With the exception of Washington, they've all been really, really good over the past decade.
The Cowboys aren't too far down the list, checking in at 10th. Of course, total value isn't an end-all statistic when it comes to grading undrafted players, especially since young guns, such as the Giants' Victor Cruz, simply haven't had time to compile stellar cumulative statistics. Thus, I combined total value with the value each undrafted player generated per season to formulate more accurate rankings. The results? Dallas jumps up to eighth.
Sounds to me like this guy is the Dallas Cowboys' own OCC, which to me is a very good thing for them. He goes on to point out that there is a direct relationship between success in finding quality UDFAs and winning on the field.
But how important are undrafted free agents really? It's tough to tell, but there's certainly a correlation between finding undrafted talent and winning football games. The top 12 teams in uncovering undrafted talent since 2000, as per total approximate value, have compiled a winning percentage of .567 over that span, compared to just .445 for the bottom 12 squads. With a sample size of 192 games for each team, the 12.2% gap in winning percentage is pretty substantial.
For the record, I think the Cowboys are one of the top teams in the league at recognizing undrafted talent and luring those prospects to Dallas, and certainly higher than the eighth-place ranking the numbers suggest.
While you might expect a certain bit of homerism from someone who blogs on the Dallas Cowboys official website, this guy also seems to back up his assertions with some decent reasoning and good data. It gives me a little extra hope that this year's acquisitions will play a big part this year. Or, to use his words:
Once in a while, you find a Tony Romo.
Who is this year's Tony Romo?
Now, I don't say I'm predicting that the team will do that well this year. But maybe they can get close. I am betting - or at least hoping - that they will.