The long wait is finally over; it's NFL Draft Week.
We've covered just about everything and are now in the final throes of the build-up. Between Thursday and Saturday nights, all 32 teams will have exhausted their asset collection resources known as draft picks, and also brought into the fold those that escaped the last round with some modicum of professional freedom known as undrafted free agency.
For the Cowboys, there is still plenty of mystery; but some of the curtain has been pulled back on the process over recent years. Due to all of our various levels of obsession, we've gotten to the point where we've spotted more than a few trends in the way this team of ours functions. Some of the things we've picked up are now well-known; others are still a bit under the radar. We'll cover them all here so that you can start to sketch out in your mind what Dallas will be trying to accomplish this weekend.
Additionally, I wanted to take a look at a bit of positional history for the Cowboys over the last ten years. National Football Post ran an article looking at the draft history of NFL teams over that period. Looking at aggregate data in three major categories, Offense/Defense Splits, Player Positions, and Source of Draftees, they highlighted where certain teams trend heavy or light. They reported on the extremes for each category and occasionally, Dallas' profile arose.
· Only four teams (Bears, Cowboys, Saints, Texans) did not draft a QB in the first three rounds during the 10-year study period
· The Broncos drafted three QBs in the first three rounds and seven overall- Their apparent strategy is to draft a QB in most years
• The Cowboys and Jaguars each drafted only one QB in the last 10 years
Think about that for a second. The only team in the above group that has an "elite" QB is New Orleans. Even the teams with All-Pro and even Hall-of-Fame signal callers are spending resources on the quarterback position. But not Dallas, team led by a signal-caller with two back surgeries in the last calendar year. Still, many fans still thinks they should ignore the need another season. Le Sigh.
· The Ravens drafted significantly more linebackers (19) than any other NFL team- 13 of those were selected in the final four rounds
· The Chargers, Cowboys and Steelers drafted the most linebackers in first three rounds with seven each- The Bears, Browns, Dolphins and Vikings had the fewest with two each
• The Chiefs and the Jets drafted the fewest LBs overall with six each
Yes, the Cowboys have an affinity for the linebacking position; and they still only have an oft-injured Sean Lee to show for this "dedication" (though Bradie James was more than serviceable). Dallas finds itself still with a question mark next to Bruce Carter's name. To be fair, the count does include two edge rushers (DeMarcus Ware, Kevin Burnett, Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Spencer, Jason Williams, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter) but is countered by the fact that in a 3-4, there are only two "true" linebacker spots.
The categories where Dallas wasn't singled out also gives some insight into the team's thinking by way of omission. Dallas did not show up as an extreme case in any other positional category, and also avoided being typecast when it came to Offense/Defense Split and Source Drafting. Separated by the early rounds (1-3) and the late rounds (4-7) Dallas didn't heavily lean one way or another in the amount of picks spent on offensive or defensive prospects. Also, they didn't take any more of a low risk/high reward stance (high percentage of smaller school picks) than many Cowboys fans may have thought.
Of course, it's still all a crapshoot. Outrageous talent available can quickly supersede any of these trends at any point in the draft. However, don't be surprised if a lot of these rules start to come together as the draft class is being shaped for the Dallas Cowboys.
SB Nation Draft Show for Thursday's first round, BTB will participate at roughly 11:20 PM EST.