Last week, we found out courtesy of the DMN’s Jon Machota that since Will McClay took over as vice president of player personnel in 2014, the Cowboys have drafted six players that have gone on to make the Pro Bowl, with those players appearing in 13 Pro Bowls, most of any NFL team.
But the Cowboys’ draft success isn’t just limited to the top of the draft:
McClay’s picks on the third day of the draft from 2014-2018 have started a combined 246 games in the NFL so far, most of any NFL team - and more than the Giants (130) and Eagles (107) combined.
|Starts by Day Three Picks, 2014-2018|
|Top 5||Bottom 5|
In the five drafts between 2014 and 2018, McClay and the Cowboys drafted 30 players on day three of the NFL draft. Of those 30 players, six became eventual starters in the NFL (meaning they started nine or more games in at least one season), as the table below shows.
|Cowboys Dy Three Starters, 2014-2018|
|2014 (4th rd)||Anthony Hitchens||2014 (1st season)|
|2015 (4th rd)||Damien Wilson||2017 (3rd season)|
|2015 (7th rd)||Geoff Swaim||2018 (4th season)|
|2016 (4th rd)||Dak Prescott||2016 (1st season)|
|2016 (6th rd)||Anthony Brown||2016 (1st season)|
|2017 (6th rd)||Xavier Woods||2018 (2nd season)|
Three of the players above (Hitchens, Prescott, and Brown) emerged as year-one starters, the others needed between two and four years before they would finally emerge as starters.
While six draft picks have become starters so far, some of the more recent day-three picks like Dalton Schutz, Dorance Armstrong, or Kavon Frazier might add to that tally eventually. So far though, six out of 30 is a “hit rate” for starters of 20%.
This year, the Cowboys selected six players on day three of the draft. Going by their recent hit rate, one or two of those six rookies could eventually emerge as starters, even if it could take two or more years for them to do so.
- RB Tony Pollard, based purely on his draft pedigree as a fourth-round pick, should theoretically have the highest chance of emerging as a starter. But like seventh-round RB Mike Weber, he’ll be stuck behind Ezekiel Elliott for a long time in Dallas, and barring injury, it’s unlikely either RB will emerge as a starter any time soon.
But the other picks must also like their chances.
- CB Michael Jackson has garnered a lot of praise on top of a litany of bad Michael Jackson jokes, and given that Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Byron Jones are all facing contract years in 2019 or 2020, he has a good chance of moving up through the ranks.
- DEs Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks join an edge rusher room that also faces a lot of uncertainty. The 2019 free agent additions are all playing on one-year contracts, Randy Gregory’s future will always be a question mark, and it’s far from certain that the Cowboys will pull the fifth-year option on Taco Charlton after 2020.
- Safety Donovan Wilson joined a team with needs at safety, and with Jeff Heath on a contract year and Xavier Woods only signed through 2020, he may just have to sit tight for a while before he gets to be a starter.
At the start of training camp in 2016, the BTB community correctly identified which of the Cowboys’ sixth-rounders from 2016 would eventually become a starter:
Perhaps the community can be equally prescient on a similar question this year: Which 2019 day-three pick do you think will eventually emerge as a starter for the Cowboys?
Which 2019 day-three pick do you think will eventually emerge as a starter for the Cowboys?
This poll is closed
RB Tony Pollard
CB Michael Jackson
DE Joe Jackson
S Donovan Wilson
RB Mike Weber
DE Jalen Jelks