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Cowboys 2012 Draft: How Good Is Dallas At Assembling A Draft Board, Part IV: The 2010 Board

In the first three parts of this series, I looked at last year's "little board," assembled from players invited to Valley Ranch for "Dallas Day," then zeroed in on the offensive players from that board (part II), followed by the defensive guys (Part III). In doing so, I confirmed what people with access to Valley Ranch have been saying for years: that Dallas Director of Pro Personnel Tom Ciskowski (and, before him, Jeff Ireland) do a masterful job identifying potential Cowboys and building a draft board.

Still, as I admitted at the time, those conclusions are based on a great deal of conjecture, as we cannot know exactly where each of the players was drafted; the "little board" upon which all of this is based is largely speculative. For example, did the Cowboys see DeMarco Murray as a third rounder? A second rounder? If so, how high a second rounder? In short, its difficult to ascertain how accurately the Cowboys judged 2011's incoming talent without knowing exactly where they were slotted.

Which brings me to the famous "leaked" 2010 draft board. Immediately after that draft, you may recall, several intrepid BTBers, among them JBell523, Theebs, Cowboysaficionado, 24Hz and Requiem, managed to piece together the Dallas War Room's big board from video that had been taken during the draft. From this information, they were able to assemble an almost complete version of the Cowboys board (hit the above link and scroll down), thus providing us with a cornucopia of highly valuable information. Most importantly, by comparing where the Cowboys slotted certain players versus where they were actually drafted, it give us some idea of how Ciskowski and his team of scouts stack up against the rest of the league as talent evaluators.

Some cool stuff after the jump...

For the purposes of this exercise, I have focused on players who Dallas seemed either to over- or underrate relative to the rest of the league. I have created two tables, one for guys who were drafted two or more rounds before the Cowboys thought they should go (according to their board) and another for those selected two or more rounds later than where Dallas slotted them. In looking at their performances after two years in the league, I'm hoping to determine whether, for example, the Cowboys under-rated certain players or some other team overrated them.

Without further ado, let's take a look at the first group, the guys drafted earlier than they appeared on Dallas' board:

Team and Round (pick #) Position on Dallas’ Board (round, slot) Games Played/ Starts Position on Depth Chart (as of today)

PFF Grades 2010/ 2011

Total Snaps 2010/ 2011
Two year AV 2010/ 2011
Anthony Davis SF 1 (11) 3, 2 32/ 32 1 (RT) -28.1/-17.1 1011/ 1164 7/ 6
Ryan Matthews SD 1 (12) 2, 12 26/ 22 1 (RB) -1.3/ 10.5 291/ 532 6/ 13
Patrick Robinson NO 1 (32) 3, 4 26/ 11 2 (RCB) 0.2/ 1.4 289/ 833 2/ 4
Rodger Saffold STL 2 (33) 3. 17 25/ 25 1 (LT) -12.4/-14.7 1068/ 618 6/ 2
Zane Beadles DEN 2 (45) 3, 26 32/ 30 1 (RG) -8.6/ -25.7 949/ 1215 6/ 5
Javier Arenas KC 2 (50) 4, 2 31/ 3 2 (RCB) 2.2/ 3.4 516/ 381 2/ 0
Vladimir Ducasse NYJ 2 (61) 4, 3 18/ ?? 2 (RT) Also TE? 2.9/ -5.6 70/ 97 0/1
Torell Troupe BUF 2 (41) 4, 8 20/ 2 3 (LDT) -6.3/ -3.4 303/ 94 2/ 0
Linval Joseph NYG 2 (46) 4, 12 22/ 15 1 (LDT) -1.8/ 1.1 63/ 614 1/ 6
Ben Tate HOU 2 (58) 4, 18 15/ 2 2 (HB) NA/ 8.3 NA/ 333 0/ 7
T.J. Ward CLEV 2 (38) 4, 23 24/ 24 1 (SS) -0.1/ 5.6 1077/ 478 7/ 0
Jason Worilds PIT 2 (52) 4, 27 26/ 7 2 (ROLB) 2.2/ 4.5 43/ 521 2/ 5
Jared Veldheer OAK 3 (69) 6, 1 32/ 27 1 (LT) -27.2/ 5.9 916/ 1097 6/ 8
Mike Kafka PHI 4 (122) 7, 3 4/ 0 3 (QB) NA/ -0.6 NA/ 33 0/ 0

Some thoughts: Several of the players on this list haven't seen the field much. This might mean that they are on the verge of becoming busts (like Vlad Ducasse, who couldn't unseat the mediocre Wayne Hunter), or simply that they have been playing behind a solid veteran starter and will soon get a chance to shine (as is Patrick Robinson's likely path). Given that so many of these guys were drafted in the "premium" rounds, however, the fact that more of them haven't acquitted themselves better suggests that, as a collective group, the Cowboys were more right than wrong about them.

