SB Nation, the lead blog site for the network Blogging The Boys belongs to, has picked an "all-sophomore" team for the NFL. They used these criteria:
With the NFL Draft not far in the rearview mirror of the offseason, it's a good time to think about last year's rookies. This is year two for them, the season where they start to get their feet under them and become starters, or at least regular contributors.
With that in mind, we took a look at all of the second-year players and constructed a team of the best of the best. It isn't who had the best rookie season; the team below is a list of players who have a chance to be the best sophomores in the NFL at their respective positions.
Two members of the Cowboys' 2013 draft class were picked:
WR Terrance Williams: "Williams is a big-play machine, with 28 of his 44 receptions going for at least 10 yards. He'll take over No. 2 duties full time and should get more opportunities to shine."
C Travis Frederick: "(Larry) Warford, (Kyle) Long, and Frederick were impressive as rookies, playing their way into the discussion of best interior offensive linemen."
The selection of two Cowboys is impressive enough, since that represents 9% of the whole list. But something else jumps out.
These are the two players selected using the picks Dallas acquired when they traded back in that year's draft.
Yesterday, Rabblerousr again explained that in the NFL draft, pure chance is more of a determinant of how successful any given draft pick will be than any other thing. This is a topic he has visited before, and frankly it is one that more people (especially wealthy ones owning a stadium in Arlington, Texas) need to pay a lot of attention to. If you did not read and understand what he said, you should stop now and do so. Here is a key passage from the piece.
He (Cade Massey, a professor whose area of specialty is the psychology of overconfidence) followed this up in March 2012 with a presentation at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference entitled "Flipping Coins in the War Room." In it, he made some startling points, the foremost of which was to dispel the notion that certain teams "draft better" than others. Success in the draft, Massey proffered, is not a matter of skill, but of luck. And not just a bit of luck, but entirely luck. As he surmises, what the statistics are "saying is that there are no differences across teams...literally zero differences across teams in player-picking ability." On a skill-based to chance-based continuum, the ability to draft players falls at the far end of the chance-based side of the spectrum.
That boils down to one simple rule of thumb: Trade down when possible, and avoid trading up, because the key to success is how many picks you have to make in the draft, particularly early ones, regardless of how well you think you grade the players.
Frederick and Williams are perfect examples of this. By backing away from the 18th pick in the NFL draft because they were unhappy with the players available (cough) Sharrif Floyd (cough), Dallas wound up with two of the strongest players from that year's draft class. Williams, remember, was taken in the third round, so he is perceived, at least in the SB Nation article, as having outperformed about 55 or 60 players taken ahead of him.
This supports the whole argument that trading up to select DeMarcus Lawrence was a mistake, no matter how highly the Cowboys had him graded or how badly they felt they needed an edge rusher. To get him, they gave up a third-round pick - which means they passed up an opportunity to grab another Terrance Williams. There is no guarantee, but in the second and third rounds, you are probably more likely to get one strong contributor to the team with two picks than with a single choice because your scouting can easily be wrong.
And it can also be argued that Morris Claiborne is evidence to support the argument as well. He was the result of almost exactly the same train of thought that led to Dallas deciding it had to have Lawrence, and the team gave up a premium pick to go up and get him. Even if he eventually becomes a shutdown corner, he represents an opportunity cost that Dallas might well have done so much more with had they not traded up for him. History proves that a 1st and a 2nd are better than one higher 1st most of the time, based on the research cited above, as well as Dallas' own experience last year.
Again, look at the arguments that Rabble laid out. As much as we want to think we can figure out who is going to be a star and who will bust by watching hours and hours of video, we are by and large wrong. At best, we may be able to figure out which players have a high probability of making it and which ones are lower, which helps us rank the prospects, but we cannot defeat chance. This is hard for us to accept, and almost impossible for the control freaks who become NFL coaches, scouts, and general managers. They are nearly incapable, from a psychological standpoint, of accepting that they are still basically flipping a coin with every draft pick they make, and that the single best thing they can do to improve their success rate is to get more draft picks, especially early. That would do more to increase the chances of success than doubling the size of the scouting staff or buying IBM's Watson computer to handle analytics.
But don't expect this to be accepted by the Cowboys anytime soon. It flies in the face of everything they have learned (or think they have learned) about doing their jobs in acquiring talent. They may never come to grips with this no matter what arguments are made and what examples are presented. Even when a couple of the best ones are sitting right on their roster.