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Dallas Cowboys Actual Draft Versus Pre Draft Big Boards

A lot of people are claiming Dallas reached on some of its picks in the 2013 draft, based on the perceived talent of the players involved.


There has been a lot of criticism about the process during the first round of the draft for the Dallas Cowboys, the value received in the trade down, and the actual picks made in the first couple of rounds, but as OCC pointed out in an earlier post , the team is very happy with the results. I want to repeat the same quote OCC seized on.

"All in all, it was probably the most successful draft we’ve had in a while," a source said. "We got a guy in the fifth round [running back Joseph Randle] we had on the board in the third. We got good value on guys instead of reaching as we did in the past. Last year, we needed a safety and might have pumped a little air in [fourth-round pick Matt Johnson]. We took him earlier than we needed to. That didn’t happen this year, other than maybe the first round. We got good value."

This is a reflection of how the team valued the players it took. While I am guardedly optimistic that this is a good draft, I am not quite willing to declare it a high point. It has the potential, I will admit, because I can see three players I feel are very likely to become starters in the next one to three seasons, and would not be surprised to see one or two more emerge. I already am very happy about the additional depth I think this draft brings. If some of the "Redshirt Rookies" from last season are able to contribute this fall, then I think the past three drafts indicate a very health trend.

But how good a value, really, are the drafted players? Going with a center in the first round makes this a very good question. No matter how well he works out for the Cowboys, there is going to be a lingering argument about whether the team could have gotten more value for the original pick at 18 or even for pick 31. Dallas has been taking a lot of criticism for its draft, with most other franchises seen as having done better by media analysts and a lot of fans, both of the Cowboys and other NFL teams. What I wish I could do was get a copy of all 32 draft boards as they existed when the draft started. I would like to see how the players were ranked by the rest of the league.

Obviously, that is not going to happen. I could see the NFL network getting some really nice ratings by putting together some shows analyzing those boards, which of course the league could require teams to provide in order to have another revenue source. But since I don't think the league is going to fall for my blatant attempt to appeal to their greed fiscal acumen, I can only use outside sources in an attempt to see if Dallas was over or undervaluing its eventual draft picks.

I found five of the more widely referenced draft boards. I only looked for boards that went to at least 250 players, which limits the field somewhat. Many of the widely known analysts only put out boards with the top 100 or so players. I wanted to be able to look at how a board considered the entire Dallas slate of choices. Four of them had a numerical ranking of all the players, and one just had the players graded by projected round.

Player Actual draft position Drafttek CBS Draft Countdown Sporting News Walter Football
Travis Frederick 1-31 57 53 55 82 2-3
Gavin Escobar 2-47 89 89 62 162 2-3
Terrance Williams 3-74 65 73 53 80 3-4
J.J. Wilcox 3-80 136 97 100 NR 3-4
B.W. Webb 4-114 94 128 95 90 2-4
Joseph Randle 5-151 148 127 150 94 4-6
DeVonte Holloman 6-185 119 137 NR 97 6-FA

You can see why so many people called both Frederick and Escobar reaches. Both were taken at least a round ahead of where most of the various analysts saw them slotting. After that, things got a good deal better, with four of the last five picks fitting in nicely with expectations.

I tried to come up with a rough estimate of how over or undervalued the players were. Walter Football was not useful in this, since they had two or three round spreads on all the players involved. They did agree with the Dallas staff on all but Frederick. Using the other rankings, and giving a value of 251 to the two NR players, I came with an average slot for each, which shows what each player was seen as being worth versus what the Cowboys "spent" for them.

Frederick was 31 spots less valuable than the Cowboys "paid" to get him, Escobar 54, and Wilcox a somewhat disappointing 66. However, Williams was 6 spots better, Webb was 12, Randle was 21, and Holloman was 34.

Clearly, Dallas is taking all the heat over the first two picks, which certainly appear to be reaches from the outside. They were, in a sense, picks made for need. Everyone agrees that the Cowboys had to do something about the interior line, and Escobar is a key part of the new direction that Dallas is planning on going with the offense. But after that, the picks were very solid, and Randle and Holloman appear to be very good value.

This fits the narrative that has emerged since the draft ended, with Escobar and especially Frederick being GM/coach driven picks, and the scouts driving the train from Williams on and trying to find maximum benefit. Wilcox looks like a possible miss if the outside "experts" are right, or represents a great find if the scouting department hit on him.

None of this will really matter in a year or two, when we will be judging the draft on much more objective grounds. But it does show where some of the opinion about how Dallas drafted this year is coming from.