Ah, there’s nothing like a little confirmation bias. When you see some kind of analysis that supports your own opinion, you really like to latch onto such perceptive and intelligent work. One of the latest examples of something that can be taken as putting a very favorable light on the Dallas Cowboys is a recent article at NFL.com where Adam Rank redoes the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He has three players that were actually taken by the Cowboys that year going in the first 31 picks. (The New England Patriots forfeited their first-rounder that year.)
With these exercises, largely conceived to help us while away the time while waiting for real football news to come along, part of the enjoyment is judging them. So how does Rank do? Well, his first overall pick immediately builds a strong basis for remarkable perspicacity on his part.
Pick 1 Los Angeles Rams (original pick Jared Goff): Dak Prescott, QB Mississippi State
Prescott was amazing as a rookie and he’s reached at least 3,300 passing yards and 28 total touchdowns in every full season he’s played. And he was absolutely crushing it last year before his injury. The guy’s good. You almost worry that he was so good as a rookie that he would have saved Jeff Fisher’s job, resulting in the Rams never hiring Sean McVay. Maybe Goff was the right pick here after all! I’m kidding. But I would like to think about that for a future podcast or something.
It’s been five years now, and the entire football world seems to have reached an obvious consensus that Prescott was the best option available in the entire draft class. It is just as evident that he is well overdue getting signed to a top of the market contract.
Well, everywhere but in offices at The Star that are occupied by people named Jones, apparently.
Now to the next player that landed in Dallas.
Pick 4 Dallas Cowboys (original pick the same): Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State
The Cowboys selected Zeke here in real life. And I would say that it was a smart pick. Even though the “running backs don’t matter” crowd still hates it to this day. But Elliott has been good for the Cowboys. The guy did lead the league in rushing twice, rolling up 1,631 yards and 16 total touchdowns as a rookie. It hasn’t been Zeke’s fault. I would still make that call today. Like, do you think the Cowboys were a Jalen Ramsey away from winning a Super Bowl?
Rank thinks the Cowboys were right in their original selection.
And thus ends the confirmation bias, because I totally disagree with his reasoning. First off, his cavalier dismissal of the “running backs don’t matter” crowd misstates and distorts the real argument about why Elliott was over-drafted. Running backs are just so much easier to find and have much less effect on the performance of a team than a player at a high-value position like Ramsey, who Rank has going next as he did in real life.
However, Rank would probably have been right, because the Dallas brain-trust is still headed by Jerry and Stephen Jones, and running backs definitely did matter to them back then. Remember that Elliott was not drafted to pair with Prescott. He was supposed to help out Tony Romo. We sadly recall how that worked out.
So you have to award points for this pick for being what would have happened even with some knowledge of how things played out. It still was in reality a misuse of a first-round selection.
The above is a personal opinion and does not reflect the official stance of Blogging The Boys, Dallas Cowboys media in general, or many of our fan base.
Now to the final member of the trio teased in the headline.
Pick 20 New York Jets (original pick Darron Lee): Jaylon Smith, LB Notre Dame
The Jets used the No. 20 selection on Darron Lee. He did get a Super Bowl ring with the Chiefs ... but he was inactive for the big game. So I’ll have the Jets take Smith, whose career was delayed because of a brutal injury in college. But he was a Pro Bowler for the Cowboys in 2019.
Say what? Smith missed his entire rookie year, had one good season, and looked absolutely lost last fall. There is a strong argument to be made that his selection by Dallas in the second round was a mistake, so this looks even worse. Had he been taken later, it would have been a more reasonable gamble that may have been far more justifiable, but there seems no way he could be considered as worth a first-round pick. Just the fact he was unable to play as a rookie, and that it was completely foreseen, is all the justification that needs. If the Jets were all in for a linebacker, Rank has Matt Judon and Myles Jack going just a few picks later. His reasoning in elevating Smith this high completely eludes me. The evaluation of it will be presented in the form of a movie quote.
At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. - Billy Madison
So, as far as keeping score, we have one Cowboy who was the only correct answer, another who was, but only so far as the thinking of the the team’s ownership, and a complete and total miss.
There is also one other pick that caught my eye. It doesn’t involve a Dallas player, but one that is for several reasons closely related to the Cowboys.
Pick 8 Philadelphia Eagles (original pick Jack Conklin, by the Tennessee Titans via trade): Carson Wentz, QB North Dakota State
Stay with me, as this gets a little convoluted here. This pick was originally the Dolphins’, but it was moved in a deal that featured Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell. And then, eventually, this ended up as the Titans’ pick. But let’s just say for a moment that this pick stays with the Eagles. I have them taking Wentz here. I know it ended horribly. Every Eagles content creator is going to roast me for doing this, and that’s fine. But here’s what I’m telling you: The Eagles don’t get their lone Lombardi Trophy without Wentz. Obviously, Nick Foles earned Super Bowl MVP honors to close out a magical playoff run. But we don’t get to that point if Wentz doesn’t put in his own MVP-caliber season in 2017. Seriously, Foles is great in small runs, but not over a full season. Look at his history. You needed Wentz. So you make this pick again. And hey, this time you don’t even have to make that final trade up to No. 2!
I have to give Rank some credit for his logic here. There’s no doubt that this alternative would have left the Eagles in far better shape now, while they would still have that one glorious season to carry them for hopefully decades of futility to come.