So the first three days of the 2018 NFL Draft are now in the books. We’ve already handed out grades for the individual selections by the Dallas Cowboys of Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, and Michael Gallup, but the success of the draft depends on how everything works together. It’s time to take a step back and come up with an overall grade for the premium picks.
That requires taking some extra things into account. Perhaps the most important is what kind of plan the Cowboys had going into the draft, and how well they executed it. From what we have seen so far, the plan looked to be very good, and the team stuck by it and saw three valuable players fall to it without having to spend any extra draft capital to trade up. Here is one evaluation of the value they got.
#Dallas NFL Draft Draft Day 1-2 Recap— PFF DAL Cowboys (@PFF_Cowboys) April 28, 2018
Leighton Vander Esch - LB, Pick 19
PFF Rank 26
Connor Williams - G, Pick 50
PFF Rank 18
Michael Gallup - WR, Pick 81
PFF Rank 41
You may not agree with everything PFF does, but this agrees with a lot of “big boards” out there. Based on this, the Cowboys got a mid-first-round talent for the guard position, a late-first-rounder to bolster the linebacking corps, and a second-round level wide receiver. If this is anywhere close to accurate, the value is excellent to outstanding.
It certainly appears Dallas was a bit higher on LVE than most, but not by much. And if you look a little deeper, then you can see more of the overall strategy, and how it really worked out. The staff appears to have determined that the offensive line and wide receiver talent was deeper for day two than at linebacker, so they needed to take LVE in the first to lock up a solution for the LB room. Now they have three starters, and it is assumed that LVE will be the MIKE, with Sean Lee the rock at WILL and Jaylon Smith getting the bulk of SAM snaps. And recent developments in the league may mean that the trend of devaluing that SAM spot may be reversing.
You are right. I have been talking about 3 LB Nickle sets since January. Jason and Marinelli have talked about them. Richards has talked about them and drawn stuff up. I do not know how much more talking about the Cowboys desire to run more 3 LB Nickle sets I can do. https://t.co/udN6OfxxBZ— Birddog26 (@Birddog26) April 27, 2018
The one danger in this was that it could conceivably have cost them a true starter for the current hole at left guard. And for a while, that looked like a real possibility as there was an early run on linemen during the second round. But one player, Williams, was there when the Cowboys went on the clock at 50. Their patience paid off as they resisted trading up to get their guy, and they wound up with what looks to be a great addition to the offensive line, one that could return them to the dominance of 2016.
It is certainly a justifiable stance that getting the guard situation fixed was the most important job for the staff in the draft, and to have successfully done so while not having to spend another first-round pick on the line is huge. We will have to see how everything plays out, but it is not a reach to say that Williams will wind up being seen as the best acquisition of this draft.
At that point, the Cowboys had filled two of the five commonly identified top needs, leaving wide receiver, 1-tech (with some 3-tech traits) defensive tackle, and safety. The team has signaled that safety is one position that they are comfortable waiting until day three of the draft to address. That left WR and DT to select from, and frankly the DT position was well depleted by the time pick 81 rolled around for Dallas. But WR still had some real talent available, and Gallup was in many minds the best one remaining. He had been mocked to Dallas by many, and there was also this:
Stephen Jones said some within the organization viewed WR Michael Gallup as a great pick at 50. Cowboys got him 31 picks later. #cowboyswire— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) April 28, 2018
Day two of the draft is seen by many as the day when teams can get the most value for their picks, and this certainly seems to be what the Cowboys accomplished.
If we had been told before the draft that the Cowboys would be going into the fourth round with linebacker, left guard, and wide receiver taken care of, and with highly-ranked players for each, there are a lot who would have gladly signed up in advance for this.
So taking all that into account, this looks at least an A- for the Cowboys so far. The only thing that really didn’t go as they might have preferred was what appears to have been a failed attempt to trade back into the end of the third round for safety Tavarious Moore. It appears that the cost was too high, or they couldn’t find the right partner, and Moore went to the San Francisco 49ers, who traded to acquire pick 95 from the New England Patriots. That didn’t work out for Dallas, but that is not enough to mark them down much. (If it had succeeded, then this would likely be an A or even A+. As it is, it could be argued that it still is an actual A, but I don’t want to succumb to homerism.)
Quibbles aside, this has been a very good first two days of the draft for Dallas. Now we can see what they manage on day three. We may finally see them make a trade to move up to get someone they covet, or they might just ride it out the rest of the way. We aren’t going to see the quality of picks from here on out that we already have, but there is still a chance to perhaps find the next Xavier Woods to help out.
That’s one writer’s opinion. Now tell us your take.
What’s your overall grade for the Cowboys first three rounds of the draft?
This poll is closed
A - This is a great trio of talents, and the prospects for the season looks bright.
B - It was good, but they could have done better.
C - Not too bad, but think they missed some real opportunities.
D - The order was wrong, and what are we going to do about that DT?
F - Don’t confuse me with the facts, Jerry Jones was involved, so I hate it!