The Cowboys Must Draft A QB If He Is The Best Player Available ... Right?

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

We take a detailed look at the 2010 and 2013 drafts to figure out how serious the Cowboys are about drafting the Best Player Available.

Every time somebody categorically proclaims that the Cowboys "must" do something or other, I reflexively think, "No, they don't!"

One of the most recent statements that's been driving me to the purple drank faster than you can say JaMarcus Russell, contends that "the Cowboys must draft a QB if he is the best player available on their board". To which I of course reply, "They 'must' do no such thing." And while I understand that this is the battle-cry of all parties interested in seeing Johnny Manziel in Dallas for whatever reason, this is also a logical application of the Best Player Available (BPA) approach to drafting.

BPA is a fairly deterministic drafting process which holds that the highest-rated prospect remaining on your draft board must automatically be your pick in the draft. But if drafting was that simple, a $25 Raspberry PI computer could conduct the entire NFL draft in seconds, if it simply had been fed each team's draft board beforehand. But that's not how the draft works.

Pure BPA is myth, if for no other reason than there is hardly ever a clear-cut best player available. If the best player were so clearly identifiable, the Cowboys would land a hit with every single draft pick and the 2009 draft would not have happened. But that's not the case.

What happens when teams are on the clock is that they often have to make a choice between a handful of players with very similar or even identical grades. And all sorts of considerations go into that decision: depth at the player's position, salary cap ramifications, injury or age issues at the position, competitive considerations, player personnel strategies, personal likes and dislikes, and - yes, we're going there - plain old team needs.

Consider a few tidbits from recent Cowboys history:

In 2003, Tony Romo had a fifth-round grade on the Cowboys' board. That year, the Cowboys had two picks in the sixth round and one pick in the seventh. We don't know what grades B.J. Tucker, Zuriel Smith, or Justin Bates had that year, but they were picked with those three picks instead of Romo. Perhaps the Cowboys felt they were deep enough at the position and didn't need a QB; perhaps they thought the kid from Wisconsin would be available as a free agent. Regardless, they got lucky with that one.

In 2009, the Cowboys held the 51st pick and decided to trade down when their target, Max Unger, went 49th. LeSean McCoy, who had a first-round grade on the Cowboys board, would have still been available, but the Cowboys probably felt good with their running back situation (Marion Barber & Felix Jones) at the time, so they didn't feel the need to pick another RB in McCoy. They did not get lucky here.

In 2012, Ronald Leary was on the board with a third-round grade, but the Cowboys speculated that Leary would go undrafted because of concerns over his degenerative knee condition. They got lucky and were proven right.

In 2013, the Cowboys picked DeVonte Holloman (fifth-round grade) over Brandon Magee (fourth-round grade). Why?

They made the call to pick Holloman and chance that Magee would make it to free agency because of Magee’s smaller size and injury history. They also felt Holloman was a better special teams player.

These are just four examples that show that there may be considerations playing a role in a team's picks other than just BPA. Of course, proponents of BPA will argue that the failure to pick McCoy is a prime example of why teams must go BPA, and that the Cowboys simply got lucky in the other examples. Fair enough, so let's take this one step further.

Thanks to the leaked draft boards of the 2010 and 2013 drafts, we can take a detailed look at those two drafts and look at the five BPA players on the Cowboys draft boards each time the Cowboys were on the clock. That will give us some insight into how stringently the Cowboys follow BPA, and whether there may be positions where BPA goes out the window.

We'll start with the 2013 draft, and walk through each pick looking at the five best remaining players at the time according to the Cowboys draft board.

2013 First Round - Pick 18
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Sharrif Floyd 1 23 MIN DT 1 5
Xavier Rhodes 1 25 MIN DB 1 11
Cordarrelle Patterson 1 29 MIN WR 1 13
Tyler Eifert 1 21 CIN TE 1 15
Bjoern Werner 1 24 IND DE 1 17

The Cowboys decided to trade out of the 18th spot last year. These are the top-rated players remaining on the Cowboys' draft board at the time.

