Depth means under-utilized players. Deal with it.

One of the most interesting parts about football is trying to second-guess the FO when it comes to personnel acquisition and personnel management. For some of us, it's enough to just watch the team that gets fielded and root for them to win (or at least play well). Others of us are more interested in the composition of that team.

The problem is that it is harder to get a handle on the player-acquisition, player-utilization process. Perhaps as a result, the opportunities for unjustified hindsight I-told-you-sos are rife. So, for example, everyone knows that draft picks are a gamble--sometimes a pick may represent good value from an ideal-draft perspective, but in reality may not transition well to the NFL, perhaps because of injuries. In hindsight, of course it's easy to say that the production we've gotten out of Morris Claiborne was NOT worth the trade up. In hindsight, the production we've gotten out of Frederick was easily worth the trade down. But that doesn't mean that EVERY trade up for a blue chip corner is a bad idea (he could have turned out a consistently healthy superstar for us), and it doesn't mean that EVERY trade down for a second-round-rated center is a good idea (Frederick could have turned out to be another JAG, taking us out of the range of real talent improvement).

Depth is even harder to assess. Some of us were complaining after the draft that the D-line looked thin to us, considering age and the injury issues we knew about. Given the mess that our D-line was this year, it's hard for us not to act smug. But of course, if there had been fewer injuries (especially Crawford, Spencer, Ware) and less drama (Ratliff) we might have looked like we were complaining about nothing.

That brings me to the offense, where we have depth. The Escobar and Williams picks are interesting cases in point. Anybody interested in stats will conclude that Williams was one of the better #2 receivers last year, and beat any rookie not taken in the first round. Anybody interested in stats will conclude that Escobar did not make enough of a difference to justify the draft pick, and was therefore either a bust or (considering he's highly graded for his limited snaps) was underutilized.

But those stats are misleading. To understand why, consider the two following scenarios.

Scenario 1: Austin stays healthy in 2013 and returns to his best form as a #2 receiver, pretty darn close to a #1, to pair with Dez.

In this scenario, we wouldn't have seen a lot of Williams. Remember, he started with some underwhelming play, including a game-losing fumble and a missed route leading to an interception. It might not have taken much to persuade the coaches and fans, reasonably so, that this was not our best target for most game situations. Beasley rocks at getting open on the short routes, and has the lowest drop rates--a great #3. Witten is a standby 3rd down option. Dez and Austin would deserve, and get, the bulk of the targets. And Williams would sit in the background, with a stat line that made people wonder why we drafted him.

Depth means that Williams is there, seamlessly picking up Austin's slack, becoming a key part of this offense. It also means that Williams would RIGHTLY be underutilized if Austin had come out of the gate strong.

Scenario 2: Witten gets another lacerated spleen, and starts dropping as many balls as he did at the start of the 2012 season.

In this scenario. Escobar would have seen the field a lot more. There would have been games, or at least large portions of games, in which Hanna was the #1 and Escobar the #2. The more quickly Hanna's weaknesses were exposed, the more quickly Escobar would have supplanted him (note, again, the learning curve by which Escobar's grade rose to surpass Hanna's the more playing time both got). Everybody would be nodding their heads, talking about how you can't have a superstar like Witten with only 6th-rounder Hanna behind him--and nobody else. That's what depth means, right?

News flash: Depth also means that when the superstar is healthy and productive, you get the ball to him, and the guys behind him wait in the wings in case they are needed. Escobar was underutilized--rightly so. This has nothing to do with Escobar and everything to do with the rest of the team. We had superstar performances from our #1 TE and #1 WR, a top-3 rookie performance from our new #2 WR, and unreal conversion rates from the Hobbit. None of these things was assured; any of these things could have broken down, due to a slump or an injury. Depth means that we have more weapons waiting in the wings if someone goes down. Depth also means we have more tactics (e.g., 3 TE sets), waiting in the wings in case our running game is stymied (it wasn't) or our WRs underperform (they didn't).

Depth means that, when things work well, someone will be underutilized. It also means that, when the injury bug strikes, we have a plan B that can succeed. It's pretty silly to complain about the Cowboys' lack of depth (woefully true of our D) and about the Cowboys' underutilized players (joyfully true of our O).

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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