The Dallas Cowboys are not exactly being coy about what they might do with their first-round pick. It looks like they will have interest in either Kenyon Greene or Zion Johnson to replace Connor McGovern at LG. And there may be an offensive tackle added later in the draft following the departure of La’el Collins. It is only sensible, since the offensive line is perhaps the greatest weakness of the team at the moment.
That is the conventional wisdom. However, allow me to present this graphic.
If we took the 5 listed starters for each team from ourlads and tried to guess how good their pass protection would be based on most recent PFF grade, which teams would we expect to have the best and worst pass protection in 2022?— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) March 28, 2022
Hmm, I wonder why Russell Wilson wanted out... pic.twitter.com/dN3R9OEcGf
In the interest of full disclosure, Mr. Baldwin did redo his rankings shortly after to try and be more precise. But it still had Dallas in the top 5.
Many, of course, do not have any confidence in what Pro Football Focus says with their cryptic grading system. On the other hand, a lot of things about this chart ring a bit true.
One of the many things that has irritated us about free agency for the Cowboys is the rather nonchalant way they have ignored the offensive line to date. The ranking above may be a clue as to why. If Dallas is one of the teams that uses PFF heavily in its evaluations, then they may be much more confident in what they already have than the rest of us. This also may be a case where they are simply seeing things similarly with their self-scouting. That latter is done by Will McClay’s staff, who have a very good reputation.
But how do we reconcile that with Jerry Jones spilling the beans about the plan for the first round of the draft? That may well come from the above chart being derived from the composite scores of all the linemen. The other four projected starters probably balance out a low rating for McGovern. This is likely more a case of him being seen as the weakest link that holds back the rest of the line. Replacing him with a strong prospect in the draft would just elevate the line’s ability to protect Dak Prescott. Other positions of need, such as wide receiver and linebacker, are ones where more value for the pick can be found in later rounds. It still makes sense to use the first-rounder to go after a guard with the way the current projections for the draft class match up with the needs of the team.
But if the team truly wants to find a way to replace the weak link on the line, they may be looking at the wrong one. Baldwin also posted his breakdown of all five players for Dallas.
Not a lot of teams that have 2 truly elite players and no one who is really bad pic.twitter.com/lNCSffvfOb— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) March 29, 2022
This switches things around a bit. It turns out McGovern was a bit stronger than Terence Steele last season. We might be a bit overeager to find a guard when a potential starting tackle is really the way to get the most improvement. That depends a good bit on how you project the players to develop this year. Is one closer to his ceiling than the other?
While I am stirring the pot a bit, I would be remiss to point out how the frequent disdain for Tyler Biadasz may be more than a little undeserved.
Mostly, though, this is about taking a broader view and not getting blown about by the prevailing winds. While conventional wisdom says one thing, there is value in looking at multiple ways of evaluation. Cowboys social media can become something of an echo chamber, where emotional reactions to a few plays can become overblown and then take on a life of their own. Going outside that insular view may provide new insights into the reasoning of the staff.
That reasoning seems to be that the offensive line still needs a big upgrade, although maybe not where we might expect, while the rest of the unit is better than is widely believed. It also needs to be mentioned that the rankings discussed here were only about the passing game. They do not incorporate the running game, which did appear to have bigger issues. That is another reason why going with an offensive lineman in the first makes a lot of sense. All signs are pointing to that being exactly what Dallas is trying to do.