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ESPN is all over the place regarding Cowboys predictions for 2018 and the next three seasons

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We’re just looking for some consistency.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s a really difficult thing to predict, well, anything.

Guess how many games the Cowboys will win in 2018. Guess who will win this season of Big Brother. Guessing is just that, guessing, so it’s a difficult thing to do.

There are definitely educated guesses, hypotheses if you will, when it comes to predicting outcomes. You can absolutely study a subject, take the objective data into consideration, and formulate your predicted outcome.

As it’s the offseason this is the time of year where projections are all the rage. People everywhere are trying to give it their best guess how the 2018 NFL season is going to shake out. This of course includes the worldwide leader in sports.

ESPN, through its various personalities and analysts, has said a number of things about the Cowboys future these past few months. We’ve liked some of it, disagreed with most of it, but that’s the thing... we’ve felt differently about these things because they contain varying results.

Nobody is saying that one group of people should feel the same about an expected outcome. We differ all the time here at BTB. Think about when we’re talking 53-man rosters for example. People believe different things.

It’s not so much that as much as it is the wide-ranging differences between ESPN’s collective projections/beliefs. They’re all over the place.

May 2018: Cowboys have the worst receiving corps in the NFL

Take this one with a grain of salt as it was Matthew Berry and he was speaking from more of a fantasy-related angle. It’s understandable that perhaps the Cowboys won’t be racking up all of the points on the digital gridiron and that they can still win games.

It’s still jarring, though. What about the Buffalo Bills? The New York Jets? How about the Miami Dolphin? Worst is quite far.

July 6th: Cowboys will rush for more yards than the other four, but have the fifth-best rushing attack

Mike Clay analyzed the rushing attacks across the NFL and had the Cowboys coming in at number five (Saints, Rams, Steelers, Falcons were one through four). He slotted them in at number five despite having them projected to gain more yards than the four ahead of them.

Tavon Austin was a big part of this evaluation and a lot remains to be seen as far as how exactly the Cowboys will incorporate him into the running game. But the question still stands as to how the Cowboys can gain more yards rushing than the group but still be last of this top five.

What’s more is that Mike Clay has the Cowboys only rushing for 1,730 yards. You can say “only” when it comes to this number for a few reasons. There’s the elite offensive line, Zeke, and oh yea history and what not.

The projected statistics for this group is honestly quite ridiculous, especially in the yardage department. Dallas has only rushed for less than 1,800 yards as a unit once in the last five seasons, and that’s even going all the way back five years to 2013 before the Cowboys established the run-heavy identity they’re more known for today.

2017: 2,170

2016: 2,396

2015: 1,890

2014: 2,354

2013: 1,504

July 11th: Cowboys have the third-worst “offensive arsenal”

Bill Barnwell evaluated all of the “offensive arsenals” across the league and only found two that he did not like more than the Cowboys, the Jets and Dolphins.

He specifically noted in his write-up that he was removing the offensive line and Dak Prescott from his evaluation (why remains to be seen).

When you remove that dominant offensive line and quarterback Dak Prescott from the equation, the Cowboys are left with one excellent running back in Ezekiel Elliott and what must surely be the worst receiving corps in football.

Barnwell agreed with Matthew Berry that the Cowboys theoretically have the worst receiving corps in the game, which lends credence to the fact that Zeke single-handedly makes their offense good enough for 30th-best, maybe it’s that whole running for more yards than the rest of the top rushing teams. The idea is obviously that Zeke carries the offense, and for the most part these three evaluations are somewhat symbiotic.

July 16th: A majority of 43 analysts agree that Saquon Barkley will be better than Zeke over the next three years

This began what seems to be a series of predicting-the-future levels of analysis. 2018 is obviously part of the next three seasons, but it’s only a third.

Almost half of ESPN’s 43 voters believe that New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley (who has a porous offensive line and Eli Manning that’s... well some things are too easy) will be better than Zeke behind the Cowboys offensive line over the next three years. For real.

It’s difficult to understand the logic behind this so we’re not going to try. The point here is that a what is literally defined as a majority believes that Saquon will be more successful than Zeke... even though they believe Zeke will help lead the Cowboys to the fifth-best rushing attack this season and don’t have the Giants in the top five.

July 17th: Cowboys have the 17th-best three-year projection in the NFL, Eagles have the best

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl last season. It’s unfortunate, but giving them their proper credit is fair and warranted. ESPN believing that they have the most promising future of all 32 teams is at the very least fair, especially with Carson Wentz as their quarterback.

Dallas was down last season and has seen a lot of big-time changes to their locker room these past few months. ESPN evaluating them as the 17th-best future over the next three years is a little harsh, but like a lot of things it depends on how Dak Prescott plays in 2018.

What’s interesting about these future projections (Louis Riddick, Mike Sando, and Field Yates were the triumvirate that handled this project) is that the New York Giants are ranked 27th. A lot of who the Giants will be over the next three years depends on what Eli Manning is or isn’t and whoever ultimately replaces him when that time comes, but if Saquon Barkley is going to be better than Zeke wouldn’t the Giants be a bit higher on this list?

July 19th: Cowboys will win a Super Bowl over next three years and the Eagles won’t

This is a two-for-one sort of prediction, and actually it’s part of 25 total ones. Dan Graziano dropped a quarter of interesting predictions for the future, but Dallas celebrating while Philadelphia doesn’t get to was part of that.

Dan focused on the idea that people are sleeping on a Cowboys team that went 9-7 last season in spite of missing Zeke for so much of it and that it’s very difficult for teams that win the Super Bowl to repeat. This is certainly a little bold, but it’s not the craziest thing ever.

The point though is that an ESPNer believes the Cowboys will hoist the Lombardi over the next three seasons and that the Eagles won’t while fellow ESPNers believe that Philadelphia has the most promising future over this stretch of time and that the Cowboys aren’t even in the top half. It’s beyond a contradiction.

To summarize, people under the ESPN umbrella believe the following regarding the Cowboys:

  • They have the worst receiving corps in the NFL (this is somewhat agreed upon)
  • They have the third-worst “offensive arsenal” in the league that is only aided by Zeke
  • The Cowboys rushing attack, which includes Zeke who singlehandedly lifts the offense, will have the most yards but is only the fifth-best in the NFL

With regards to the next three seasons:

  • Saquon Barkley (who’s Giants don’t crack the top five rushing units this season) will be better than Zeke, even though Zeke singlehandedly lifts the Cowboys offense and will help contribute to the NFL’s leading (but fifth-best overall) rushing attack in 2018
  • They have the 17th-best future, that the Eagles have the absolute best, and that the Giants have the 27th-best despite Saquon edging Zeke in this same time span
  • They will win a Super Bowl and that the Philadelphia Eagles won’t even though the Eagles have the most promising future of every NFL team and Dallas is in the bottom half

This isn’t the same single person making all (or even multiple) of these predictions, but they’re all being churned out of the same machine. It looks a bit awkward that they’re so all over the place, but maybe that speaks to who the Cowboys truly are both now and in the future.