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Cowboys 2016 Draft: An "Educated" Look at Dallas Trade Scenarios

Most teams use the Jimmy Johnson draft chart, and OCC has given us his annual reminder that said chart is alive and well. But Dallas Director of Player Personnel, Stephen Jones, is on record as saying that the Dallas Cowboys no longer use the Johnson Valuation. So what do possible trade scenarios look like through an Ivy League Lens?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A few years ago Dallas traded up to get a cornerback in the draft. Many people who watched the trade thought Dallas underpaid -- not because they were incorrectly predicting that Michael Brockers and Bobby Wagner wouldn't be better than Morris Claiborne, but because they were valuing the picks using Jimmy Johnson's famous draft value chart. The very next year, Dallas traded back with the San Francisco 49ers and there were loud cries that Dallas got "taken" according to the Johnson chart. At that time, Stephen Jones indicated that there were different trade value charts out there. Chances are that Dallas uses a chart based on average approximate value for the draft pick such as the Harvard Sports Analysis Draft Chart. My personal hypothesis is that Dallas uses that type of chart with a 20-30% premium paid by the team trading up, since they are getting a specific guy instead of just a pick (unless you are the Philadelphia Eagles and so desperate to take a quarterback that you will take the scraps from the Los Angeles Rams' table).

As evidence, I offer the valuation received by each team in the last three Dallas trades based on the Harvard Chart (with a 20% premium added by the team trading up) versus the conventional Johnson chart:

Trade Dallas - Harvard Partner - Harvard Dallas - Johnson Partner - Johnson Winner - Harvard Winner - Johnson
Claiborne 410.4 424.8 1600 1550 St. Louis Dallas
Frederick 315.5 299.0 790 900 Dallas San Francisco
Lawrence 208.0 265.7 560 630 Washington Washington

For the Harvard Values, whichever team traded down gets a 20% bonus added to their value for comparison purposes. Now, in the DeMarcus Lawrence trade, Dallas admitted they were overpaying because of need, so it should be no surprise that they "lost" that trade by both standards. But I think all would agree that the results of the other two trades more closely match the Harvard valuation than the Johnson one. Surely everyone agrees that the value of picks 14 and 45 (Michael Brockers and Alshon Jeffery) was greater than the value of pick six (Claiborne)? And I am fairly sure that Dallas fans wouldn't give the Beard up for anyone. On more concrete grounds, Travis Frederick alone has been to more Pro Bowls and has a higher approximate value than Eric Reid, before we even add in the value (however limited you may believe it to be) of J. J. Wilcox's multiple starts at safety. As a Cowboy fan, I believe this valuation leads to wiser trades (when followed).

So with that in mind, what does this mean for pick four? Some possible scenarios:

The Tunsil Turnaround

What if the guy who was supposed to go first in the draft is sitting there at pick four? San Diego could pick Jalen Ramsey.  Dallas doesn't need a left tackle, but many other teams do. What if Tennessee could trade back up, get the guy they were supposed to take originally, and still come out draft picks ahead? With the 20% trade up premium, Dallas has 452.3 points of draft capital with pick four. For Tennessee to match that they could offer 15 and 33 (a little low at 439.9) or pick 15, 45, and 222 (a little high at 459.6). If I'm Dallas I might rather have pick 33 anyhow with a plethora of nice players likely to be available there at the top of the second round. If I'm Tennessee, I might prefer to get my number one overall player for a seventh-rounder and only one of the multiple picks I got for my original spot, and not even the best of those. It'd be an interesting negotiation. The Johnson chart would require Tennessee to give up 15, 43, and 67; or 15, 33, and 76, which would be too rich for me if I were them. Perhaps dangling what they would normally pay 15, 33, and 76 for in front of them at the low, low price of just 15 and 33 would entice them.

ZOMG, Zeke!

Maybe there's a team out there who wants Ezekiel Elliot more than Dallas does. I've yet to see anyone mock Elliot to the 49ers (I have admittedly not looked very hard) but it seems like everyone has forgotten the lengths Chip Kelly went to in order to get premier running backs on his team. Carlos Hyde is pretty good, but had durability issues last year. What if Kelly feels like he can talk Dallas out of a presumed need with some of the 12 picks his team has? With the Johnson chart this would be something like 7, 68, and 105. Once again the Harvard chart allows Dallas to undercut the market and offer the trade at pick four for picks 7 and 68. The 49ers feel like they got to keep a high fourth-rounder  and get their man. Dallas gets a top ten pick and an extra third-rounder -- not unlike 2013 except for only having to move back three spots.

The Truther's Tripwire

Everyone presumes they know how the top three QBs in this class are ranked. But there's actually a lot of dissent on this and presumably this extends to the teams themselves. As much as I enjoyed ripping on the Eagles above, their trade only makes sense if they have a guy in mind and they know he won't be the Rams' pick. So, what if Dallas's top rated QB, the guy they'd hand the keys to the franchise if they could, gets past the first two picks. What would they offer San Diego to bump up and make sure no one else trades up and snatches the next franchise quarterback from their waiting grasp? I'd have a deal in place with San Diego in principle before the draft. "If QB X is available at 3, we'll give you..."

This is where the Harvard Chart could really help Dallas. You see pick four is a weird pick on the Johnson table. Pick four to pick three is 400 points, but pick four to five is only 100 points. It's at a knee in the curve -- a bad place to be. Dallas would have to offer pick 4, 67, 101, 135, 212, and pick 217. Prohibitive to say the least. But using the Harvard Chart Dallas would hold out for a much smaller trade: 4, 135, and 217. While another team might offer substantially more to jump up and get the QB of the future to be sure, holding to the Harvard Valuation could keep Dallas from mortgaging the future of the team in order to get one shiny piece. San Diego stands to do nothing but win in this situation, gaining two draft picks while keeping the same player choice they would have otherwise had, and Dallas gets their chosen Romo successor.

Of course, what will actually happen? Your mileage may vary, to say the least.

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