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Which Position Groups Do The Cowboys Grade Too High, Which Too Low?

Cowboys Cheerleaders: Never overrated
Cowboys Cheerleaders: Never overrated

We saw yesterday that based on the Cowboys draft board from 2010, the Cowboys seemed to be grading O-line prospects too low relative to where they were actually drafted in the 2010 NFL draft.

This of course raised the question of which other position groups the Cowboys might have been systematically grading too low. If you look at the roster depth today, you might conclude that safeties are a position the Cowboys do not grade well. Not true, at least based on the 2010 draft board, even though safety play has been one of the most heavily criticized aspects of the Cowboys game this year. If you look closely at our safeties, you'll see that this season the Cowboys started a 5th round pick at SS (Gerald Sensabaugh) and a 7th rounder at FS (Alan Ball). The last time the Cowboys did not have at least 2nd round pick playing one of the safety spots? The 3-13 1988 season. That does make you wonder a little bit.

Another question that popped up was whether there are positions that the Cowboys overrate in terms of their draft grade. So today we'll look at how the Cowboys graded all other position groups. Too high? Too low? Find out after the break.

Again, we'll use the Cowboys' accidentally released 2010 draft board and compare the players on the board and their draft grades with where those players were actually picked in the draft.

The caveat with such an approach obviously is that we have only one Cowboys draft board, we don't know how other teams graded the same players, and ultimately we do not know how much some teams may have reached for some of their picks. So while this look at the draft boards can't provide any real answers, it does raise some interesting questions.

I'll follow the same approach as I did for the O-Line yesterday for the remaining position groups. I'll start by excluding all the players with a first round grade and then look at how many players by position were graded higher, lower or in line with their actual draft spot.

The reason I'm excluding the first round grades is the following: The Cowboys typically have around 20 players with a first round grade in any given year. Last year the Cowboys had 23 players with a first round grade on their board (and perhaps 24 if we could ever figure out what the black magnets on the draft board photo mean). 21 of those 23 got selected in the first round, the two exceptions were LB Sean Lee (2, 55) and LB Navorro Bowman (3, 91). The 'hit rate' of the first round grade is so high because the number of players with first round grades is relatively low compared to the number of players taken in the first round, making the 'hit rate' for first rounders largely meaningless.

Think about it this way: If you had a mock draft going last year with the 32 first round picks, and cut off that list at the top 23 players, how many first rounders would you have gotten right? Unless you had Bruce Campbell in your top 23, you probably came very close to a 100% hit rate. And that's why I'm excluding the first round graded players - the quality of your grading becomes more evident in later rounds, not in the first round where even the average fan can get close to a 100% hit rate.

That leaves us with 102 players out of the 125 total players on the Cowboys draft board. 53 players (52%) were graded at least one round lower by the Cowboys than where they were eventually drafted, 22 (22%) were graded higher and 27 (26%) were graded in line with where they were picked. The table below summarizes the numbers for all position groups:

Cowboys Draft Board grades by position group relative to actual draft spot, 2010 (excluding first-rounders)

Total Offense OL WR TE RB QB Total Defense DE DT LB CB S
# of players 48 12 14 9 7 6
54 15 7 9 12 11
higher 10 2 3 1 3 1   12 6 0 0 3 3   22
correct 12 1 5 3 0 3   15 2 4 3 1 5   27
lower 26 9 6 5 4 2   27 7 3 6 8 3   53
% too low 54% 75% 43% 56% 57% 33%
50% 47% 43% 67% 67% 27%
% too high 21% 17% 21% 11% 43% 17%
22% 40% 0% 0% 25% 27%

Half of the players (52%) on the Cowboys draft board are rated lower than where they were eventually picked. By itself, this number doesn't mean anything, because as I said in the caveat above, we don't know what other draft boards may have looked like, which teams may have been reaching etc. But what that number does is provide a baseline against which to check whether the Cowboys were rating specific position groups too high or too low.

Based on the 52% of players that were graded 'too low', three position groups emerge that the Cowboys, at least in the 2010 draft, graded lower than the average: O-Line, which we've already looked at, cornerbacks and linebackers.

Of the twelve cornerbacks (outside of first-rounders) on the Cowboys draft board, only one was graded in line with where he was drafted. Three received higher grades, one of which was Jamar Wall who had a 5th round grade and whom the Cowboys picked in the 6th round. Eight, or 67% were graded lower.

The picture is similar for linebackers, where six of nine players were graded lower than where they were picked. The picture obviously changes somewhat if you were to include Lee and Bowman who both were graded higher (1st round) than where they were selected.

On the flip side of the coin, the Cowboys graded 18% of the players higher than where they were subsequently drafted. Two positions stand out here: defensive ends (40%) and running backs (43%). It would appear that the Cowboys, again based only on the 2010 draft board, overvalue these two positions significantly.

One other thing stands out for four of the five positions we've highlighted (OL, RB, DE and CB): Of the 46 players from these position groups on the Cowboys draft board (outside of first-rounders), only four (!) were graded 'correctly' or in line with the round they were later chosen in.

Now that we've gone through the numbers, do a gut check: Do these results correspond with your gut feeling about positions that never quite played up to the level expected, despite some high draft picks? And is the reverse also true - what are the position groups where the results, by and large, were satisfactory when the Cowboys invested a high draft pick?

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