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How Does The 2017 Cowboys Draft Compare To Cowboys Drafts Since 2010?

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Before the draft, we looked at the last seven Cowboys drafts to get some idea what to expect. Now the draft is over, how did the Cowboys do?

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Any evaluations of the Dallas Cowboys 2017 draft just a few days after the draft are, of course, pure projections. We have no idea whether each drafted player will stay healthy, will stay free of the often arbitrary NFL suspension system, will beat out his Cowboys’ teammates to make the team, etc. But it’s an exercise that’s done every year.

This evaluation is going to be quite different than most, because we are going to give context. Before the draft we looked at the last seven Cowboys drafts - back to 2010 (we stopped there because 2009 was so awful). It’s pretty clear the 2016 draft is #1 on this list, and may never be topped by the Cowboys. Where do you think this draft will stack up?

One further note before we proceed. Don’t rate the draft on whether the Cowboys exceeded expectations based on their draft position. At the end of the day, that’s completely irrelevant. All that matters is how good are the players you got. It’s no consolation if your fourth-rounder is better than most fourth-rounders. It only matters if that player is good enough to help your team win games. With that caveat, how did the Cowboys’ do?

Cowboys 2017 Draft

Here’s who the Cowboys drafted.

Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G
2017 1 Taco Charlton 28 DE
2017 2 Chidobe Awuzie 60 CB/S
2017 3 Jourdan Lewis 92 CB
2017 4 Ryan Switzer 133 WR
2017 6 Xavier Woods 191 S
2017 6 Marquez White 216 CB
2017 7 Joey Ivie 228 DT
2017 7 Noah Brown 239 WR
2017 7 Jordan Carrell 248 DT

(Year, round, player, pick number, position, played through this year, All-Pro seasons, Pro Bowl seasons, years starting, career approximate value, games played.)

One thing you notice, as you look at the drafts below, is what makes a draft strong. Do you get quality players who start, make Pro Bowl or All-Pro rosters, or give you high approximate value, and stay healthy and out of trouble? And how many of them do you get? We don’t know the answer to this yet, but let’s take a guess.

  • Number of picks? Nine
  • Starters? Zero to two, first year — Charlton, Awuzie or Woods. Potential for two to five eventually - Charlton, Awuzie, Lewis, Switzer, Woods
  • Multi-year starters? Same two to five.
  • Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players or high-AV players? No PB or AP. Two high AV - Charlton, Switzer. Potential for Awuzie.
  • Stayed healthy? Everyone.
  • Second contracts? Three. Charlton, Awuzie, Switzer.

This is a stab in the dark and is super optimistic, but if this were the result, it would be a fantastic draft. As you will see below, only one other draft has yielded up to five starters.

If Taco Charlton reaches his potential, he could become a mainstay at defensive end into a second contract. Chidobe Awuzie may get moved around, but has the potential to stick as a playmaker at cornerback or safety. Jourdan Lewis may be the best cover guy in the group, but has size and speed limitations. Ryan Switzer looks to have more upside than Cole Beasley, because he’s had longer catch-and-run plays and may supplant him eventually, but likely won’t get starter snaps for a couple years at least. Xavier Woods has the “easiest” path to starting with only Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and perhaps Awuzie to compete with. The last four guys will be lucky to make the team, though it’s possible one or more of them will surprise.

Cowboys 2016 Draft

Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G
2016 1 Ezekiel Elliott 4 RB 2016 1 1 1 16 15
2016 2 Jaylon Smith 34 OLB 0 0 0
2016 3 Maliek Collins 67 DT 2016 0 0 1 7 16
2016 4 Charles Tapper 101 DE 0 0 0
2016 4 Dak Prescott 135 QB 2016 0 1 1 16 16
2016 6 Anthony Brown 189 CB 2016 0 0 1 4 16
2016 6 Kavon Frazier 212 SS 2016 0 0 0 1 9
2016 6 Darius Jackson 216 RB 0 0 0
2016 6 Rico Gathers 217 TE 0 0 0
  • Number of picks? Nine.
  • Starters? Five (by this year) - Elliott, Smith, Collins, Prescott, Brown
  • Multi-year starters? Same five.
  • Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players or high-AV players? Three already - Elliott, Collins, Prescott, and Smith is almost certain to join them. Brown might also join this club. Frazier and Gathers are long shots.
  • Stayed healthy? Smith and Tapper are coming off injuries, having missed their rookie seasons already.
  • Second contracts? Hopefully the five above.

