The term “win now” is thrown out a lot in NFL circles. People apply those two words to teams that they believe are focused on the present more than anything else. In general, there are not that many teams who are not trying to accomplish the most that they can in the here and now. Sure, there are teams that are a bit more focused on the future, but generally those are the outliers. Not the ones focused on lifting the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end.
This idea is one that often affects the NFL Draft, though. Generally the “best” players in a draft aren’t the ones that go first as quarterbacks are the most sought after position in the game. As a result of “win now” teams take a quarterback, again, generally a lesser overall player, as opposed to another position that is true the best available talent.
Sometimes the two ideas line up perfectly within a draft, but if teams were focused on winning now it is possible that the selection exercise could look very different.
NFL.com’s analytics-based mock draft to “win now” has the Cowboys taking an edge rusher at number 10
If you were to ask your fellow Cowboys fan what the team should do with the 10th overall pick you’d likely get some sort of answer involving the cornerback or offensive tackle positions.
Names like Rashawn Slater, Patrick Surtain II, Penei Sewell, and Caleb Farley have been all the rage as far as mock drafts are concerned. One position that is rarely connected to the Cowboys in mocks is EDGE, much of that because there is hope that Randy Gregory can continue his return and pair nicely opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence for an entire season.
NFL Media’s Cynthia Frelund recently did a mock draft that was analytics-based on the idea of a team prioritizing the need to “win now.” Again the point of this model was to make the most out of 2021 for each team so it is not a mock draft in the sense that most are. She has the Cowboys going EDGE actually, taking Miami’s Gregory Rousseau.
Rousseau opted out in 2020, but his 2019 data was some of my favorite to track that year; he lined up all over the defensive front and generated pressures from every spot he was used in. He also improved his average time to pressure (adjusted for alignment) from the beginning of the season. Why does my model project someone with no 2020 data this high at this position? Well, Rousseau possesses pretty much every key upside marker: size, along with an improving ability to stay low in his center of gravity. He also played offense and safety in high school, meaning we haven’t likely seen his best pass-rushing stuff yet.
It is certainly fascinating to consider the prospect of Rousseau on the same defensive line as Tank (and ideally some more help inside). The Cowboys aren’t exactly rich at edge rusher, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like one of the team’s top needs at the moment as far as the 10th overall pick is concerned.
Evaluating players that opted out of last season is certainly a difficult exercise, but leaning on analytical support certainly can make one feel better about their own convictions. Considering that Rousseau’s best days are still very much likely ahead of him it is going to be fun to watch him in the NFL.