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Dallas Cowboys Cannot Afford A Miss In Top Rounds Of 2012 NFL Draft

Who will be this year's DeMarco Murray (28) and Dez Bryant (88)?
Who will be this year's DeMarco Murray (28) and Dez Bryant (88)?

On a whim, I recently looked at the 53-man Super Bowl rosters for the Giants and the Patriots and looked at where each one of the 53 players on the Super Bowl roster was drafted. Here's how the two teams compare by number of players taken in each round.

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th UDFA
Giants 10 9 6 4 3 6 3 12
Patriots 7 10 3 3 5 2 4 19

At first glance, I wasn't too sure what to do with the data. I had thought going in that the Patriots would have a lot more undrafted free agents on their roster than the Giants. And they do. I also thought that because of that, they'd have less top-tier talent. They don't. In fact, if I add up the top draft picks on both rosters, both teams had an almost identical number of first- or second-round picks active in the Super Bowl.

After the break, find out how the numbers above compare to the Cowboys.

For the make-up of the Cowboys' roster, I also used the 53-man roster of last game the Cowboys played last season, the season-ending loss to the Giants. Obviously, some of the recent Cowboys draft picks like DeMarco Murray (3rd round), David Buehler (5th) and Bill Nagy (7th) were on injured reserve at that time, but they don't influence the overall picture too much - and both the Giants and Patriots had players on IR as well.

Having said all that, here's what the season-ending rosters of all three teams looked like last season.

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th UDFA
Giants 10 9 6 4 3 6 3 12
Patriots 7 10 3 3 5 2 4 19
Cowboys 9 3 4 6 4 5 8 15

With nine former first round picks on the roster, the Cowboys look quite good compared to both the Giants and Patriots. Also, of the nine former first rounders, only Keith Brooking was not originally drafted by the Cowboys. The eight others were all picked by the Cowboys, which is pretty good considering the Cowboys wasted a first-round pick on Roy Williams. The eight first-rounders are: Dez Bryant, Felix Jones, Terence Newman, Tyron Smith, Marcus R. Spears, Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware.

By comparison, of the Giants' 10 former first rounders, seven (if you include Eli Manning) were originally picked by the Giants and just five of New England's seven former first rounders were picked by the Patriots themselves.

The gap between the Cowboys and the two Super Bowl teams is most pronounced in the second and third rounds. The Cowboys have seven former second- or third-round picks on the roster where the Patriots have 13 and the Giants have 15 - twice as much as the Cowboys. I'm not sure that I'd necessarily call it a talent gap, but compared to those two teams, the Cowboys are missing a whole bunch of second- and third-rounders that could well be the backbone of the current franchise.

We know that the Patriots have almost made an art form of collecting second-round picks: in the last four years, they have made ten picks in the second round. In the end, it really comes down to a question of very simple math. The more players you draft, the better your odds of landing good players - especially in the higher rounds.

In the last two years, the Cowboys have picked five players in the top three rounds:

- Dez Bryant and Sean Lee in 2010
- Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray in 2011

Over the same span, the Giants have made six picks in the first three rounds, the Patriots have made ten. When you have many picks, you can afford a couple of misses. When you only have a few picks, you need to hit on every one.

Just like in previous years, the Cowboys cannot afford a miss in the first three rounds of this year's draft.

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