To many fans of the Dallas Cowboys, these last three drafts have been brisk reprieves of fresh air. They have started to push the stale stench of the 2009 draft out the window with the scent of solid research and game-planning. For a fan like me, who believes in the BPAPN model (best player available at a position of need), this latest draft went right down the line in following the footsteps. For this model to work, a team with numerous holes and a core group of players deep into their prime years cannot just simply say "who is the best player on the board?" That philosophy, in my humble opinion, is reserved for teams that annually make the playoffs and have rosters that can compete year in and year out.
The model also means that a team can't "pre-prioritize" their needs before the draft and say "Safety is our biggest need; we must get a safety in round one no matter what. Then we take a corner in the second and a pass rusher in the third."
No. For me, BPAPN means that a team collects all of their positions of needs and then removes the prioritization, thus giving them the flexibility to choose the best from multiple positions in each of the top rounds. I think Dallas exemplified this strategy to a tee in April's draft. Cornerback, slot receiver, safety, defensive end, pass rusher were all top needs. Of course, the team brain trust didn't quite agree that interior offensive line was a need like myself and many other fans did; but Jerry Jones admitted as much pre-draft.
But obviously by the title of this piece, the recent changes haven't been enough to sway the overall opinion that the Cowboys are an aging team. Behind the pay wall at ESPN Insider, Football Outsiders checks in with a piece ranking the Top Organizations in the League Based on Under-25 Talent.
Follow the jump to see where the Cowboys fall in line.
Here's Football Outsiders methodology for creating their list.
• The number of games in 2011 started by players under the age of 25
• Whether or not a team's young starters last season were simply injury replacements
• The number of 25-or-younger first-team All-Pros a team has on its roster
• The extent to which a team's 25-and-under talent plays impact positions in the passing game
• Whether or not a team has a talented, young quarterback
• The amount of value a team added in the 2012 draft
• A team's recent track record of developing and retaining young talent
Once we had our objective rankings, discussion amongst the crew at Football Outsiders tweaked the list resulting in the final version that you see below.
Dallas didn't earn the top spot. That belongs to... the Patriots. Dallas doesn't earn a Top 10 ranking, per Football Outsiders. They aren't the best in the division, nor are they even second-best. No, Dallas checks in all the way down in the bottom half of the league at number 20. Here's what they wrote about our under-25 Cowboys.
Tyron Smith was an instant hit at right tackle and should be a building block on the offensive line for years to come. Phil Costa's snaps were a source of comedy at times last season, but even if he has to move inside to guard, the Cowboys have to like what they saw of him overall. Like their colleagues in Washington, they should be able to cobble a decent run game together between Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray, two young backs. Oh, and did we mention WR Dez Bryant? The Cowboys still have a few long-term holes to start digging their way out of, but with CBs Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr in tow, the secondary looks much better than it did in February.
Now, how much stock can be put into this? Well, their cutoff point was being 25 or younger as of September 8th, 2012. Well, the Cowboys might have actually received a bump. Brandon Carr, like Sean Lee, is already 26. They also placed Dallas behind the Cleveland Browns, who's under 25 stockpile is headlined by Trent Richardson, Joe Haden and not much else. They somehow get ranked #18.
For the record, Philadelphia ranks sixth, the Giants rank 14th and the Redskins, who normally avoid draft picks like kisses from someone with a cold sore, rank right behind Dallas at 21. All on the strength of RGIII.
So, have at it BTB. I can't provide the complete listing since it's a pay-per-view article; but I'm sure you have your thoughts about where Dallas' young talent ranks.