The draft is always an exciting time for us fans because we see an influx of new players with great potential. A new rookie class and a new free agent class always brings the promise of an improved team performance that could see the team make the playoffs and see the veterans receive individual accolades and post-season honors.
For others, the new players are an immediate threat to their job security. Here's who I think the biggest losers from draft weekend are.
Imagine you're Darren McFadden. You're just coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season; you're under contract for a relatively moderate $2.1 million for 2016; you're happy to be the number one guy on an offense once more.
Then your team goes out an re-signs Lance Dunbar, a guy with an ACL injury who's going to miss at least the first six games of the season on PUP, to a $1.75 million contract. Dunbar is going to make more per game than you? That's a slap in the face right there.
A few days later, your team goes out and signs Alfred Morris, a guy who's had three 1,000-yard seasons to your two (but in half the time) and who's been to two Pro Bowls to your zero.
Shortly after signing Morris, your team owner then gives press conference in which he announces that you'll be the starter in 2016 and that you'll "get bulk of carries with Alfred Morris helping ease load". You drink a Mellow Yellow and are completely calm again. Then they go out and draft not one but two running backs in the draft, one of them with the fourth-overall pick.
Slap, slap, slap.
Well, at least your 2016 salary becomes guaranteed after the first game of the season. Unless they trade you to the Dolphins ...
On the first day of the draft, Leary signed his tender with the Cowboys in the hopes of facilitating a trade that would land him a starting spot somewhere. But the Cowboys didn't manage any trade during the draft, so Leary is stuck in Dallas as a top reserve. He'll be paid $2.553 million after he was tendered at the second-round level, so that's better than what he got before, but he'll still be riding the pine.
The 2016 Defense
Most Cowboys would have been happy if the Cowboys had picked three straight defenders at the top of the draft. Prior to the draft, Jeff Dooley of the Washington Post even suggested that the Cowboys would dominate the draft if they took three consecutive defenders at the top of the draft. His proposal: 1. Jalen Ramsey, 2. Emmanuel Ogbah, 3. Sheldon Day.
And while the Cowboys did take a defensive tackle in the third, they also picked a linebacker who won't play in 2016, and a running back who doesn't play defense. I'm sure you can argue in a roundabout way how Ezekiel Elliott can help the defense, but the bigger point here is that the Cowboys are a team that defines itself by its offense, not by its defense, as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News explains:
The Cowboys don't ignore defense. They simply don't place a premium on acquiring blue chip talent on that side of the ball the way they do offensively.
This isn't an indictment. Every team in the league operates with an offensive or defensive bent. The goal is to excel on one side, establish an identity and make sure the other side doesn't drag you down. It can become a partner in victory, but is rarely an equal partner.
In the Cowboys world view, Elliott is more significant than Ramsey. It's about offense first. It's part of their DNA.
Inevitably upon reading this, you might feel the need to point out that "defense wins championships."
When it comes to winning championships – or winning in general, for that matter – defense and offense carry uncannily similar weight. Among the 49 NFL Super Bowls, the better defensive team, measured by points allowed that season, has won 30 times. The better offensive team has won 25 times. It’s a slight edge to defense, but it’s a pretty close call, and not different from random chance. The Super Bowl champ has been a top-five defensive team during the regular season on 31 occasions. How many times was the Super Bowl champ ranked among the top five in offense? 27. Damn near even.
But we’re talking about only 49 games, so let’s broaden the sample size. There have been 462 NFL playoff games held over the last 49 seasons. The better defensive teams have won 58 percent of the time. The better offensive teams have won 62 percent of the time. Slight edge to the offense, but, again, pretty even. (Sometimes the winning team is better both offensively and defensively, which explains why the total exceeds 100 percent.)
Be that as it may, it's not like the defense is devoid of talent. The Cowboys have three former first-round picks on defense (Byron Jones, Morris Claiborne, and Rolando McClain) and a quartet of second-rounders in Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and now Jaylon Smith. It's just that they didn't add additional defensive talent in the first or second round that will help them this year.
The 2016 Cowboys defense may still be better this year than last, but it'll not be because they added blue-chip talent. And given that expectations were high for exactly that to happen, the draft had to have been a little disappointing for defensive-minded fans.
Barry Church & J.J. Wilcox
The Cowboys tried very hard in free agency to land Eric Weddle, but ultimately lost out to Baltimore because the Ravens upped their offer one last time (to four years, $26 million) and the Cowboys were unwilling to follow. Not exactly a vote of confidence in the Cowboys' safety duo.
The Cowboys then flirted with Jalen Ramsey for a long time, before deciding to pick Ezekiel Elliot. Again, not a ringing endorsement for the incumbent safeties.
And on the same night the Cowboys passed on Ramsey, Jerry Jones announced that Byron Jones would now move to free safety permanently. Two days later the Cowboys drafted a safety in Kavon Frazier who had frequently been compared to Barry Church.
Both Church and Wilcox are entering the final year of their contract, and the combination of these moves suggests the Cowboys are preparing for a future without one or maybe even both of them. Church is a team captain and a locker room leader, and suggestions the Cowboys would release him outright simply to generate some cap relief border on the ridiculous. But neither Church nor now-reserve safety Wilcox can be feeling particularly good about their future in Dallas right now.
The poor guy had the chance to be drafted by the Cowboys, and the world would have been his oyster. Instead, he's off to Jacksonville where he'll be a good corner (or is he a safety after all?) on a bad team, and nobody will be talking about him in six months.
Who would you add as losers of draft weekend?