Bill Parcells has overseen drafts for three teams in the past 12 years, choosing players for New England from 1993 to 1996 and the New York Jets from 1997 to 2000. He is heading into his third draft with the Cowboys.
This initial breakdown will examine his track record as a selector. While Parcells has shown some frustrating tendencies in his brief time with Dallas, like taking heavy risks with second day picks and emphasizing kick returners and special team players with late selections, his drafting ability holds up. There are two qualities of Parcells' drafts that should hearten Cowboys fans.
1. Parcells is amazingly accurate with first day picks. Want to see how a winner is put together? Take a look at Parcells' four drafts with New England. In '93, he inherited a team coming off a 2-14 season and had the first pick in the draft. While it may seem like a no -brainer today, there was a split among experts over the top two quarterbacks, Washington State's Drew Bledsoe and Notre Dame's Rick Mirer. There were heavy rumors that year that the San Francisco 49ers might trade up to acquire Mirer, whom no less an authority than Bill Walsh compared to a young Joe Montana. Parcells ignored offers for his pick, chose Bledsoe and never looked back. His three other first day picks made the team with two, LB Chris Slade and OG Todd Rucci becoming starters.
Parcells second draft was his dud, as only one of his four first day picks stuck. That pick, however, was DE Willie McGinest. Parcells scuttled Jerry Jones' grand plans for his first draft, as Jones had worked out a pre-draft trade with the Rams to swap Alvin Harper for the fifth pick, which Dallas would use on McGinest. Parcells took McGinest at pick four.
The next two drafts would form the backbone of Parcells' 1996 Super Bowl squad. He had four first day picks in '95 and hit on all of them, selecting Ty Law, Ted Johnson, Curtis Martin and Jimmy Hitchcock. Law, Johnson and Martin became instant starters. Hitchcock was the Pats' nickel corner.
Parcells ran the first day table again the following year, landing Terry Glenn, Lawyer Milloy and Tedy Bruschi in the first three rounds.
In all, his picks in rounds 1 through 3 from '93 to '96 were remarkable. Parcells had fifteen such picks in those four years. Twelve of them made the team. Ten of them-- Bledsoe, Slade, Rucci, McGinest, Law, Johnson, Martin, Glenn, Milloy and Bruschi -- were quality starters. The other two, Hitchcock and Vincent Brisby, were key role players. Even more amazing is that all of those ten except for Slade and Rucci are still productive NFL players.
Parcells did not have the same quantity of picks in New York, but still hit on a solid percentage of them. In '97 he made good on two of his three picks, selecting LB James Farrior and WR Dedric Ward. As with New England, Parcells' second draft was his worst, as none of his three first day picks distinguished themselves. In '98, Parcells had only two picks on day one but landed two starting guards in Randy Thomas and David Loverne. Thomas is a Pro Bowl-caliber guard and was a target for Dallas in free agency two years ago until it was outbid by Washington.
Parcells saved his best effort for last. Through shrewd trading and with compensation from the Patriots for Bill Belichick, New York had five first day picks, four of them in the first round. As he had in New England, Parcells aced his final draft, getting John Abraham, Shawn Ellis, Chad Pennington, Anthony Becht and Laveranues Coles.
Again, there was a definite contour to Parcells' drafting: he was good in year one, poor in year two and perfect in years three and four. A similar pattern has emerged from years one and two in Dallas. Parcells was solid in year one, getting three starters with his three picks -- Terrence Newman, Al Johnson and Jason Witten. Year two was a letdown, with the brilliance of Julius Jones offset by the season-ending knee injury of Stephen Peterman and the disappointing progress of Jacob Rogers. We can all hope the Tuna repeats the third year success he enjoyed with the Patriots and Jets.
2. Parcells first day picks are overwhelmingly from major college programs: If you're fixated on a sleeper prospect from Anonymous U. on day one, don't count on him. The more important the pick, the more conservative Parcells tends to be. Only two of his early Jets picks were from non-BCS eligible schools. At New England, only three of his fifteen picks were from smaller programs. And keep this in mind -- in years three and four at both New England and New York, all of Parcells' picks were from major schools in major conferences.
Looking for an initial way of weeding down your draft list for rounds one and two? Start by eliminating the Troys and Hamptons and Alabama-Birminghams from your list. Parcells has drafted nothing but major program players in his short tenure with the Cowboys. Coming off a 6-10 season, I'll bet he's less likely than ever to take a gamble on players who haven't proven themselves in major conference play.
Coming next: Is there a Parcells' "type"?