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Cowboys becoming aggressive & calculated with the late-round draft capital

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What the Cowboys are starting to do with late-round picks is a welcomed sight.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

For far too long, NFL teams have way overvalued their draft picks and are hesitant to let anything go. Granted, conventional wisdom would always suggest that building your roster through the draft is the best route. In fact, more often than not, it’s those diamonds-in-the-rough that teams find that determine their long-term success in roster-building. However, there is a way to be aggressive and calculated at the same time, something the Cowboys are doing as we speak.

Though nobody expected the Cowboys to be buyers as we approach the trade-deadline, they made a somewhat surprising move with the Patriots to acquire Michael Bennett this past Thursday. For that, the Cowboys give a seventh-round pick to New England (it could become a sixth), who wanted to be rid of Bennett. The Cowboys, who just placed versatile veteran defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford on IR, get a replacement in Michael Bennett. It should be noted that if Bennett is on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster for the next four weeks, that seventh-round pick turns into a sixth but Dallas will gladly pay that price for his potential production.

Just this past free agency period, the Cowboys shipped off a sixth-round pick for Robert Quinn. Here is Robert Quinn’s production through five games:

GAMES TCKL SCK TFL QB HITS PD
5 11 6 6 7 3

Robert Quinn leads the Cowboys in sacks with six and the Cowboys are tied for ninth in the NFL with 17 sacks on the year. For that value, the Cowboys just had to part with a sixth-rounder? If you asked Jerry Jones, he would gladly pay more than that price knowing what he knows now about Quinn.

When the Cowboys flipped their first-round pick for Amari Cooper during last year’s bye week, they did so with confidence that he would give them much more than any first-round receiver they could dream of drafting in 2019. They were absolutely correct:

Trading picks in the first three rounds are always going to cause some hesitation but the Cowboys seemingly nailed that one for Cooper. In terms of rounds, any day three picks should always be used as ammunition for veteran plug-and-play talents.

Just for a quick reminder, here are the Cowboys’ day three selections between 2015-2018 (BOLD = Still on 53):

YEAR 4TH 5TH 6TH 7TH
2015 D. WILSON R. RUSSELL N/A M. NZEOCHA
L. GIBSON
G. SWAIM
YEAR 4TH 5TH 6TH 7TH
2016 D. PRESCOTT N/A A. BROWN N/A
K. FRAZIER
D. JACKSON
R. GATHERS
YEAR 4TH 5TH 6TH 7TH
2017 R. SWITZER N/A X. WOODS J. IVIE
M. WHITE N. BROWN
J. CARRELL
YEAR 4TH 5TH 6TH 7TH
2018 D. ARMSTRONG M. WHITE C. COVINGTON B. SCARBROUGH
D. SCHULTZ C. WILSON

The Cowboys have got solid contributions from some of their day three selections over the past four seasons. At the same time, outside of Dak Prescott and Xavier Woods, the longtime futures of most of the guys still on the 53 is fluid. When you think about the Cowboys trading sixth-round picks for Tavon Austin, Robert Quinn, and now Michael Bennett, that’s production they did not get out of many of those names above. Though the jury is still out on Austin, he looked pretty darn effective against the Eagles, Sunday night:

Bringing it back to this latest move for Michael Bennett, the Cowboys believe they have paid a marginal price for a quality player. This is Michael Bennett’s production sheet since turning 30-years-old in 2015:

PLAYER GAMES TCKL SCK TFL QB HITS FF PD
M. BENNETT 65 111 35 64 107 4 2

Bennett has played for three different teams and has been productive on all three of them. In Dallas, he will get what he wants, more playing time, and the Patriots will get an unhappy player out of their locker room. Bennett will offer a little more explosive pass rush ability to the Cowboys defense and will likely hop inside on third downs. Though the Cowboys already have solid defensive ends in the rotation, they suffer on the interior at times. Michael Bennett is going to help the Cowboys in a multitude of ways. Moves like the ones the Cowboys have made this season for Robert Quinn and now Michael Bennett are what good teams do every year. If the Cowboys are able to find success in the postseason, we will all look back fondly at these types of aggressive but calculated decisions from the front office.