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What if Cowboys had listened to ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay in the last eight drafts?

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If the Dallas Cowboys had listened to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, here’s what their draft haul might’ve looked like over the past eight years...

2008 NFL Draft Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Earlier this month, ESPN’s Mel Kiper published his first mock draft of the year to much fanfare and much ridicule. Kiper and his ESPN colleague Todd McShay are two of the biggest names in the mock draft business and have been dominating the mock draft headlines for years, so today we ask ourselves what would have happened if the Cowboys had followed the pair’s mock draft suggestions in each of the last eight drafts - knowing that the Cowboys already did a pretty good job on their own.

In the mock draft world, there’s only one mock that ultimately counts: the final mock draft published before the actual draft. That doesn’t stop mock drafters from inundating us with countless mocks before that final one, but none of those carry any real weight. Which is why today we’ll look at Kiper’s and McShay’s final mock drafts from 2011-2018. Before we go there though, here is a summary of the last eight Dallas Cowboys first-round picks, along with some metrics we’ll use to evaluate the picks.

Year Player All
Pro
Pro
Bowls
Starter
Seasons
Games
Started
Car. Approx.
Value
2011 Tyron Smith 4 6 8 118 71
2012 Morris Claiborne -- -- 4 73 24
2013 Travis Frederick 3 4 5 80 47
2014 Zack Martin 5 5 5 78 54
2015 Byron Jones 1 1 3 59 26
2016 Ezekiel Elliott 2 2 3 40 37
2017 Taco Charlton -- -- -- 7 6
2018 Leighton Vander Esch 1 1 1 11 11
Total 16 19 29 466 276

Overall, that’s a pretty impressive haul. 19 Pro Bowl seasons, 29 out of a maximum of 36 starter seasons, 466 starts and a very strong Career Approximate Value (CarAV) of 276.

Over the last eight years, the Cowboys have had a lot of success with their first-round picks picks (as measured by CarAV), despite whiffing on Morris Claiborne and despite Taco Charlton failing to live up to his draft pedigree so far. Overall, the Cowboys rank fourth in the NFL with their 276 CarAV points behind the Rams, Panthers, and Saints over that period. Here are the total CarAV points for all first-round picks of the last eight years by team:

First-round AV points by team, 2011-2018
Rank Team Picks CarAV Rank Team Picks CarAV Rank Team Picks CarAV
1 LAR 8 328 12 TAM 8 197 23 BUF 8 173
2 CAR 8 303 13 DET 8 196 24 NYG 8 163
3 NOR 10 292 14 TEN 9 195 T25 WAS 6 149
4 DAL 8 276 14 CIN 9 183 T25 CHI 8 149
5 HOU 7 271 T16 IND 7 181 27 BAL 8 147
6 MIN 11 270 T16 KAN 6 181 28 JAX 8 145
7 NYJ 9 226 18 MIA 8 179 29 SFO 10 135
8 ATL 7 213 T19 PHI 7 178 30 OAK 6 128
9 PIT 8 206 T19 ARI 8 178 31 GNB 7 102
10 NWE 7 205 20 CLE 14 175 32 SEA 4 99
11 LAC 8 203 22 DEN 7 173

Note that the CarAV numbers in this table are allocated to the team drafting a given player, and not to the team the player eventually moved on to. Amari Cooper for example earned six AV points in Dallas last year but his total CarAV of 31 (including his points in Dallas) are included in Oakland’s tally in the table above.

Overall, the table establishes that the Cowboys have gotten more from their first-round picks over the last eight years than most other teams. With that, let’s turn to Kiper and McShay to see how their picks for the Cowboys hold up in this comparison.

Mel Kiper

Here are the players Mel Kiper had the Cowboys picking in his final mock drafts of each of the last eight years:

Year Player POS All
Pro
Pro
Bowls
Starter
Seasons
Games
Started
CarAV
2011 Cameron Jordan DE 2 4 8 127 68
2012 Quinton Coples DE -- -- 2 32 19
2013 Sylvester Williams DT -- -- 4 63 29
2014 Ryan Shazier LB 0 2 3 41 27
2015 Preston Smith DE 0 0 3 50 24
2016 Ezekiel Elliott RB 2 2 3 40 37
2017 Marlon Humphrey CB -- -- 1 13 7
2018 Courtland Sutton WR -- -- 1 9 5
Total 4 8 25 375 216

Kiper’s picks would have been a good draft haul for the Cowboys, but not a great one. For the most part, Kiper would have had the Cowboys drafting solid starters, but the players he picked lack the postseason accolades the Cowboys picks garnered. Kiper’s 216 CarAV points would rank this collection of eighth best in the league.

That’s not bad, and it’s certainly better than what the much ballyhooed GMs of the Eagles and Giants put together, as well as the less extravagantly lauded Redskins front office. So there’s that.

Todd McShay

On to McShay’s final mock picks for the Cowboys:

Year Player POS All
Pro
Pro
Bowls
Starter
Seasons
Games
Started
CarAV
2011 J.J. Watt DE 5 5 6 104 96
2012 Michael Brockers DT -- -- 7 105 43
2013 Sheldon Richardson DT -- 1 6 87 49
2014 Johnny Manziel QB -- -- -- 8 5
2015 Shane Ray DE -- -- 1 15 12
2016 Ezekiel Elliott RB 2 2 3 40 37
2017 Tre'Davious White CB -- -- 2 32 12
2018 D.J. Moore WR -- -- 1 10 8
Total 7 8 26 401 262

McShay gives the Cowboys a run for their money, coming in just 14 CarAV points short of the Cowboys’ total. His picks get a strong boost from the J.J. Watt pick, but would have been a very impressive haul regardless. And if McShay hadn’t fallen for the Manziel hype in 2014, he might have beaten the Cowboys. The Cowboys - or at least Jerry Jones - came close to picking Manziel themselves, but more rational minds prevailed.

McShay’s collection of picks for the Cowboys over the last eight years would have ranked seventh overall in terms of CarAV points.

The Cowboys did well in the last eight drafts, and they would still be among the Top 10 teams if they had listened to Kiper or McShay in those drafts; they certainly would have done better with Kiper or McShay than they would have with the majority of NFL GMs out there.


Here, for your pre-draft delectation, are the best and worst first-round picks from each of the last seven drafts and what their AV would add up to:

Best picks Worst picks
Year Team Player POS AV Points Year Team Player POS AV Points
2011 CAR Cam Newton QB 104 2011 GB Derek Sherrod T 3
2012 CAR Luke Kuechly LB 84 2012 SF A.J. Jenkins WR 2
2013 HOU DeAndre Hopkins WR 51 2013 NYJ Dee Milliner CB 6
2014 LAR Aaron Donald DT 69 2014 PHI Marcus Smith LB 3
2015 LAR Todd Gurley RB 45 2015 CHI Kevin White WR 2
2016 DAL Ezekiel Elliott RB 37 2016 DEN Paxton Lynch QB 2
2017 NO Ryan Ramczyk OT 26 2017 CIN John Ross WR 2
2018 -- Two Players -- 14 2018 NE Isaiah Wynn OT 0
Total 430 Total 20

What all the numbers above show is that the draft can be a precarious proposition, even in the first round where the best available talent is supposed to be found. Over the last eight years, the Cowboys have been one of the most successful teams at mining this resource.

But even for the worst teams in the league, there is some hope, as they could have drafted much worse, just as there is reason for the best teams to improve their efforts, as they are still far away from realizing the maximum potential possible.