Fifth-round picks are useless. Since 2000, there have been 795 players selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft, and only 18 of those picks appeared in more than one Pro Bowl throughout their career.
For every Tyreek Hill or Richard Sherman that represents value in the fifth round, there are a handful of players that do not even make the roster. Joe Jackson, Michael Hamlin, Danny Coale, and Michael Jackson are players that Dallas selected with a fifth-round pick and never started a game.
However, fifth-round picks are not entirely worthless if used correctly, and here is how Dallas could properly use these selections.
The best-case scenario for Dallas and their four fifth-round picks
Package two and trade-up
To review, Dallas currently has four picks in the fifth round due to the Amari Cooper trade and compensatory picks. Those picks are at 155th, 167th, 176th, and 178th overall.
While the hit rate on fifth-round selections hovers around 6%, this number is similarly unimpressive in the fourth round, especially for the Cowboys. But there is a big jump in the third round.
In short, third-round picks possess value while fourth- and fifth-round picks are not as meaningful. Thus, if Dallas can use the 129th overall pick in the fourth round, add on two fifth-round selections with it, and move up into the mid-to-late third round, they just added value.
It is better to have one decent pick than a handful of picks that likely won’t pan out. But if a team is going for quantity over quality, and is willing to move out of the third round for two fifths and a fourth, Dallas should pull the trigger on that deal.
We discussed all of these ideas in greater detail on the latest episode of 1st and 10 on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
And they shouldn't even limit it to the third round. If a team is willing to take two fifth-round picks for an early fourth, take that deal as well. The goal here is to package these meaningless picks and receive one pick that is slightly less meaningless.
Draft a kicker
Okay, so there are two caveats to the notion that fifth-round selections are not beneficial: kickers and running backs.
We will get to the latter shortly. But the success rate of kickers selected in the fifth round is impressive. There have been 12 kickers selected in this round:
- 17% have made a Pro Bowl
- Randy Bullock, Jake Elliott, Matt Gay, Evan McPherson, Daniel Carlson, and Austin Seibert all played in 2021 after being picked in the fifth round
- Only two kickers failed to make an NFL team
In 2021, the Bengals employed this strategy. In the fifth round, they would select a kicker out of Florida named Evan McPherson. After week five he only missed two total field goals, including two game-winning kicks in the 2021 postseason. Seems like he was worth the selection.
No, it is not a pick that has the potential to change the team. But if the option is between a 50% chance they select a starting kicker or a 6% chance they select a starter at any other position, the choice seems obvious.
Three potential players that fit in here are Cade York from LSU, Nick Sciba from Wake Forest, and Gabe Brkic from Oklahoma. Why not draft a player that could provide immediate value at a position you are in need of?
Start looking for Ezekiel Elliott’s successor
If the two positions that aren’t complete dart throws in the fifth round are kickers and running backs, why not take them both. Because just to review, two of the picks should be packaged to move up, one is used to select a kicker, and the last will be used to take a running back.
Because in 2023, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard could both be elsewhere. It is the likely outcome unless Elliott proves he is worth $16.7 million this season. So, next offseason Dallas will likely be shopping for an entirely different running back room. And to be fair, 2023 is a good year for a running back needy team.
But why not start looking now?
Because you can hit on a running back with this pick, of the 62 fifth-round running backs selected since 2000:
- 40% would end up starting more than 10 games in their career
- 50% lasted in the league past their rookie contract
- Names taken in this round include Michael Turner, Aaron Jones, Jordan Howard, Dion Lewis, Anthony Sherman, Jay Ajayi, and recently, Kenneth Gainwell.
The running backs in the fifth round are not Chirstian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, or Jonathan Taylor level quality. However, a decent amount of these fifth-round running backs were solid starters on their rookie deals, and they would be making exponentially less than what a first-round pick would be earning.
For that reason, taking a shot on a late round running back would be advisable. If he works out, perfect, you have the guy to replace Elliott and Pollard. If not, no big deal, it’s not a large investment anyway. So why not take the shot knowing you will have to invest in the position soon?
The Cowboys are sitting on four fifth-round picks, which can work to their advantage if used correctly. Try and package two selections to trade up, use one on a kicker and another on a flyer at RB and it would be a success.
What wouldn't be ideal is if they spent all four picks taking a Hail Mary shot on a player that likely won’t even make it to year two. Sure a fifth-round tackle, defensive end or linebacker might look good on paper. But what will be even more beneficial for Dallas is if they can draft late-round players that can bring an immediate impact. And that can be accomplished if the picks are used correctly.