First Round - Pick 31
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Travis Frederick 1 31 DAL OL 2 22
Terrance Williams 3 74 DAL WR 2 23
Gavin Escobar 2 47 DAL TE 2 25
Darius Slay 2 36 DET DB 2 26
Zach Ertz 2 35 PHI TE 2 27

Whodathunkit? Not only was Travis Frederick the Cowboys' BPA at this spot, but Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar already show up at the top here.

Second Round - Pick 47
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Terrance Williams 3 74 DAL WR 2 23
Gavin Escobar 2 47 DAL TE 2 25
Ryan Nassib 4 110 NYG QB 2 28
Margus Hunt 2 53 CIN DE 2 29
Matt Barkley 4 98 PHI QB 2 31

Technically, the Cowboys should have picked Terrance Williams here. In practice though, Williams and Escobar may have had the same grade, or one so close that there was no real distinction between the two. The Cowboys later explained that they felt there was a bigger chance that Williams would fall farther than Escobar, which led them to pick Escobar over Williams at this spot.

Third Round - Pick 74
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Terrance Williams 3 74 DAL WR 2 23
Ryan Nassib 4 110 NYG QB 2 28
Matt Barkley 4 98 PHI QB 2 31
Markus Wheaton 3 79 PIT WR 3 44
B.W. Webb 4 114 DAL DB 3 47

The Cowboys were quite lucky to have Williams fall this far.

Third Round - Pick 80
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Ryan Nassib 4 110 NYG QB 2 28
Matt Barkley 4 98 PHI QB 2 31
B.W. Webb 4 114 DAL DB 3 47
JJ Wilcox 3 80 DAL FS 3 50
Stedman Bailey 3 92 STL WR 3 52

Well, well, well, what do we have here? Two QBs would have been BPA at this spot. The Cowboys had the choice between Nassib and Barkley - and chose neither. Both QBs had a second-round grade on the Cowboys' board, but the Cowboys opted for a former running back who had converted to safety just two years prior.

The Cowboys liked both QBs enough to give them second-round grades, but either felt that there was no need to draft a third QB or felt they had a bigger need in the secondary.

Fourth Round - Pick 114
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
B.W. Webb 4 114 DAL DB 3 47
Gerald Hodges 4 120 MIN LB 3 56
Everett Dawkins 7 229 MIN DT 3 62
D.C. Jefferson 7 219 ARI TE 3 63
Joseph Randle 5 151 DAL RB 3 67

The Cowboys find back to their BPA ways after the Giants and Eagles showed mercy on the fast falling Nassib and Barkley.

Sixth Round - Pick 151
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Everett Dawkins 7 229 MIN DT 3 62
D.C. Jefferson 7 219 ARI TE 3 63
Joseph Randle 5 151 DAL RB 3 67
Brandon Magee - - - - UDFA LB 4 69
Brandon Jenkins 5 162 WAS DE 4 81

It may look like the Cowboys went a little off-BPA here, but the differences in grades between players ranked 62, 63 and 67 is probably indistinguishable. In the seventh round, with no more picks left, the Cowboys tried to get a trade done for what was widely presumed to be D.C. Jefferson, but to no avail. They would also pick up Everett Dawkins later in the season off the Vikings practice squad, but would cut him a few weeks later.

Fifth Round - Pick 185
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Everett Dawkins 7 229 MIN DT 3 62
D.C. Jefferson 7 219 ARI TE 3 63
Brandon Magee - - - - UDFA LB 4 69
Andre Ellington 6 187 ARI RB 4 82
Michael Buchanan 7 226 NWE DE 4 88
Keelan Johnson - - - - UDFA S 5 92
DeVonte Holloman 6 185 DAL LB 5 95

Given how we've seen the Cowboys adhere to BPA pretty closely in this draft, it comes as a little surprise to see Holloman picked over six players with higher grades, some of them a lot higher. Were the Cowboys focused in on a linebacker, or did other considerations play a role here?

