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Cowboys 2015 Draft: Dez Bryant, Franchise Tag & What Two 1st-Round Draft Picks Are Worth

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A look back at previous teams that had multiple first-round draft picks and what that meant for their teams.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the recent news that Dallas might tag Dez Bryant with the non-exclusive franchise tag, a lot of talk has gone on about what Dallas could do with two first-round picks. Two! Why with that treasure trove Dallas can replace Dez and get a top-notch defensive lineman. Or another offensive lineman. Or our future quarterback. The possibilities are endless.

There's only one small problem with that line of thought. While the potential of what Dallas can do with two draft picks is intoxicating, it is just that, potential. The draft is a gamble, and Dez is a proven commodity. What should the Cowboys do? To get a better understanding of the issue, let's look back on history. I've gone back to 2000 and looked at every teams draft where they had two first-round draft picks, (not including drafts they bundled picks to trade up). To understand just how two-first round picks can affect a team I looked at two areas.

First the actual players drafted. To get a sense of the talent level a team acquired I looked at two things; Pro Bowl and All Pro nominations, (only for the years the player was with the team that drafted him).

Second, how did those players actually help the team? To measure this I looked at the team winning percentage over a five year window, as well as the actual number of winning seasons during that frame.

The Data

Arizona Cardinals:

2003- Bryant Johnson (17), Calvin Pace (18).

Five-Year Record (2003-2007):  28 - 52 (.275%).  No winning seasons.

Atlanta Falcons:

2004- DeAngelo Hall (8) Two Pro Bowls.  Michael Jenkins (29).

Five-Year Record (2004-2008):  41 - 39 (.513%). Two winning seasons.

2008- Matt Ryan (3) Three Pro Bowls.  Sam Baker (21).

Five-Year Record (2008-2012): 56 - 24 (.700%). Five winning seasons.

Baltimore Ravens:

2003- Terrell Suggs (10), Six Pro Bowls, One All Pro. Kyle Boller (19).

Five-Year Record (2003-2007): 43 - 37 (.538%).  Three winning seasons.

Buffalo Bills:

2004- Lee Evans (13), J.P. Losman (22).

Five-Year Record (2004-2008): 35 - 45 (.438%). One winning season.

2006- Donte Whitner (8), John McCargo (26).

Five-Year Record (2006-2010): 31 - 49 (.388%). No winning seasons.

2009- Aaron Maybin (11), Eric Wood (28).

Five-Year Record (2009-2013): 28 - 52 (.350%). No winning seasons.

Carolina Panthers:

2008- Jonathan Stewart (13), Jeff Otah (19),

Five-Year Record (2008-2012): 35 - 45 (.438%). One winning season.

Chicago Bears:

2003- Michael Haynes (14), Rex Grossman (22).

Five-Year Record (2003-2007): 43 - 37 (.538%). Two winning seasons.

Cleveland Browns:

2007- Joe Thomas (3), Eight Pro Bowls, Five All Pros. Brady Quinn (22).

Five-Year Record (2007-2011): 28 - 52 (.350%). One winning season.

Dallas Cowboys:

2005- DeMarcus Ware (11), Eight Pro Bowls, Four All Pros. Marcus Spears (20).

Five-Year Record (2005-2009): 51 - 29 (.637%). Five winning seasons.

2008- Felix Jones (22), Mike Jenkins (25), one Pro Bowl.

Five-Year Record (2008-2012): 42 - 38 (.525%). Two winning seasons.

Denver Broncos:

2009- Knowshon Moreno (12), Robert Ayers (18).

Five-Year Record (2009-2013): 46 - 34 (.575%). Two winning seasons.

2010- Demaryious Thomas (22), three Pro Bowls. Tim Tebow (25).

Five-Year Record (2010-2014): 50 - 30 (.625). Three winning seasons.

Detroit Lions:

2004- Roy Williams (7), one Pro Bowl. Kevin Jones (30).

Five-Year Record (2004-2008): 21 - 59 (.263). No winning seasons.

2010- Ndamukong Suh (2), Four Pro Bowls, Three All-Pros. Jahvid Best (30).

Five-Year Record (2010-2014): 38 - 42 (.475). Two winning seasons.

Green Bay Packers:

2009- B.J. Raji (9) One Pro Bowl. Clay Mathews (26), five Pro-Bowls, One All Pro.

Five-Year Record (2009-2013):  55 - 25 (.688). Four winning seasons.

Houston Texans:

2004- Dunta Robinson (10), Jason Babin (27).

Five-Year Record (2004-2008): 32 - 48 (.400). No winning seasons.

Kansas City Chiefs:

2008- Glenn Dorsey (5), Branden Albert (15), One Pro-Bowl.

Five-Year Record (2008-2012): 25 - 55 (.313). One winning season.

Minnesota Vikings:

2005- Troy Williamson (7), Erasmus James (18).

Five-Year Record (2005-2009): 45 - 35 (.563). Three winning seasons.

New England Patriots:

2004- Vince Wilfork (21), Five Pro Bowls, One All-Pro. Benjamin Watson.

Five-Year Record (2004-2008): 63 - 17 (.788). Five winning seasons.

New Orleans Saints:

2002- Donte Stallworth (13), Charles Grant (25).

