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The Right Kind Of Guys, Part I: The 2011 Draft Class

One of the terms getting a lot of circulation of late is "the right kind of guys." This developed over the course of draft weekend--as was documented by O.C.C. First, when ESPN’s Trey Wingo asked Jason Garrett about the Cowboys’ draft philosophy, Garrett responded, "The most important thing is we talk about what it means to be a Dallas Cowboy, the kind of guys we want on our football team....they’re the Right Kind Of Guys, we think they’re good football players." Then again, in his post-draft presser, in response to a question about fifth-round corner Josh Thomas being the Right Kind of Guy, Garrett said:

whenever we acquire a player, through the draft, through free agency, in any way, we want to have The Right Kind Of Guys….Part of [the aptitude to play] is being "The Right Kind Of Guy". You want guys who love to play football and show you that they love it each and every day. Passion, enthusiasm, emotion, all of those things come into it.

Garrett went on to acknowledge several of the qualities that makes a player an RKG. One of them is leadership. Indeed, four of the eight players Dallas drafted were captains of their college teams. Others are dedication and relentlessness. All have reputations as tireless workers; several are known as guys who "play though the whistle," most notably offensive line draftees Tyron Smith, David Arkin and Bill Nagy.

In the next couple of posts, I want to explore further this notion of the "RKG": in this article, I’ll look at the incoming draft class; in the next, I’ll speculate about which guys on the team are RKGs--and which aren’t.

More on RKGs after the jump...

One of the reasons this draft’s RKG premium has me excited is that it reminds me of a Cowboys draft class with a similar makeup: the 2005 haul also had four team captains: DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Kevin Burnett and Chris Canty. And, if I’m not mistaken, they turned out to be a pretty good group.

As a way of determining how good, I’d like to introduce you to Tony Villiotti, who runs DraftMetrics, a draft analysis website. Focusing on the "seven-round era" (1994-present), Villiotti has looked at and broken down myriad different aspects of the draft to determine drafting patterns, distinguish between different tiers of value (he calls them "Value Groups"), and to assess which drafts have been the most and least successful.

It’s to this last category that I’d like to turn today. Villiotti has established a simple yet elegant rubric for determining the success of a draft. To do so, he looks at several important categories: the number of years of a given player’s career; the number of years that player was a starter; the number of draftees who had careers of five years or longer; the number who started for five or more years; the total number of career starts, and finally, the number of Pro Bowl and All-Pro designations each player has received.

Why do I bring this up now? Because I think it’s a terrific way of assessing how the 2005 draft class measures up historically. Villiotti himself waits seven years before assessing a draft class, so he won’t come out with an analysis of the 2005 group until after next season. However, a look at the numbers shows that they already stack up among the very best draft classes of all time and have a chance to end up in the top two or three.

Let’s take a look: Here are Villiotti’s eight best draft classes compared to the average:

Number of Picks Career Years Starter Years 5 Year Careers 5 Year Starters Career Starts Pro Bowlers All Pros
Average 7.4 36.6 16.4 3.7 1.6 257.6 0.7 0.4
Packers: 1995 10 64 35 7 3 524 4 3
Patriots: 1995 7 57 41 5 4 650 2 2
Chiefs: 1996 10 67 41 6 5 650 1 0
Bucs: 1997 10 78 45 8 4 734 3 1
Jets: 2000 8 57 42 5 5 633 1 1
Cards: 2001 10 58 36 6 4 556 3 1
Eagles: 2002 8 48 32 5 5 492 3 2
Chargers 2004 11 59 31 7 4 469 4 2

As we can see, these draft classes all greatly exceed the average. Look at Tampa Bay’s 1997 draft bonanza (a class which netted Warrick Dunn, Ronde Barber and future Cowboys OLB Al Singleton): 734 career starts! That’s phenomenal.

How does the Cowboys 2005 haul stand up? Lets take a look:

Player Career Years Starter Years 5 Year Careers 5 Year Starters Career Starts Pro Bowlers All Pros
DeMarcus Ware 6 6 yes yes 95 5 3
Marcus Spears 6 6 yes yes 78    
Kevin Burnett 6 1 yes   27    
Marion Barber 6 3 yes   41 1  
Chris Canty 6 4 yes   70    
Justin Beriault 0 0 no   0    
Rob Petitti 4 1 no   17    
Jay Ratliff 6 4 yes   63 3 1
TOTALS 40 24 6 2 391 9(3) 4 (2)

Already, the 2005 class is above the NFL average in every category, and are a season of good health away from bumping a team from Villiotti’s list. When all is said and done, the Cowboys 2005 draft is likely to go down as one of the very best from the "seven-round era."

The 2011 class is filled with players boasting similar "RKG" profiles. I wouldn’t dare assert that, merely because there are a slew of college team captains in the bunch that they will achieve the kind of success enjoyed by the 2005 group. But I am willing to bet that they will share a similar approach, level of focus and determination, as well as the leadership qualities they’ve already demonstrated at the NCAA level. And that will allow them to maximize whatever talent they bring with them to the pro game.

A bunch of guys challenging each other to maximize their talent? Those are the Cowboys ol’ rabble can root for.

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