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NFL.com says 7 out of 9 Cowboys draft picks have a chance to become starters

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If the NFL.com evaluation of the Cowboys’ 2018 draft class is accurate, Cowboys fans are in for a treat.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Facility Tour Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

NFL.com gave the Cowboys a draft grade of “A-” immediately following the draft, and later gave the Cowboys an “A” when they ranked the Cowboys' draft class as the second best in the league.

And one reason for those strong grades is that NFL.com evaluated seven of the Cowboys' nine draft picks as potential starters prior to the draft. Here's an excerpt from NFL.com's grading methodology:

Grade Description
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential

Seven Cowboys draft picks starters received a grade of 5.50 points or higher, indicating they all have a chance to become a starter in the NFL. Here’s the rundown of all nine picks:

Round Player Position Grade Projection Potential
1 (19) Leighton Vander Esch LB 6.25 Rd 1 Should Become Instant Starter
2 (50) Connor Williams OT 5.87 Rd 1-2 Chance to Become NFL Starter
3 (81) Michael Gallup WR 5.72 Rd 3-4 Chance to Become NFL Starter
4 (116) Dorance Armstrong DE 5.55 Rd 4-5 Chance to Become NFL Starter
4 (137) Dalton Schultz TE 5.7 Rd 3 Chance to Become NFL Starter
5 (171) Mike White QB 5.6 Rd 3-4 Chance to Become NFL Starter
6 (193) Chris Covington LB 4.97 Rd 7 Should Be in an NFL Training Camp
6 (208) Cedric Wilson WR 5.46 Rd 4-5 NFL Backup or Special Teams Potential
7 (236) Bo Scarbrough RB 5.5 Rd 4-5 Chance to Become NFL Starter

You can dissect these numbers in a lot more detail and compare them to other teams, but that's not what were going to do today.

The interesting point here is not so much the grades themselves. There are probably other services and draft sites that have assigned different grades to these prospects, and opinions will differ anyway on the validity of the numbers, regardless of where they’re from.

The key here, and perhaps this is the defining characteristic of this draft class, is that the Cowboys have assembled a lot of football playing dudes this year:

  • The Cowboys stuck to their board throughout the draft, and Stephen Jones said none of the six players the Cowboys selected on day three of the draft had lower than a fifth-round grade.
  • There are probably no more than two day one starters for the Cowboys in this draft class, but most of these rookies are likely to see a good number of snaps on offense or defense this year. All of these guys provide a skill set that is either in short supply or at risk of injury on the current roster. Purely in terms of number of snaps played in the first year, this draft class has the chance to be one of the top ones in recent memory.
  • This draft-class is top-heavy with underclassmen. Four of the first five picks (LVE, Williams, Armstrong, Schultz) are underclassmen, suggesting that they may have more room to develop in the NFL than older and more experienced prospects.

Only time will tell whether this draft class will eventually yield seven starters. The last draft class to yield seven players that ended up starting eight or more games in at least one season was the 2005 draft class (DeMarcus Ware, Chris Canty, Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears, Kevin Burnett, Marion Barber, Rob Petitti).

Duplicating that draft class may be a tall order, and all of this is of course contingent on the rookies meeting the expectations the Cowboys and the graders at NFL.com had in them.

Still...