Five-Year Record (2002-2006): 36 - 44 (.450). Two winning seasons.

New York Jets:

2000- Shaun Ellis (12), two Pro Bowls, John Abraham (13), Five Pro Bowls, Two All Pros. Chad Pennington (18), Anthony Becht (27).

Five-Year Record (2000-2004): 44 - 36 (.550). Four winning seasons.

2006- D'Brickashaw Ferguson (4), Three Pro Bowls. Nick Mangold, (29), Six Pro Bowls, Two All Pros.

Five-Year Record (2006-2010): 43 - 37 (.538). Four winning seasons.

2008- Vernon Gholston (6). Dustin Keller (30).

Five-Year Record (2008-2012): 43 - 37 (.538). Three winning seasons.

Oakland Raiders:.

2002- Phillip Buchanon (17), Napoleon Harris (23).

Five-Year Record (2002-2006): 26 - 54 (.325). One winning season

2003- Nnamdi Asomugha (31), Three Pro Bowls, Two All Pros. Tyler Brayton (32).

Five-Year Record (2003-2007): 19 - 61 (.238). No winning seasons.

San Deigo Chargers:

2005- Shawne Merriman (12), Three Pro Bowls, One All Pro. Luis Castillo (28).

Five-Year Record (2005-2009): 55 - 25 (.688). Four winning seasons.

San Francisco 49ers:

2000- Julian Peterson (16), Two Pro Bowls, One All Pro. Ahmed Plummer (24).

Five-Year Record (2000-2004): 37 - 43 (.463). Two winning seasons.

2006- Vernon Davis (6), Two Pro Bowls. Manny Lawson (22).

Five-Year Record (2006-2010): 32 - 48 (.400). No winning seasons.

2007- Patrick Willis (11), Seven Pro Bowls, Five All Pros. Joe Staley (28), Four Pro Bowls.

Five-Year Record (2007-2011): 39 - 41 (.486). One winning season.

2010- Anthony Davis (7), Mike Iupati (17), Three Pro Bowls, One All Pro.

Five-Year Record (2010-2014): 50 - 30 (.625). Three winning seasons.

Seattle Seahawks:

2000- Shaun Alexander (19), Three Pro Bowls, One All Pro. Chris McIntosh (22).

Five-Year Record (2000-2004): 41 - 39 (.513). Three winning seasons.

2001- Koren Robinson (9), Steve Hutchinson (17), Seven Pro Bowls, Five All Pros.

Five-Year Record (2001-2005): 48 - 32 (.600). Four winning seasons.

2010- Russell Okung (6), One Pro Bowl. Earl Thomas (14), Four Pro Bowls, Three All Pros.

Five-Year Record (2010-2014): 50 - 30 (.625). Three winning seasons.

St. Louis Rams:

2001- Damione Lewis (12), Adam Archuleta (20), Ryan Pickett (29).

Five-Year Record (2001-2005): 47 - 33 (.588). Two winning seasons.

Washington Redskins:

2000- LaVar Arrington (2), Three Pro Bowls. Chris Samuels (3), Six Pro Bowls.

Five-Year Record (2000-2004): 34 - 46 (.425). No winning seasons.

2005- Carlos Rogers (9), Jason Campbell (25).

Five-Year Record (2005-2009): 36 - 44 (.450). Two winning seasons.

Aggregate Data:

Total number of five-year windows looked at: 38

Average win percentage of five-year windows: .497 or 7.95 wins.

Total seasons looked at: 190

Total winning seasons:  80

Players Drafted: 79

Total Pro Bowls: 112

Pro Bowls Per Player: 1.42

Total All-Pros:  38

All-Pros Per Player:  0.48

What It All Means:

That having two first-round picks in the same draft doesn't correlate with either winning or finding star players. Teams who picked two players in round one averaged slightly less than an 8-8 record over the five years following the pick. Furthermore, those teams generally didn't land top talent. The 79 players drafted averaged only 1.42 pro-bowls for the team that drafted them.

Now that doesn't mean that their aren't reasons to consider trading Dez for two first-round picks. It's just it has nothing to do with the actual draft picks, and everything to do with the salary cap. History shows you're probably not going to equal Dez's talent with your two first-round picks, but can you better allocate his salary somewhere else? That's the real question that Dallas is facing.

This gets to the crux of the problem. For years Dallas had a "stars and scrubs" label, with some blue-chip talent that hid their lack of depth. Many people point to signing Dez to a big contract as a return to that model. People point to the success of teams such as Seattle and New England as proof that you don't have to pay skill players big money to win.

Which is...not necessarily true. It means Seattle and New England didn't have to pay big money to skill players to win. But can you replicate that model elsewhere? Seattle has managed to put together one of the all-time great defenses with low-round draft picks and cheap free agents, and New England is led by one of the greatest coach/QB combinations in football history. I don't know if either of those models is actually "scalable".

No one wants to return to the stars and scrubs model. But that doesn't mean that you can't pay your talent either. There is a middle ground somewhere, and that is the route I hope Dallas is looking for. Because to be consistently successful you do need top talent. You need continuity and chemistry. Dallas shouldn't be all flash and no substance. But they also shouldn't be penny wise and pound foolish.