One subgroup here that seems to have logged a goodly amount of games and starts are the offensive linemen. Yet, a closer look suggests that its not necessarily because they have played well. For example, Anthony Davis, who received a third round grade from the Cowboys, immediately took over at right tackle for a good 49er offensive line. But his AV is only so-so and his PFF grades are abysmal; in fact, he received the offense's worst grade in 2010 and was in the bottom three last season. The same could be said of Denver OG Zane Beadles and Rams and Raiders left tackles Roger Saffold and Jared Veldheer. All three were O-linemen of interest to Cowboys fans who Ciskowski and Co. seemed to have rated lower than expected. Thus far, they have all played a lot; however, the early indications are that they haven't necessarily played well.

On the other hand, two players from this list that Dallas seems to have underrated were Oregon Safety T. J. Ward and Virginia Tech DE/ OLB Jason Worilds. They saw both players as fourth-rounders, yet both have prospered in a similar defensive scheme (both Cleveland and Pittsburgh run 3-4s; Ward played for current Cowboys DC Rob Ryan in 2010). Worilds in particular seems poised on the cusp of excellence--if only he can squeeze in more snaps with Lamar Woodley and James Harrison manning the Steelers' OLB positions.

Alright, now lets take a look at the players that Dallas appeared to value more highly that the rest of the league in April 2010:

Team and Round (pick #) Position on Dallas’ Board (round, slot) Games Played/ Starts Position on Depth Chart (as of today) PFF Grades 2010/ 2011 Total Snaps 2010/ 2011 Two year AV 2010/ 2011
Sean Lee DAL 2 (55) 1, 14 29/ 15 1 (RILB) 9.4/ 13.7 169/ 863 2/ 8
NaVorro Bowman SF 3 (91) 1, 20 32/ 17 1 (ILB) 3.7/ 32.2 217/ 1012 2. 19
Morgan Burnett GB 3 (71) 2, 7 20/ 20 1 (SS) -2.1/ -0.6 200/ 1166 2/ 5
Brandon Ghee CIN 3 (96) 2, 15 13/ 0 2 (LCB) -0.9/ 0.0 11/ 2 0/ 1
Joe McKnight NYJ 4 (112) 3, 6 24/ 1 3 (HB) -0.2/ 2.3 72/ 112 2/ 9
Carlton Mitchell CLEV 6 (177) 4, 9 17/ 0 3 (SE) 0.1/ -1.0 12/ 42 0/ 0
Tony Pike CAR 7 (204) 4, 22 1/ 0 waived injured in August 2011 -1.1/ NA 22/ NA 0/ NA

Some thoughts: The most obvious is that Lee and Bowman, Dallas' two first-round, Penn St. linebackers (guys who most of us slotted in the third or fourth round--where a lot of draft gurus had them--when we heard that they were Dallas Day invitees in early April 2010), seem to have fulfilled the promise the Cowboys saw in them (and the rest of the league doesn't seem to have). For their work on Sean Lee and NaVorro Bowman, Ciskowski and Co. get gold stars.

-The defensive backs on this list offer less shining examples: although Morgan Burnett has earned a starting safety position in Green Bay, the Packers pass defense has been suspect (on the other side of the coin, Burnett's 2011 PFF grade was the highest in the Packers' secondary). Brandon Ghee, the kind of size/ speed ratio DB who peaked the Cowboys' interest in recent years (along the lines of Tracy Porter, Charles Godfrey and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah), has done little to nothing of note in Cincy.

-Nobody on this second chart received the egregiously low PFF grades that Davis, Beadles and Veldheer carry. As a result, its hard to say that the Cowboys overvalued anybody. An notable exception might be the aforementioned AOA, who was drafted about where Dallas rated him. Because of this, we cannot know what the rest of the league felt about his skill set. Given that he's been a washout thus far, a strong argument can be made that the Cowboys overrated him.

To Ol' Rabble, still haunted by the memory of disastrous drafts during the Larry Lacewell years, when Dallas was drafting guys like Shante Carver in the first round when they carried seventh-round grades in Green Bay (according to Ron Wolf), the fact that Dallas' current draftmeisters seem, at the very least, to be in accord with--if not slightly ahead of--the rest of the league in terms of talent evaluation is a welcome sight. These numbers seem to agree with Valley Ranch insiders: CIskowski and his guys do an excellent job setting up the Cowboys draft board. The league appears to agree: Ciskowski was on the short list to replace Bill Polian as the Colts' GM.

As we know all too well, the problem in the past has been that Jerry Jones has listened too much to his head coaches (AOA was a Wade pick, after all), allowing their opinions to outweigh that of the team's scouts. But Jason Garrett is no Wade; he comes from a scouting family and is exponentially more likely to respect Ciskowski's board--something we got a taste of in April 2011, when Dallas stayed put and took their guys. Because of this, there is a glimmer of hope not only for April 2012, but also--and more importantly--for a steady upswing in the Cowboys' ability to draft consistently well in coming years.

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