Can’t really do better than this group, as this was the best draft class in Cowboys history for producing approximate value as rookies, and that’s with getting nothing from four of the nine picks.

Cowboys 2015 Draft

Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G
2015 1 Byron Jones 27 CB 2016 0 0 1 10 32
2015 2 Randy Gregory 60 OLB 2016 0 0 0 2 14
2015 3 Chaz Green 91 T 2016 0 0 0 1 4
2015 4 Damien Wilson 127 ILB 2016 0 0 0 4 32
2015 5 Ryan Russell 163 DE 2016 0 0 0 1 9
2015 7 Mark Nzeocha 236 OLB 2016 0 0 0 0 7
2015 7 Laurence Gibson 243 T 0 0 0
2015 7 Geoff Swaim 246 TE 2016 0 0 0 1 13
  • Number of picks? Eight.
  • Starters? One.
  • Multi-year starters? One.
  • Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players or high-AV players? None so far.
  • Stayed healthy? Randy Gregory has suffered multiple suspensions, Chaz Green missed year one to injury, then got hurt again his second year, and Geoff Swaim missed the end of last year.
  • Second contracts? One. Byron Jones is the only one in the running. If Randy Gregory was ever allowed to play — marijuana should not disqualify anyone — he could be two. Damien Wilson is a long shot to stay on a cheap second deal.

This is a horrific draft class. Cowboys need more out of Byron Jones, need Chaz Green to stay healthy and seize the right tackle spot, and need Randy Gregory and his speed on the defensive line.

Cowboys 2014 Draft

Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G
2014 1 Zack Martin 16 G 2016 2 3 3 34 48
2014 2 Demarcus Lawrence 34 DE 2016 0 0 1 10 32
2014 4 Anthony Hitchens 119 LB 2016 0 0 2 17 48
2014 5 Devin Street 146 WR 2016 0 0 0 1 34
2014 7 Ben Gardner 231 DE 0 0 0
2014 7 Will Smith 238 LB 0 0 0
2014 7 Ahmad Dixon 248 DB 2014 0 0 0 0 11
2014 7 Ken Bishop 251 DT 2015 0 0 0 0 5
2014 7 Terrance Mitchell 254 DB 2016 0 0 0 1 15
  • Number of picks? Nine.
  • Starters? Three - Martin, Lawrence, Hitchens.
  • Multi-year starters? Same three.
  • Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players or high-AV players? Martin is the best guard in the NFL, and Hitchens has notched a seven AV.
  • Stayed healthy? Lawrence has been suspended and had multiple back surgeries.
  • Second contracts? Martin. Hitchens will have to come cheap to re-up, and Lawrence will have to have a show-stopping 2017 season.

Zack Martin was a cornerstone pick, and Hitchens has held down the fort at linebacker, but Lawrence has been a disappointment, and the rest were wasted picks.

Cowboys 2013 Draft

Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G
2013 1 Travis Frederick 31 C 2016 1 3 4 38 64
2013 2 Gavin Escobar 47 TE 2016 0 0 0 2 62
2013 3 Terrance Williams 74 WR 2016 0 0 3 23 64
2013 3 J.J. Wilcox 80 DB 2016 0 0 2 15 58
2013 4 B.W. Webb 114 DB 2016 0 0 0 6 49
2013 5 Joseph Randle 151 RB 2015 0 0 0 7 35
2013 6 DeVonte Holloman 185 LB 2013 0 0 0 1 9
  • Number of picks? Seven.
  • Starters? Three - Frederick, Williams, Wilcox.
  • Multi-year starters? Same three.
  • Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players or high-AV players? Frederick, Williams.
  • Stayed healthy? Escobar missed the end of 2015, and Holloman’s career was cut short by an injury.
  • Second contracts? Frederick, Williams.

The Cowboys traded down in the first round and used it to pick up Frederick and Williams. A very wise decision.

