The 2017 NFL Draft is almost custom-designed for the Dallas Cowboys. It is particularly strong in the positions they most need, and the weaker positions are ones where Dallas is in very good shape already. The only negative thing for them is that they sit near the end of the draft order. What would be really good for them is for teams ahead of them to reach for positions that the Cowboys are not interested in, particularly in the early rounds.
When you talk about reaching, there is arguably no position on the roster that sees that more than quarterback. Just look at some of the names taken in the first round over the past ten years: Johnny Manziel, EJ Manuel, Brandon Weeden, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Tim Tebow, Josh Freeman, JaMarcus Russell, and Brady Quinn are the most obvious failures in that time. And this year, there are no real standout prospects at the position. But the need for a quarterback is very real for many NFL teams.
The Cowboys, of course, may have the brightest future of any NFL team at the position in Dak Prescott. He stunned the league last season with his performance, and with good health, could be starting in Dallas for a dozen years or more.
So the math here is pretty simple. Any quarterback taken in the first 27 picks is to the Cowboys’ advantage. It will push a player they want one spot closer to them. So how many might we see?
The consensus at the moment is that there are two names that are very likely to be called in the early to middle stages of the draft, Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson. A third name that is a very good possibility is Patrick Mahomes, who is seen by some draftniks as actually the best option at QB this year. And at least two other prospects have at least a chance at getting into the first round with a needy team, DeShone Kizer, who was much more highly-regarded prior to last season, and Davis Webb, reputed to be climbing on draft boards (although that is suspected by some to just be a result of him being hyped by teams who want to see him taken ahead of themselves, including maybe even the Cowboys, according to some social media wits).
This year, there are a few things working that may put some extra pressure on teams to overspend draft capital on quarterbacks. First, there is the overall shortage of true franchise quarterbacks. There are simply not enough to go around. At least ten teams go into the 2017 season without a truly effective quarterback to rely on, due either to just not having one on the roster or injury concerns with the preferred starter. All of those teams face the temptation to convince themselves that one of the available QBs could be the answer.
Not only is this a factor this season, but it looks like it may be so for some time to come. This is a weak class, and there is no real indication that things are going to change much. Many felt a year ago that this was going to be a stronger QB class than 2016 - but that has certainly changed in the eyes of many.
And many of the teams that seem to have a good starter are in a position that they may be needing to look to the future. There are a number of aging stars that could be rapidly nearing the end of their careers.
From 2016 to 2020, the NFL could lose Peyton, Brady, Romo, Rivers, Brees, Roethlisberger, Eli and more.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) April 6, 2017
Father Time is undefeated, and gaining rapidly on most of the truly outstanding quarterbacks currently in the game, as well as Eli Manning. Of the names listed above (outside of course Peyton Manning and Tony Romo), only one, Tom Brady, is playing for a team that has a potential replacement in Jimmy Garoppolo - if the New England Patriots don’t trade him to recoup some draft picks, since they currently don’t have a selection before the third round. But teams like New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Chargers may be looking to get a replacement now when they don’t have to throw him on the field right away.
And not to be discounted is the Dak Prescott factor. Nobody - absolutely nobody - saw him as a first-round talent, yet in retrospect, he probably should have been the first overall pick (although his performance under Jeff Fisher would almost certainly not have been nearly as impressive as his season with the Cowboys). Although it should be a trap good staffs would avoid, there is still going to be a bit of a risk a team will convince itself it has found the next Dak. It was his intangibles that made the difference, and those of course are not something that can be accurately measured.
That’s why the half-joking speculation in social media that the Cowboys were behind the hype for Davis Webb almost makes sense. An early run on quarterbacks would just be taking players off the board that Dallas would not be looking at. The Cowboys are almost certain to pick up a rookie quarterback or two - but as UDFAs. Their Dallas Days visitors gives a strong hint of that being the plan.
But, thanks to hitting on Prescott last year, the Cowboys don’t have to worry about going after a quarterback early - and are hoping a lot of other teams do. It is all part of the landscape of the draft, which is laid out so well for Dallas this time around.