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Cowboys enter 2021 NFL draft with most draft capital since 2016

The Cowboys need to use their many draft picks wisely.

NFL: NFL Draft Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Cowboys had run up a 2-7 record by mid November and were on track for the third overall pick in the draft. And that third overall pick, as we observed at the time, would have given the Cowboys the most draft capital since 1992.

But then the Cowboys went on a 4-3 run down the stretch that didn’t do much except destroy draft capital.

  • It certainly didn’t help Mike Nolan keep his job in Dallas. And it didn’t help defensive line coach Jim Tomsula either.
  • Neither did it help the Cowboys make the postseason.
  • It didn’t even help the Cowboys get a Pro Bowl nod for one of their players; in fact, not a single Cowboys player made the Pro Bowl (for just the third time in franchise history).

Going on that little run cost the Cowboys approximately 1,000 points in draft value, the equivalent of a mid first-round pick, or two mid-second rounders. When we looked at the Cowboys’ projected draft capital in mid November last year, the Cowboys were on track for about 3,200 points of draft capital. Today, the Cowboys are down to 2,213 points with the following picks and the corresponding draft value (per the Trade Value Chart):

Rd Pick Origin Value
1 10 Original pick 1,300
2 44 Original pick 460
3 75 Original pick 215
3 99 Comp pick (Byron Jones) 104
4 115 Original pick 64
4 138 Comp pick (Robert Quinn) 37
5 179 Comp pick (Randall Cobb) 18.2
5 192 From Detroit (Everson Griffen trade) 13
6 227 Comp pick (Jason Witten) 1
7 228 Original pick 1
Total Draft Capital 2,213

That’s not the draft capital haul we may have been briefly hoping for, but it is still quite a significant accumulation of draft capital. In fact, outside of the generational 2016 draft, the 2021 draft capital is the most the Cowboys have had since 2011, as the table below illustrates.

Year Draft Capital - Year Draft Capital - Year Draft Capital
1992 3,477 1994 1,901 1993 1,268
2016 2,779 2014 1,655 2015 1,192
2005 2,717 1995 1,635 2010 1,188
2003 2,597 2020 1,613 2017 1,143
2002 2,527 2018 1,610 2007 1,142
2011 2,221 2013 1,555 2004 1,131
2021 2,213 1997 1,549 2001 962
1998 2,124 2006 1,517 2009 796
2012 1,945 1996 1,505 2019 570
2008 1,902 1999 1,482 2000 545

From a draft capital perspective, the 2021 NFL draft is sandwiched right between the 2011 and the 1998 drafts. And that’s quite interesting because those are two of the better drafts in Cowboys history, at least as measured by a metric called ”Career Approximate Value” (CarAV) from

With a combined CarAV 258, the 1998 draft class is the fourth best draft class since 1992, and the 187 points of the 2011 draft class are the third best this century (behind 2005 and 2016).

In 1998, the Cowboys picked Pro Bowlers DE Greg Ellis and T Flozell Adams in the first two rounds, and other starters in the later rounds in DT Michael Myers, LB Darren Hambrick, and DB Izell Reese.

In 2011, the Cowboys nabbed All Pros Tyron Smith and DeMarco Murray in the first and third round, and also got contributors in Bruce Carter and Dwayne Harris.

Importantly, all six players taken by the Cowboys in the top 100 in both drafts turned into future starters, four made the Pro Bowl, and two even made All Pro.

This year, the Cowboys have four picks in the top 100 and six more picks beyond that. And that is the real value of the draft capital the team has amassed: they should expect all four picks in the top 100 to deliver future starters, and they may get lucky with one or two of their picks in the later rounds.

The Cowboys squandered their chance at even more draft capital with some meaningless wins in the second half of an already lost season, but even with the draft capital they are left with, they should be able to put together a nice draft class that should rival some of their best over recent years.

In the draft capital post from November, I showed that the success of the Cowboys drafts between 2000 and 2019 has largely been a function of the draft capital available. This, of course, runs counter to all the modern-day draft mythology about scouting prowess, film study wizardry, or secret meetings with prospects.

Self-aggrandizing proclamations by social media draftniks notwithstanding, the draft is less a matter of skill and more a matter of the draft capital you’ve amassed, with some good or bad luck thrown into the mix.

As such, the Cowboys will likely put together a good draft, regardless of whether they pick the player or position the interwebs insist they must draft (with a lot of all caps and exclamation marks).

As long as they STAY AWAY away from a defensive tackle in the first round!!!

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