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2021 NFL Draft Order: Cowboys surge into the Top 5

Embrace the tank.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

When we looked at the 2021 NFL draft order last week, we saw that the Cowboys had successfully cracked the Top 10 in the draft order, and would have selected eighth overall if the season had ended last week.

Another week and another loss later, and the Cowboys make their first appearance in the Top 5! The table below shows the top 10 teams by NFL draft order (if the season were to end today):

Pick Team Won Lost W-L% SOS
1 NY Jets 0 8 .000 .593
2 NY Giants 1 7 .125 .537
3 Jacksonville 1 6 .143 .543
4 Houston (-> MIA) 1 6 .143 .565
5 Dallas 2 6 .250 .467
6 Atlanta 2 6 .250 .563
7 Washington 2 5 .286 .476
8 LA Chargers 2 5 .286 .496
9 New England 2 5 .286 .521
10 Minnesota 2 5 .286 .525

The Cowboys are moving up the draft order like a derailed train plowing through the dirt with almost unstoppable force, and with an all but certain loss against the Steelers next week, they stand a good chance of moving into the Top 3 soon.

Some of us hung on to playoff hopes as long as possible, some of us abandoned all hope a while back, and a few never had any hope to begin with. But now it’s time to collectively move on.

The Cowboys are sitting at 2-6, a point from which no team has made the playoffs since the league moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978. And yes, the terrible state of the NFC East means the Cowboys are “mathematically not eliminated”, but the remainder of 2020 is effectively already an extended tryout for 2021. Even Jerry Jones has given up any pretense of making a postseason push, and while he studiously avoided the word “tanking”, he did talk about playing younger guys more and perhaps favoring players under contract beyond this season:

“Could you make a decision to play a younger player more? Or a player that you’re going to be pretty firm that you’re going to be going forward with him contract-wise than a different situation? And the answer is, I can see that.”

“Yeah, I can see making sure that you get these guys those reps. The only way to get better in the NFL is for reps, and game reps are precious. They’re hard to come by. You don’t get them just by that issue if you’re competing for a championship. So I think you’d see more young players.”

So there you have it. The owner has spoken, and the 2020 season is officially over for the Cowboys, and has been over since Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury.

And as frustrating as that may be, it is also liberating in a way. No more worrying about whether the Cowboys can win their next umpteen games in a row. No more worrying about whether the next backup QB will cost us a game or five. No more worrying about whether this or that player can return to action sooner. That’s all over. And it’s okay to let it go.

That doesn’t mean you’re suddenly indifferent to the Cowboys, far from it. As fans, it’s our job to be optimistic. And part of that job is finding new things to be optimistic about.

You can be optimistic about Prescott’s return next year. You can be optimistic about the team overall being healthier next year. You can be optimistic about how the young players will develop, or changes to the coaching staff, or that free agency next year can’t possibly be worse than it was this year, or the next cheerleader tryouts.

In short, you can be optimistic about a ton of things. You can also be pessimistic about all of those things, and much more, that’s also part of the fan experience.

But chief among the things to be optimistic about may be a high draft pick - unless the Cowboys find a way to mess that up too.

But it sounds like Jones has the right idea about organically tanking.