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Recent history indicates the day 3 NFL draft picks are not going to help the Cowboys enough

The Cowboys have a lot of picks on Day 3, especially in the fifth round.

NFL: NFL Draft Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of needs going into the 2022 NFL Draft and will be depending on the draft to fill out the roster. The good news is that they have nine picks. The bad news: Too many of them are on Day 3, when the picks just aren’t as valuable.

Will McClay gets a lot of respect for the job he has done in recent years guiding the draft for the Cowboys. But there is only so much you can do as you get deeper into the draft. It is a general rule that the first four rounds are the so-called “premium picks” where teams have the best shot at finding players that can help them. If you go back through the last six years of the draft when McClay really started to have a big influence, the experience of the Cowboys fit that template pretty well.

Recent Cowboys day 3 picks

2021 2020 2019
2021 2020 2019
4/LB Jabril Cox 4/CB Reggie Robinson II 4/RB Tony Pollard
4/OT Josh Ball 4/C Tyler Biadasz 5/CB Michael Jackson
5/WR Simi Fehoko 5/DE Bradlee Anae 5/DE Joe Jackson
6/DT Quinton Bohanna 7/QB Ben DiNucci 6/S Donovan Wilson
6/S Israel Mukuamu 7/RB Mike Weber
7/IOL Matt Farniok 7/DE Jalen Jelks
2018 2017 2016
4/DE Dorance Armstrong 4/WR Ryan Switzer 4/DE Charles Tapper
4/TE Dalton Schultz 6/S Xavier Woods 4/QB Dak Prescott
5/QB Mike White 6/CB Marquez White 6//CB Anthony Brown
6/LB Chris Covington 7/DT Joey Ivie 6/S Kavon Frazier
6/WR Cedrick Wilson 7/WR Noah Brown 6/RB Darius Jackson
7/RB Bo Scarbrough 7/DT Jordan Carroll 6/TE Rico Gathers

As you can see, the Cowboys have done fairly well with their fourth-rounders. Going back to 2016, they have gotten three starters in the fourth, including, of course, Dak Prescott. They have also acquired a couple of key role players in Tony Pollard and Dorance Armstrong. It is worth noting that Armstrong just got his second contract, which is something a lot of first-rounders don’t do with Dallas. If you discount last year, which is still a bit early to make any real judgement, they have hit on five of eight picks in the fourth. Anything over 50% is pretty good, so kudos to McClay and company.

But things really fall off the cliff after that. Once again, if you don’t count the second-year players who are still TBD, they have only gotten significant contributions from seven of the twenty payers taken in rounds five through seven, and only one other, Mike McCarthy pet cat Ben DiNucci, has managed to hang around in any capacity. The fifth round, where they have those four picks this year, has been a real desert. They only made a total of four selections in that round during the five years we can make any real evaluation, and none of them made any real contributions, with only DE Joe Jackson hanging around for more than one year.

Back in 2016 and 2017, the Cowboys traded away their fifth-round picks, which may be the best use for those. Whether using them to move up in the current year or trading them for what should be a fourth-round pick the following one, they can get the team into the fourth round (or possibly higher if packaged) where the odds of finding a usable player go up significantly.

We discussed this idea in greater detail on the latest episode of Ryled Up with special guest Jeff Cavanaugh. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network so you don’t miss any of our episodes! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

There is even an argument to be made that they can trade back from the fifth, because the Cowboys actually have a much better hit rate in both the sixth and seventh rounds. The Cowboys have hit on Donovan Wilson, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Anthony Brown, and Kavon Frazier. Anthony Brown eventually became a starter, and all the others were useful depth players for several seasons in Dallas. Noah Brown may be contending for the WR3 job this season, especially while the team is waiting for Michael Gallup to come back from his injury.

All this means that the team is going to be hard pressed to do much to help things after the fourth round this year. They have a chance to find another hidden gem in the sixth, but even there the chances are not that great. Those four selections in the fifth could be better used to move up some. That would likely reduce the overall number of late-round chances, however. It is possible that they use all four of them as they now stand in an attempt to at least get one player who will work out.

The issue is how many positions they need to address pending an unlikely quality free agent signing. That remains possible as Stephen Jones continues to eye the bargain bin of players who still don’t have a deal and might be getting a bit anxious about having a job this year. He still vastly prefers to get his resources through the draft where they can be locked in for four years for relative peanuts. But the miss rate after the fourth round will likely mean a failure at one or more of the holes the team currently have. IOL, WR, OT, LB, DE, DT and S all look to be places where the team needs help. We know that they are loath to spend much draft capital at DT and S, so those almost certainly will not be addressed until after the fourth round. That still leaves five places to try and fill with four picks.

A trade back of a few spots in the first could net them the extra pick they need for those, but that would depend on whether their draft board makes that feasible. If they see their targets at 24 getting depleted, they might feel compelled to stay and use their first-rounder. And they would always have to find the right trade partner. With this year having what is perceived as 20 or less legitimate first-round talents, other teams may be more willing to just stay where they are for the same reasons Dallas might.

The Cowboys also might be looking for a RB late as they try to figure out the future of the position. And this may be a year to spend a late pick on K as they have a big question there. They might want to double dip at WR, and if a good CB falls, they might need to go that direction as well. As you can see, even nine picks that are used most effectively just doesn’t seem enough right now.

Many fans and media figures feel confident that the Cowboys can use their nine picks to take care of the roster needs, but the recent history shows that is not a dependable thing with so much of those picks coming so late. It also discounts the role of luck. Prescott is the shining example, as he was the staff’s third choice for what was supposed to be a developmental backup QB. All the sixth- and seventh-rounders who worked out fall into that lucky category. Fortune has favored Dallas of late, but it is fickle and could fail to go their way this time. It just adds to the anxiety of the 2022 offseason.