In a joint project, ESPN and Pro Football Focus analyzed how many elite and above average players the 28 teams that participated in the conference championship games from 2007 to 2013 had on their rosters. What they found was that these teams had an average of 40% of their rosters that met this criteria. They then looked at the current rosters of the 30 teams who did not make it to this year's Super Bowl to figure out how many players each roster was short of the 40% benchmark to rank order them from best to worst . When all was said and done, only one team that didn't make it had the talent level to have been in the mix with the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
That one team is the Dallas Cowboys.
Every other team falls at least two short of the target, with the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles bunched together at that level. Washington and Jacksonville brought up the rear, falling 13 players short of the 40%.
As is typical, PFF does not get into its methodology, but our own illustrious OCC, as usual, was ahead of the game on this and already did a post detailing how the Cowboys roster breaks out according to PFF's grades. Based on his post, it appears that PFF used a cutoff of being in the top 50% of grades for each position, giving the Cowboys 23 players, or 43% of the final 2014 roster, that met their criteria.
This is more evidence of the success of Jason Garrett's and the front office's makeover of the entire roster. It also speaks to the youth movement that has become part of the overall strategy the team is using. If Dallas can continue its recent success in acquiring talent through the draft and being judicious in free agency, then the team should be poised to continue the success they experienced in 2014 into the future.
However, the Cowboys face a multitude of roster decisions now. It appears very likely that some of the highly-ranked players from the past season will be lost in free agency. The often cited process has to continue, and as the saying goes, past performance is no guarantee of continued success. But the foundation is solid, no more so than on the offensive line where Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin all were either first- or second-team on the AP All Pro team. They are joined by Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray. While Murray's retention is in doubt, Romo is locked up forever, and you can be sure Bryant is not going anywhere.
The work never ends in building and maintaining an NFL roster, but for 2014, the Cowboys were right at the top of the league in the quality of the players they put on the field when you look across the board. This bodes very well for the coming years. We will be watching how free agency and the draft play out. It should be an exciting offseason, so make sure you stay tuned here for all the latest developments as the Cowboys prepare for the next campaign.