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Things you might not be thinking about (but need to be) ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft

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Some bits and pieces to keep in mind with the NFL Draft bearing down on us.

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2018 NFL Draft Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s almost here. The long wait for the NFL Draft is nearly over. For the Dallas Cowboys, it is not quite as exciting as for most teams, because of that missing first round pick. They are still a team that uses draft picks as the primary tool to build and improve the roster, however. And with six selections (currently) on days two and three, there will still be reason to pay close attention.

Let’s not forget the best thing: No more avalanche of mock drafts for a while. OK, not everyone gets burned out by those, but will still be good to have some actual names to talk about. For now here are some points that may not warrant a full post, but are rather interesting. Well, to me, at least.

Trading away that first pick seems to have really worked out

Part of the calculation in shipping what turned into pick 27 off to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper was that there was not likely to be a receiver nearly as good as Cooper available in the first round. At the time, of course, Dallas was desperate for an answer after their self-designed “receiver by committee approach” had failed miserably. Had they not made the trade, receiver would almost certainly have been their greatest need barring a major free agent acquisition which is not the kind of thing they like to do.

Since then there seems to be a consensus that they were exactly right in their calculation. Most pre-draft boards have only one or two receivers with first round grades (for an excellent, and free, example, you can link here to read or download Jonah Tuls’ board, which has only two). But the second and third rounds are chock full of talent that fit the value of the picks.

That is great for the Cowboys now and leads to an interesting question: Should they be on the lookout for future trades like that?

The way to cash in with a first round pick is to get an immediate starter that upgrades the roster. If you can get and afford a veteran on his rookie deal who is likely to see the full length of a second contract, then that may be a smart move any year. You get a known quantity, reducing the always present level of risk with a draft pick. With the excellent scouting organization headed by Will McClay, Dallas is in a great position to go back to that well if they choose.

Speaking of organizations, we should be grateful for what the Cowboys have

Over the years, a lot of derision has been directed towards the Jerry Jones regime. But they have been drafting excellently the past few years, particularly in the first round, and now the second round picks are starting to show up a lot. And as mentioned, McClay is doing an absolutely superb jobs in all facets. They are stronger with the college prospects, but this offseason looks like it brought some really good free agents as well.

And that is not the way it is everywhere.

Just imagine the fecal hurricane if that had happened at The Star. Sometimes we just don’t appreciate what Jerry has done in the past few years. Most of the mockery is based on his earlier years when he obviously had a lot to learn. But he has proven an old dog can indeed learn some new and better tricks.

It’s so good to have your quarterback

There are some years when multiple teams get their franchise quarterback in the draft, like 2016 which brought Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and of course Dak Prescott to the NFL. That was a year when the quarterback talent pool in college was deep.

This isn’t one of those years. There are many who question if any of the current crop of passers is truly worth a first round pick, including the aforementioned Tuls. It should be mentioned though that this is not going to stop teams from spending a first round pick on them because there are so many quarterback-hungry teams.

Given how important the position is to success in the league, they are almost forced into grabbing the best one available (at least in their minds) no matter the cost. They just have to hope they can make something out of those players.

What may turn out to be a real failure for those unfortunates is of course good news for Dallas. Every player who is overdrafted pushes someone else down the board and since the Cowboys are way down the list, then that just helps them. And no position gets overdrafted like quarterback.

The intent seems clear this year

A little while back, I did a post looking at where the 30 pre-draft visitors are seen as going in the draft to try and sort out what the team would like to do. And it was one of the clearest pictures I can remember. They want a safety at 58. The fallbacks seem to be composed of wide receiver, running back, edge rusher, with defensive tackles and tight ends as additional third-round wishes.

Those are particularly important, as Bob Sturm noted in a recent post at The Athletic. He looked back five years to see how the pre-draft picks matched up with who was actually taken by Dallas, and found that the day three picks have almost no correlation. But the first three rounds are a different story.

Conclusions found? Well, 2015 sure gamed the numbers. But a rate of 33% or lower in four of the last five years hardly suggests this is the Cowboys’ method. At the same time, that 78% rate among top-100 picks indicates it’s important to track the team’s visitors if we want to know who they’ll pick early. Our friends at Blogging The Boys keep a full register, if you want to see the full list of visitors in 2019.

(Yeah, I included that last sentence to brag just a bit.)

Based on that history, it is highly likely that the names called for the Cowboys’ picks on day two of the draft, which are still considered premium picks, are going to be ones we have seen coming in for a visit.

This just looks like a good draft class for the Cowboys

The depth of this class, and where the talent is seen as slotting, matches up very well with the places where Dallas can use upgrades. That certainly doesn’t happen for every team (just ask those grinding away on the quarterbacks to find a diamond in the detritus). It is a matter of good luck, but never discount the importance of that in the NFL.

Day one of the draft will be a bit boring and even disappointing for most, but have patience. (And it could be worse. The Chicago Bears don’t currently have a pick at all until 87, and only five overall.) Day two in particular could see some very pleasing acquisitions, and we place our trust in McClay to get some nice bang for the buck on day three.

The draft is soon. Carry on.