Pete Prisco: Cowboys Look Like A Contender

Ronald Martinez

In a unique rating system, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports ranks all 32 NFL teams based on four key positions. He has Dallas near the top of his list.

There are a lot of power rankings and projections out for the 32 NFL teams, but for the most part, they are just opinions given by writers. Very few offer up their rationale for how they rank the teams.

One exception is Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, who has been using what he describes as a four-pronged system to make his prediction of how teams will fare each year.

Naturally, it starts with the quarterback, who I believe is now 70 percent of the game.

Then it's the guys who knock the quarterbacks down, the guys who keep those pass rushers off the quarterback and the corners who knock down the quarterbacks' passes.

See the pattern?

He uses a simple weighting, giving the quarterback twice as many points in his scoring system as the other three positions. He then ranks each team's best player at said positions, adds up the scores, and there you have it.

For 2013, he has the Denver Broncos, with Peyton Manning, Von Miller, Champ Bailey, and Ryan Clady as the representatives, coming out as the best in the NFL by a wide margin. But second on his list (although just barely ahead of the third-place Green Bay Packers) are the Dallas Cowboys.

Here are the four best and most important players on the Cowboys, and where he puts each of them.

#9 quarterback: Tony Romo

#3 pass rusher: DeMarcus Ware

#11 cornerback: Brandon Carr

#8 left tackle: Tyron Smith

Those are, at least in my silver and blue tinted view, pretty reasonable rankings for the four players. And Prisco has a pretty good argument for his rankings, although his system is a bit simplistic. However, he is not the only writer out there in media land to see good things in this year's Dallas team.

While it is pretty much a part of my job position here to like articles and such that say good things about America's team, I do find the these arguments persuasive. I might even venture a few arguments about why the picture may be even better than Prisco thinks.

  • It can certainly be argued that Romo is better than the ninth-best quarterback. Although he had a bad start last year, he was much better later in the season. Above all, the case can be made that he has been held back by other issues with the team (offensive line, lack of running game, the horrid spate of injuries on defense). I will not pretend to be an expert at rating things, but I think he is actually a bit closer to the top five here. And he is certainly being given every opportunity to do better in 2013, with important offensive tools taking priority in the draft, and the much ballyhooed increased input to the gameplan (if you don't see that as mostly a media-generated meme to create controversy).
  • Our own KD Drummond, in a Twitter discussion with Joey Ickes, took a look at teams converting from the 3-4 to the 4-3 and vice versa. He found that DEs switching to OLB tended to see a decline in production, but not the other way around. KD admits it was an extremely cursory look, looking at only a few examples. Although he was addressing Anthony Spencer, this also applies to Ware. And one of the major reasons Dallas is believed to have switched to the 4-3 and brought in Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli is to get more pressure on the quarterback. In this case, Spencer and the tackles should carry a bigger part of the pass rushing load. So if Ware is still Ware, Spencer has another superb year, and the tackles get in on the action, the Dallas pass rush will have even more impact on the outcome of games.
  • And our own Archie Barberio took a look at cornerback duos in the league. His approach was based on the fact that the performance of the pair on the field is more impactful than that of the best of the two. He believes that Carr and Morris Claiborne are the third best tandem in the league. Again, this should only make things better. Archie does caveat his rankings a bit by saying he is not the most objective guy around, but he has proven during his time here he has a pretty good eye for talent evaluation.
  • Finally, protecting the quarterback is not just on the left tackle. It takes a line, and Dallas has invested a first round pick in Travis Frederick to improve there, plus there is at least hope the performance overall will get better with less turmoil in getting and keeping five starters on the field. And all the carryovers from last year will have another year of experience and coaching, which usually means some improvement on that unit, especially when you don't have a bunch of aging players. Dallas has a pretty young line - the oldest players are Nate Livings, 31, Ryan Cook, 30, and Doug Free, 29. If they get better as a unit, then this again can be better than Prisco projects.

Maybe that is a bunch of Kool Aid drinking, but maybe it is all valid, as well. Even if it is not, we can hope that Prisco's system is a good way to evaluate the relative strengths of the teams. And that is very good news in and of itself.

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