Star_medium

On to 2010, a draft where the Cowboys traded up twice, once for Dez Bryant, once for Sean Lee. You'd assume that if you trade up, you'd take the best guy on you board, but did the Cowboys do that? Have a look:

2010 First Round - Pick 24
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Dez Bryant 1 24 DAL WR 1 12
Sean Lee 2 55 DAL LB 1 14
Jared Odrick 1 28 MIA DE 1 15
Kyle Wilson 1 29 NYJ DB 1 18
NaVorro Bowman 3 91 SFO LB 1 20

The Cowboys got their top guy in Bryant, but look who's already lurking in the second spot on that draft board.

Second Round - Pick 55
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Sean Lee 2 55 DAL LB 1 14
NaVorro Bowman 3 91 SFO LB 1 20
Morgan Burnett 3 71 GNB DB 2 30
Brandon Ghee 3 96 CIN DB 2 38
Corey Wootton 4 109 CHI DE 3 42

The Cowboys get their guy in Sean Lee, but the table highlights one of the perils of trading up: Sitting in second place on the Cowboys board at this point was LB NaVorro Bowman. Had the Cowboys kept their original 90th pick, they would very likely have picked Bowman in the third round. Imagine a defensive backfield being patrolled by Lee and Bowman! Then again, imagine an offense without Dez Bryant; man this hindsight stuff sucks.

Fourth Round - Pick 126
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah 4 126 DAL DB 4 69
John Conner 5 139 NYJ RB 4 73
Carlton Mitchell 6 177 CLE WR 4 77
Dominique Franks 5 135 ATL DB 4 82
Larry Asante 5 160 CLE DB 4 83

You may not like to read this, but the Cowboys did everything right with the AOA pick, at least from a draft point of view. Their scouting of the player is a different matter entirely, but for what it's worth, AOA was the BPA.

Sixth Round - Pick 126
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Tony Pike 6 204 CAR QB 4 90
Danny Batten 6 192 BUF DE 5 99
Sam Young 6 179 DAL T 5 100
Clifton Geathers 6 186 CLE DE 5 103
Eugene Sims 6 189 STL DE 5 108

There they go again! The Cowboys skip on another BPA because he's a quarterback. At the time, the Cowboys had Romo, Kitna and McGee on the roster and may not have felt a big need for another QB. In the end, Tony Pike lasted just one season in the NFL, but should that season have been with the Cowboys?

Seventh Round - Pick 126
Player Draft Round Draft Pick Drafted by Pos DAL Grade DAL Rank
Tony Pike 6 204 CAR QB 4 90
Alric Arnett - - - - UDFA WR 5 107
Jamar Wall 6 196 DAL DB 5 111
Chris McCoy 7 212 MIA DE 6 116
Willie Young 7 213 DET DE 6 119

Here the Cowboys blew their second chance at drafting a QB. The final pick (234) of the 2010 draft would be Sean Lissemore, who was not on the Cowboys' draft board at all. Lissemore was taken over two players with draftable grades, Alric Arnett (5th round grade) and Brandon Minor (6th round grade). Both ended up as UDFAs, but are still in the league today.

Star_medium

When I first looked up all this data, I was quite surprised to see how closely the Cowboys followed a BPA approach in both drafts, despite my protestations at the top of this article. But their treatment of QBs sticks out like a sore thumb. In both drafts we looked at, they skipped on QBs who were clearly the best players available. And this despite the Cowboys insistence that they remain interested in a developmental quarterback.

At the end of the day, on the question of whether "the Cowboys must draft a QB if he is the best player available on their board," the answer is simple.

"Yeah, right."

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Blogging The Boys

You must be a member of Blogging The Boys to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blogging The Boys. You should read them.

Join Blogging The Boys

You must be a member of Blogging The Boys to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blogging The Boys. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker