The Dallas Cowboys first selection of the 2019 NFL Draft will be late in the second round with pick number 58. And their third-round selection will be pick number 91. These two draft picks will be the Cowboys best chance to add key contributors to their roster besides free agency. With a significant turnover each year, it’s important to hit on as many of these draft picks as possible. It’s anyone’s guess as to who the team will select with these premium draft picks. The “best player available” should ultimately decide that, but what positions will offer the most talent during this area of the draft?
Each draft has a different landscape and a couple weeks ago we examined the sweet spots of the draft. But what does history tell us about the players that might be available? Can we hone in on certain positions that are typically chosen during that range of the draft? Let’s take a look at the last five drafts and tally up the players taken from picks 58 through 91. Here are the total number of players selected at each position:
Note: Quarterbacks and kickers have been removed from the data. Six quarterbacks were taken in this range, but only two of them (Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett) saw any real game action. Coincidentally, both were drafted by New England and both were traded by New England. There was also one kicker, Roberto Aguayo, who was selected 59th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but let’s just pretend that never happened because I mean, who in their right mind takes a kicker in the second round?
Edge rushers are popular choices at this part of the draft. With good talent still available, teams take a lot of chances trying to find a great pass rusher. Players like Danielle Hunter (88th overall), Frank Clark (66th), and Yannick Ngakoue (69th) were all found in this range. Teams are likely to keep throwing darts at edge rushers, but will the Cowboys be one of them?
Teams are slow to break the seal on drafting cornerbacks early, but then things start to really pick up in the second round. Rushing the quarterback is an important position, but so is covering receivers. Many teams go after corners in this range. The Cowboys may not have an urgent need at corner, but what if that’s where the talent is when it’s their turn to pick?
This is the time where wide receivers start coming off the board as well. Teams find some great talent in this range. Players like Jarvis Landry (63rd), JuJu Smith-Schuster (62nd), Allen Robinson (61st), and Tyler Lockett (69th) were all great finds in the draft.
If we’re going off of need, the Cowboys could use a playmaker at the safety and tight end position, but based on the volume of players taken at those positions - there might not be that many options available for them in this range.
While total volume is one way to get a feel for the picks, let’s go a bit deeper and look for quality. If we evaluate all those players based on how much they contributed to the team during their career, which positions have the highest hit percentage?
Note: A “hit” will be defined as a player who has started at least half of their games during their career. Availability is ability. It also includes players whose approximate value/game’s played ratio is 27% or higher. Even though players like Cooper Kupp, Tevin Coleman, and Duke Johnson don’t have enough starts under their belt, they should be considered quality picks.
If you draft a running back in this range, there’s a great chance he’s going to contribute to the team. This is fantastic news if you’re a team looking for a running back in the draft. Players like Alvin Kamara, David Johnson, and Kareem Hunt have been found during that point of the draft. Running backs are a safe pick here, but that seems too early to go after a change-of-pace back that will be trapped behind Ezekiel Elliott on the depth chart.
Guards are also low risk picks here. Nine of the 11 players taken in this range made a solid contribution to their team.
Tight ends don’t offer a lot of options in this range, but the players that are drafted have a high success rate. This includes Austin Hooper from the Atlanta Falcons who caught a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott in the Pro Bowl last month. The 2019 draft class is projected to have some great talent at the tight end position. This could line the Cowboys up perfectly for a quality starting tight end.
While edge rusher, cornerback, and wide receivers are taken in large volumes during this range, the success rate is not very good. There’s a lot of draft roulette taking place. It makes sense that teams are pursuing these positions as all three are important in a passing league, but it’s definitely a bigger gamble than some of the other positions. On the positive note, the Cowboys have selected a player from each of those positions over the last five years - Chidobe Awuzie, Michael Gallup, and Randy Gregory. All three of them were solid contributors for the Cowboys last season.
Based on this information, it still feels like tight end could be the winning ticket if one of the top tier guys slide that far. It has to be a player that is a clear upgrade over what they already have or they should just pass on a tight end altogether.
This draft class is also deep with talent at defensive tackle and wide receiver. While the success rate is lower, the Cowboys have capitalized on deep classes at these positions before in this range with great value third-round picks in Maliek Collins (2016) and Gallup (2018).
It may not be atop the needs list, but if a talented running back is available at 91, that could be something the team would consider.