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Cowboys 2016 Draft: The Case Against Drafting A Quarterback At Pick #4

Two writers definitively define the case against drafting a quarterback at the fourth-overall pick.

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Will they or won't they? That question has been a hot debate for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason in the context of selecting a quarterback with the fourth-overall pick in the draft. There are solid cases to be made on both sides of the debate, today we'll look at the work of two writers who are firmly in the "don't do it" camp. Of course, that argument carries the caveat that if the scouts and the front office are totally convinced that Carson Wentz or Jared Goff is the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady then you have to pull the trigger. Otherwise, the debate is open.

For contrast, let's briefly define the "do it" camp's arguments. Tony Romo is getting older and hasn't played a 16-game season fully since 2012. He's had back issues and is coming off collarbone surgery, an injury that has been an issue twice in his career. The Cowboys are terrible when Romo doesn't play and they don't have a quality backup on the roster. And, if all goes well, the Cowboys will not be drafting this high again anytime soon. All of that says pull the trigger now.

Now the case against. First up is Mike Renner from Pro Football Focus. His argument is based on the idea that the Cowboys are a good team and could be a great team by filling some holes in the draft, and using the number four pick on a what would be a backup quarterback for the foreseeable future is a waste of resources.

The crux of the issue here is that the Cowboys are too good to draft a quarterback right now. This is a roster with the same building blocks (minus DeMarco Murray) from the 2014 team that went 12-4, and now they have a healthy Sean Lee and a budding star in defensive back Byron Jones. At the same time, there are still some glaring holes. Morris Claiborne (38.5 overall grade in 2015) and Brandon Carr (54.7) are both below-average corners on the outside. Tyrone Crawford took a step back a season ago, and new addition Cedric Thornton is their only defensive tackle to grade above 70.0 last season. On offense, even with the addition of Alfred Morris (69.7), they still desperately need a dynamic running back to return the rushing game to its 2014-level. The fourth-overall pick could easily be used to plug one of those holes right away.

If they do draft a quarterback and pass on a guy like Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, or DeForest Buckner, who could all be impact players from day one and fit seamlessly into Dallas' scheme, their roster, quite frankly, won't be as talented over the next few seasons. Is that worth the gamble of maybe drafting of the QB of the future?

Renner is of the belief that the Cowboys have a three-year window with Tony Romo and they must invest in that to make a Super Bowl run.

The second writer, Bill Barnwell at ESPN, ventures into deeper waters as he not only looks at building the roster, but calculates the cost of keeping a high-pick quarterback on the roster only to sit behind Romo.

If your rookie quarterback is sitting behind Romo for two years, you're losing the first two years of that valuable market inefficiency while paying the $5.5 million market value for a backup quarterback. Instead, the Cowboys would really get only two years of below-market salaries and a fifth-year option for 2020, which will be in excess of $20 million by the time we get there.

A successful top-five rookie quarterback who enters the lineup from day one and produces at the league average generates something like $56 million in marginal value over his rookie contract, given that he makes an average of $6 million or so over his first four years and would probably be worth something like $20 million per year for those same deals on the free market. When you consider that years 1, 2, and 5 of a potential rookie deal for Wentz or Goff with the Cowboys probably would be at about market value, the Cowboys could only really expect to get about $28 million of marginal value by taking a quarterback fourth. The numbers here oversimplify the story, but the concept is the same -- Dallas just isn't going to get what a typical team would get out of taking a QB high in the first round.

Beyond that, Barnwell also believes the Cowboys would be better off drafting an impact player who can play now, and lists out the positions we've all discussed that are deficiencies on the roster - defensive line, cornerback, running back, wide receiver (seems Terrence Williams stock has fallen dramatically in many observer's eyes), or - most everybody's favorite - trade down for more picks. He even mentions the idea of the Cowboys interest in quarterbacks being a driver for getting a trade so they can move down, as our own Duckman mentioned this morning.

Admittedly, I'm in the "don't do it camp" for two reasons. I'm not 100% sold on Goff or Wentz, so I'm reluctant to take the gamble. I'd rather get a developmental quarterback later in the draft. And two, the Cowboys can get a heck of a player at pick number four who can help now. I believe Dallas' roster is talented enough that with a few tweaks, it can contend for the playoffs and a championship - as long as Romo stays healthy. Maybe I'm delusional, but that's where I'm at. And if Romo isn't healthy, I don't think having Goff or Wentz is going to make a big difference in the next year or two.

But that's just me. As always, we open up the discussion to everyone.

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