Too High, Too Low? Cowboys Draft Grades Revisited

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the Cowboys' 2010 and 2013 draft boards gives us a good idea of which position groups the Cowboys overvalue and undervalue in their draft grades.

We saw yesterday that based on the Cowboys' draft board from 2013, the Cowboys seemed to be grading O-line prospects too low relative to where they were actually drafted in the 2013 NFL draft, and that we had seen the same thing in the 2010 draft.

In 2010, 75% of the O-line prospects without a first-round grade were graded at least one round lower than where they were eventually picked, and in 2013, that number remained at about the same level with 69%. By themselves, the numbers don't mean all that much, because we don't know how the other position groups were graded.

So today we'll look at how the Cowboys graded the remaining . Too high? Too low? Read on to find out.

And just like yesterday, we'll use the Cowboys' accidentally leaked 2013 draft board to compare the players on the Cowboys' board and their draft grades with where those players were actually picked in the draft.

The caveat with such an approach obviously is that while we now have two Cowboys draft boards to work with, we don't know how other teams graded the same players, and ultimately we do not know how much some teams may have reached for some of their picks. So while this look at the draft boards can't provide any real answers, it does raise some interesting questions.

I'll follow the same approach as I did for the O-Line yesterday for the remaining position groups. I'll start by excluding all the players with a first-round grade and then look at how many players by position were graded higher, lower or in line with their actual draft spot.

The reason I'm excluding the first-round grades is simple: The Cowboys typically have around 20 players with a first-round grade in any given year (23 in 2010, 18 in 2013). With 32 players taken in the first round, the first-round graded players are going to be graded "correctly" almost every single time, making a 'hit rate' for first rounders largely meaningless.

Think about it this way: If you had a 2013 mock draft going with the 32 first-round picks and cut off that list after the 18th player, how many first rounders would you have gotten right? Outside of perhaps Oakland's pick (CB D.J. Hayden), you'd have probably came very close to a 100% hit rate. And that's why I'm excluding the first-round graded players - the quality of your grading becomes more evident in later rounds, not in the first round where even the average fan can get close to a 100% hit rate.

That leaves us with 107 players out of the 125 total players on the Cowboys' draft board. 51 players (48%) were graded at least one round lower by the Cowboys than where they were eventually drafted, 23 (21%) were graded higher and 32 (31%) were graded in line with where they were picked. The table below summarizes the numbers for all position groups:

Cowboys Draft Board grades by position group relative to actual draft spot, 2013 (excluding first-rounders)


Offense
Defense
Total
Total Offense OL WR TE RB QB Total Defense DE DT LB CB S
# of players 52 16 12 6 11 7
55 11 6 15 15 8
107
higher 11 1 3 2 4 1 12 2 1 5 2 2 23
correct 16 4 5 2 4 1 16 4 3 3 4 2 32
lower 24 11 4 2 3 4 27 5 2 2 9 4 51
% too low 46% 69% 33% 33% 27% 57%
49% 45% 33% 47% 60% 50%
48%
% too high 21% 6% 25% 33% 36% 14%
22% 18% 17% 33% 13% 25%
21%

Half of the players (48%) on the Cowboys' draft board are rated lower than where they were eventually picked. By itself, this number doesn't mean anything, because as I said in the caveat above, we don't know what other draft boards may have looked like, which teams may have been reaching etc. But what that number does is provide a baseline against which to check whether the Cowboys were rating specific position groups too high or too low.

Based on the 48% of players that were graded 'too low', three position groups emerge that the Cowboys graded lower than the average in the last draft: O-Line, which we've already looked at, cornerbacks, and QBs, but the latter  may be an effect of the small sample size.

Of the 15 cornerbacks (outside of first-rounders) on the Cowboys' draft board, two were graded higher than where they were drafted: Blidi Wreh-Wilson and B. W. Webb, who had a third-round grade and whom the Cowboys picked in the fourth round. That pick is eerily similar to a pick made in 2010: That year, the Cowboys had three CBs rated higher than where they were drafted, one of whom was Jamar Wall, who had a fith-round grade and whom the Cowboys picked in the sixth round.

This brings us around to the 2010 draft board, which has remarkably similar values (using analysis) compared to the 2013 draft board: In 2010, 52% of all players without a first-round grade (vs. 48% this year) were graded lower than where they were drafted, 22% (vs. 21%) were graded higher. Combining the two years gives us the following percentages by position groups:


2010 & 2013 Offense
2010 & 2013 Defense
Total
Total Offense OL WR TE RB QB Total Defense DE DT LB CB S
# of players 100 28 26 15 18 13
109 26 13 24 27 19
209
















higher 21 3 6 3 7 2
24 8 1 5 5 5
45
correct 28 5 10 5 4 4
31 6 7 6 5 7
59
lower 50 20 10 7 7 6
45 12 5 13 17 7
104
















% too low 50% 71% 38% 47% 39% 46%
50% 46% 38% 54% 63% 37%
50%
% too high 21% 11% 23% 20% 39% 15%
22% 31% 8% 21% 19% 26%
22%

Overall,about 50% of the players with non first-round grades on the Cowboys' draft boards are picked higher than where the Cowboys graded them. To a large degree, this is a mechanical effect owed to the fact that the Cowboys' draft boards contain only about half as many players as ultimately get drafted. But even with a 50% baseline, the numbers indicate the Cowboys consistently grade offensive linemen and cornerbacks too low.

On the other hand, the Cowboys graded 22% of the players higher than where they were subsequently drafted. One position stands out here: With 39% of the 2010 and 2013 draft prospects graded higher than where they were eventually drafted, it would appear that the Cowboys overvalue running backs significantly - which ultimately is how they were able to take Joseph Randle in the fifth round even though they had a third-round grade on him.

One other thing stands out for four of the five positions we've highlighted (OL, RB, and CB): Of the 73 players from these position groups on the Cowboys' draft board (outside of first-rounders), only 14 (19%) were graded 'correctly' or in line with the round they were later chosen in. That's a lot of hit-or-miss potential right there.

Ultimately, what these numbers show is a simple market dynamic: some positions like offensive line and cornerbacks have been in higher demand over recent years, while the demand for running backs has arguably slipped a little. In terms of draft picks, this means that you may have to invest a higher draft pick than your draft grade would indicate to get quality offensive linemen or corners, while running backs can be had for lower investments.

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