Cowboys 2012 Draft

Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G
2012 1 Morris Claiborne 6 DB 2016 0 0 2 15 47
2012 3 Tyrone Crawford 81 DE 2016 0 0 3 20 61
2012 4 Kyle Wilber 113 LB 2016 0 0 0 11 73
2012 4 Matt Johnson 135 DB 2012 0 0 0 0
2012 5 Danny Coale 152 WR 2012 0 0 0 0
2012 6 James Hanna 186 TE 2015 0 0 2 3 62
2012 7 Caleb McSurdy 222 LB 2012 0 0 0 0
  • Number of picks? Seven.
  • Starters? Three - Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford, Hanna.
  • Multi-year starters? Same three.
  • Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players or high-AV players? Crawford has scored 7 AV
  • Stayed healthy? Claiborne couldn’t stay on the field, Matt Johnson was injured and never played, James Hanna suffered a serious leg injury, and Tyrone Crawford has had multiple surgeries.
  • Second contracts? Tyrone Crawford.

Competing with 2015 for worst draft class in this decade.

Cowboys 2011 Draft

Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G
2011 1 Tyron Smith 9 T 2016 2 4 6 60 92
2011 2 Bruce Carter 40 LB 2016 0 0 3 18 75
2011 3 DeMarco Murray 71 RB 2016 1 3 5 57 84
2011 4 David Arkin 110 G 2016 0 0 0 0 4
2011 5 Josh Thomas 143 DB 2015 0 0 0 7 52
2011 6 Dwayne Harris 176 WR 2016 0 1 0 11 83
2011 7 Shaun Chapas 220 RB 2012 0 0 0 0 6
2011 7 Bill Nagy 252 G 2012 0 0 0 2 4
  • Number of picks? Eight.
  • Starters? Three - Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, Demarco Murray
  • Multi-year starters? Same three.
  • Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players or high-AV players? Smith, Murray.
  • Stayed healthy? Smith had been durable, but missed three games in 2016 with back issues, Murray had injury issues.
  • Second contracts? Smith.

Cowboys have locked up their left tackle for years, and he’s among the best left tackles in the game. Murray showed what could be done behind this offensive line, but was deemed too expensive to keep.

Cowboys 2010 Draft

Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G
2010 1 Dez Bryant 24 WR 2016 1 3 6 56 97
2010 2 Sean Lee 55 LB 2016 1 2 4 41 75
2010 4 Akwasi Owusu-Ansah 126 DB 2013 0 0 0 1 15
2010 6 Sam Young 179 T 2016 0 0 0 9 65
2010 6 Jamar Wall 196 DB 2010 0 0 0 0 2
2010 7 Sean Lissemore 234 DT 2015 0 0 0 14 69
  • Number of picks? Six.
  • Starters? Two. Dez Bryant and Sean Lee.
  • Multi-year starters? Same two.
  • Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players or high-AV players? Bryant and Lee.
  • Stayed healthy? Dez and Lee have both missed lots of games due to injury.
  • Second contracts? Bryant and Lee.

Not much volume to this draft, but in Dez and Sean Lee, the Cowboys got two huge contributors.

If I had to rank the drafts, it would be like this:

  • First - 2016, by a mile. Dak, Zeke, Smith, plus Collins and Brown.
  • Second - 2010. Dez and Lee are high-impact players.
  • Third - 2011. Smith has the highest career AV, and Murray was great while he was here.
  • Fourth and Fifth tie - 2013. Frederick and Williams are on second contracts, with Frederick an All-Pro; 2014. Martin the best guard in the game, Hitchens has done very well for a fourth rounder, and Lawrence still could pull it together.
  • Sixth, 2012. Pretty dismal, with no impact players. Wilber and Hanna are already on a second deal, however, Claiborne showed flashes when he was healthy, and Crawford is on his second contract.
  • Sixth, 2015. Really bad. Only one starter so far, in Byron Jones, though Chaz Green could get healthy and play, while Wilson and Swaim are at least role players.

Return to 2017

Looking again at this year’s haul, its possible the Cowboys will have turned in one of their best performances of the last eight years. This year can’t compare to 2016, and no player is likely comparable to Dez Bryant or Sean Lee of 2010, or any of the All-Pro offensive linemen of 2011, 2013, and 2014. But this draft looks deeper, with the potential for multiple starters and other contributors. And if it can stay healthy, that will be another plus. It’s an optimistic conclusion, but why not?