For this week’s mock, we’re going to try something a little different. One of the more important indicators for how the Cowboys’ have drafted has been their use of the SPARQ metrics. If you’re not familiar with SPARQ, our resident SPARQ-master is here to help you out:
O.C.C. says: The idea behind SPARQ was to have a single composite number that would allow you to quickly assess the athleticism of a player with a single number.
Many elite athletes in the various college programs find that once they enter the NFL, their previously elite skill set is - at best - par for the course on an NFL team. As a matter of principle, NFL players are bigger, faster, stronger, and more talented than college players.
Which is why NFL teams are obsessed with athleticism over almost anything else, and which is why we as fans pore over 40-yard dash times and short shuttle times so much. You can teach most players to recognize when a defense is in man or zone, but you cannot teach a player to outrun a faster opponent.”
You can find an in-detail explanation of how SPARQ works right here as OCC has outlined.
Also, here’s the straightforward information from Zach Whitman of 3sigmaathlete.com:
What’s the use of SPARQ? What we see often in pre-draft analysis is an over-emphasis on the forty-yard dash, for which there are two main reasons: (1) speed is important, and (2) we’re familiar with the common forty benchmarks. A 4.4s 40 is fast and sounds good, and there’s an inherent understanding of what it means. The problem is that the forty-yard time isn’t fully indicative of a player’s overall athleticism. Most people don’t know off-hand what a good broad jump is for a wide receiver, and even fewer are aware of what they should expect from a defensive end. SPARQ is a way to standardize these different parameters and gain a more circumspect view of a player’s natural ability. [...]
SPARQ isn’t perfect. Player test results have error and, even if they were perfect, don’t fully represent the ability of an athlete. The goal here isn’t to build an airplane. SPARQ is just a method by which we can better understand players, and it’s important to not let perfect be the enemy of good.
It's proven true as lots of guys from Dak Prescott and Kavon Frazier to Byron Jones and Mark Nzeocha have stood out among the top SPARQ athletes to be drafted in Dallas. As O.C.C. opined, it’s not a perfect method but it’s something teams have started to put more stock in. Most notably, the Cowboys and Seahawks have become a bit more known for it.
So, for this exercise, we’re going to create a mock for the Cowboys as SPARQling as we can and as always, we’ll let you all be the judge.
Pick 28: The Dallas Cowboys select CB, Fabian Moreau, UCLA (CBS: 27th, DraftTek: 96th, SPARQ: 2nd CB)
Moreau is a guy that has been climbing the draft ladder for quite a few weeks now. His measurable were already pretty good but he cemented himself as one of the most athletic defensive backs in this draft. His SPARQ score of 140.8 and NFL% of 98.7 makes him the second-highest rated cornerback in this year’s class.
He’s been a steady corner who has shown improvement in his time as a Bruin. Perhaps his best trait outside his size and speed combination is the fact that he’s a very reliable open-field tackler. It’s not every day that you find a corner who has a blend of everything. The Island of Dr. Moreau shirts will be selling out immediately.
Pick 60: The Dallas Cowboys select DE, Jordan Willis, Kansas State (CBS: 76th, DraftTek: 72nd, SPARQ: 2nd Edge)
Here is another tough, competitive football player that has been making his steady rise up the charts. Whether it was his standout two-sack, two forced fumble performance at the Senior Bowl or his fantastic follow-up at the Combine; it’s time to notice this young man.
He’s got length, speed, agility, power and bend in a draft class that did not test very well in Indianapolis. The Cowboys want explosive athletes in their stable of rushmen and there’s not too many outside of Myles Garrett that is better than Willis. “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?” How about a star on that helmet, that’s what we’re talking about.
Pick 92: The Dallas Cowboys select DE, Derek Rivers, Youngstown State (CBS: 84th, DraftTek: 145th, SPARQ: 7th Edge)
We’re going back-to-back pass rushers here because it’s a thought that should be considered. Sure, the Cowboys could have gone with a safety in the second round but methinks strong safety can be found later. Rivers is another standout athletic specimen who tested fairly highly in SPARQ metrics. His SPARQ score of 130.9 and NFL% of 80.1 confirm what a lot of draft enthusiasts have been talking about.
Here is another guy with bend and speed off the edge, those are perhaps the two most coveted traits for Rod Marinelli. Dallas can’t rely on their current edge rushers to produce or remain healthy, it’s a cruel world but that’s nature of the beast. Speaking of beast, Rivers most certainly can be one for the Cowboys under the right tutelage.
Pick 133: The Dallas Cowboys select S, John Johnson, Boston College (CBS: 168th, DraftTek: 267th, SPARQ: 3rd Safety)
A very versatile athlete, some teams may view Johnson as more of a free safety due to his success playing high. Still, Johnson shows the ability to play in the box and is a reliable tackler. He’s not the physical hitter that J.J. Wilcox was but neither was Barry Church. Johnson is not quite as stellar an athlete as some of the guys on this list but he’s still above average for the NFL.
His SPARQ score 119.2 and NFL% of 54.8 puts him as the third-highest ranking safety in terms of athleticism for the position. The Cowboys could pair him with the already very athletic Byron Jones and have a solid tandem working in the back.
Pick 211: The Dallas Cowboys select WR, Michael Rector, Stanford (CBS: 245th, DraftTek: 368th, SPARQ: 5th WR)
After re-signing their own receivers, the Cowboys may not be looking in the top of the draft for another wide out. However, Rector is a late gem to keep an eye out for as he has top-end speed that is needed on 32 rosters. His SPARQ numbers are outstanding for a guy who could go undrafted, his score is 126.7 and NFL% is 83.2. Rector has decent hands and explosiveness to run right past the defender. He’s got good size over six feet and just about 200 pounds.
His knock is that he doesn’t show much elusiveness after the catch but if he’s faster than most, does it matter all that much. Of course, it does but the Cowboys have a pretty solid receiving coach that could work with him on some things. Two things are certain, the light is on, and Rector can be wrecking shop on defensive backs with a little good coaching.
Pick 228: The Dallas Cowboys select RB, Christopher Carson, Oklahoma State (CBS: 265th, DraftTek: 348th, SPARQ: 3rd RB)
Dallas re-signed Darren McFadden and still have Alfred Morris on the roster. Though that looks like a good tandem, the two behind Zeke are long in the tooth. There is little doubt that the Cowboys want to get a bit younger at the position. They also would probably admit that letting Darius Jackson go was a potential mistake.
Carson is supremely athletic just like Jackson was when he was selected a season ago. He was invited to the Combine and did very well there too. Though his 40-time was a 4.58, he posted an incredible broad jump and was electric in the positional drills. His SPARQ score is 128.9 and his NFL% is 73 ranking him third. He’s got size and vision as a runner and never fumbled once on 212 carries for the Cowboys.
Pick 246: The Dallas Cowboys select CB, Brendan Langley, Lamar (CBS: 239th, DraftTek: 194th, SPARQ: 9th CB)
Guess who Langley is drawing NFL comps to? Try starting cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys; Anthony Brown. Langley is another one of those raw talents that just seems ready for a role. He’s very moldable at this point and he was a former receiver. His SPARQ score is 119.6 and his NFL% is 58.9. He scored higher in the athleticism category than guys like Quincy Wilson and Sidney Jones.
Langley has ball skills and awareness to find a role as a backup cornerback in the NFL with time. Hey, if you can find a starter in the sixth round, why not find a guy who can compete in the seventh?