Have The Dallas Cowboys Drafted Enough Defensive Linemen? (Part II)

Tom Pennington

A summary of defensive linemen drafted between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014.

Earlier this week I posted a story looking at the past 10 drafts and comparing how many defensive linemen Dallas has drafted compared to the league at large. There was a lot of commentary about using 10 years as the demarcation point. I chose it because the linchpin of our defensive line was drafted 10 years ago and left at this draft. I thought it was a good summation of this era of our defense. Many agreed. However there was a good number of people who felt that going back 10 years over-valued the past and failed to paint a realistic portrait of the current state of our defensive line, and whether or not we had devoted enough resources towards it recently.

Well, I am here to please! I decided to redo the math and break down the last 10 years worth of drafts into two parts; the years 2004-2009, and the years 2010-2014. It was hard, time consuming work. I spent most of the night, quill in hand, hunched over my writing desk, sorting through figures until my eyes were strained and my fingers ached. I only had a small mean fire, burning in a narrow grate. It was cold that winter; Little Lucy had come down with the cough, and the doctor said it would cost five shilling to....oh. Ignore that last bit!  It's perfectly normal to lapse into a Dickensian fantasy.  Anyways...

You all remember the drill. Total picks is just that. Premium picks are picks made in the top three rounds. Average round is the average of the draft rounds the picks were taken in. Draft score is derived by dividing total picks by average draft rounds. So a team that drafted seven DL all in the first round would score a seven, a team that drafted seven picks all in the seventh round would score a 1. Players that were drafted to be outside linebackers in a 3-4, or drafted to be primary edge rushers were counted as DL, as those players generally line up as DE's in nickel defenses. The average is the average of the two draft scores.

And here are the results!

2005-2009 2009-2014 Avg
Team Total Picks Premium Picks Avg Round Draft Score Total Picks Premium Picks Avg Round Draft Score
Texans 5 4 2 2.5 12 7 3.4 3.53 3.015
Eagles 8 4 4 2 12 6 4.1 2.93 2.465
Steelers 8 3 3.9 2.05 11 5 3.6 3.06 2.555
Chargers 5 3 2.8 1.8 7 4 3.1 2.26 2.03
Cowboys 11 6 3.2 3.44 7 2 5.3 1.32 2.38
Chiefs 8 6 3 2.67 8 4 4.1 1.95 2.31
Patriots 9 3 4.8 1.88 9 6 3.3 2.73 2.305
Bears 7 4 3.9 1.79 6 4 3 2 1.895
Lions 6 4 3.5 1.71 6 2 3.7 1.62 1.665
Panthers 8 4 4.6 1.74 7 4 3.3 2.12 1.93
Seahawks 7 3 3.7 1.89 11 2 4.9 2.24 2.065
Bucs 8 2 4.5 1.78 7 4 2.7 2.59 2.185
Giants 6 3 3.8 1.58 7 6 2.9 2.41 1.995
Rams 7 3 3.6 1.94 7 3 4 1.75 1.845
Bengals 9 3 5 1.8 6 5 2.7 2.22 2.01
Falcons 9 3 4.1 2.2 7 2 4.7 1.49 1.845
Browns 7 2 4.9 1.43 8 5 3.6 2.22 1.825
Packers 7 2 4.4 1.59 9 3 4.2 2.14 1.865
Colts 7 3 4.1 1.71 7 3 3.9 1.79 1.75
49ers 9 3 4.3 2.09 6 2 4.3 1.4 1.745
Ravens 3 3 2 1.5 9 4 4 2.25 1.875
Titans 6 2 3.7 1.62 9 3 4.7 1.91 1.765
Dolphins 8 3 4.9 1.63 7 4 4 1.75 1.69
Broncos 5 2 3.2 1.56 7 3 4 1.75 1.655
Vikings 5 1 4 1.25 9 3 4.6 1.96 1.605
Jaguars 6 3 3.7 1.62 6 3 3 2 1.81
Oakland 6 3 4.2 1.43 8 2 4.8 1.67 1.55
Cardinals 6 3 3.3 1.82 4 2 3.8 1.07 1.445
Bills 5 3 3.4 1.47 4 3 3.3 1.21 1.34
Jets 3 2 3.7 0.81 6 4 3.2 1.88 1.345
Saints 5 1 4.8 1.04 5 3 3.2 1.56 1.3
Redskins 4 1 4.8 0.83 4 3 2.8 1.43

1.13

So there are a few takeaways from this. For those who believe that Dallas has neglected the defensive line over the last five years, you're generally correct. The Boys last five years earned the 7th lowest draft score. Here's how it looks:

Lowest Draft Scores
Team Date Score
Jets 2005-2009 0.81
Redskins 2005-2009 0.83
Saints 2005-2009 1.04
Cardinals 2010-2014 1.07
Bills 2010-2014 1.21
Vikings 2005-2009 1.25
Cowboys 2010-2014 1.32

So does this mean that our front office is incompetent and that of course DL should have been a bigger priority? Well, not really. If you look at the table you'll see a fairly clear pattern. Most teams tended to have a fairly large, (.4 points or larger) fluctuation between the two time periods. It's true that no team had as large a fluctuation as the Cowboys. But that's partly because the Cowboys had a lot of space to fluctuate. Their 2005-2009 draft had the 2nd highest draft score graded, and was one of only four teams to break the 3.0 point mark. But note, the team with the highest draft score, the 2010-2014 Texans, also had the second highest fluctuation after the Cowboys. In fact all the top draft grade teams had high fluctuations between the two cycles.

What this tells me is that most teams tend to draft DL, (and I'd hazard most other positions as well), in cycles. They will spend a bevy of high draft picks, followed by a relatively lax period, followed by a new bevy of high draft picks. No team came close to spending the resources on the DL as we did from 2005-2009. The next few years were a lull, with a small pickup in the last three years. I expect next year will continue that upward trend.

This is something most all teams do. For some the cycle is not so pronounced, and some, (like the Eagles and Texans), have a higher baseline, while others, (Jets and Washington), have a lower baseline. But across the board nearly every team had an easily identified cycle of spending and neglect.

Now none of this tells us how well the teams actually drafted, (that's coming in Part III). Houston for instance spent a ton of resources on it's D-line from 2005-2009 and got relatively little in return. On the other hand the 49er's actually don't spend much on their DL, draft wise, but have one of the better lines in the league. So what do you think BTBer's? Is Dallas draft cycle to extreme?  Should we focus more on free agency when building the DL like the Seahawks? Or have we hit the strategy about right, and just happen to be in the natural part of the down cycle?

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