Summary of Players linked to us at the Combine

This is the fifth in a series of articles on the 45 players linked to the Cowboys at the combine.  You can get the gist with just this article, but you would benefit from reading them in order.  The comments in the earlier articles are very valuable.  The actual writing of the articles helped refined my thinking for this summary.

I started with discussions of

1. how PFF changed their rankings based on the combine
2. 1/3 of the players were DB’s
3. 1/3 were the front seven and the OL
4. 1/3 on the skill players on the offense

The analysis of each article builds on the material from the earlier discussions. I divided the 45 players into three approximately same sized groups.  The first key for analysis is the number of players available to draft at each position.  

Then you need to evaluate the clustering of or gaps among the players at each position.  This allows you to game out what happens if a draft pick is too early to take a player or what happens if you pass.

Take a player too early, and you lose the opportunity to draft another player.  Yet, you get the player you want.  Decide it is too early to take a pick, and the player may not be available with your next pick.  

We saw that play out last year.  The team had a third-round evaluation on Williams.  We did not think he would last until our third pick, so we took hm in the second round.  We also had a second-round evaluation on Tolbert, but thought he or an equivalent WR would be available in the third round.  We took Williams and Tolbert was available in the third, so we got both of the players we wanted.

The important thing to remember is that game theory says you have to act if you think another team will intervene.  This is true even if the other team does not actually want to  step in, as long as you honestly believe it to happen.

It was fairly easy to discuss the Defensive Backs.  I started with them because I noted over a third of the players we talked with were the two basic positions Cornerback and Safety. I suggest that indicates that we are going to draft a Cornerback or Safety.  The questions are how to determine which one and at what draft slot.  There are high quality options throughout the draft.

Previously, I discussed subgroups such as slot vs edge and free safety vs strong safety along with nickel and dime packages.  Further, a college player may shift from one position to the next in the pro ranks.  A slot CB is often a Safety and vice versa.  Over a season a slot CB may have to go the edge as injuries occur.

The second article discussed the  LB, DE, DT, and the OL positions.  Compared to the first article, there are twice as many positions to discuss, with each position about having about half the players as options.

Come draft time you then have to weigh one position against another, which is harder than just which player is better than another at a given position.  I showed how you could have different options based on different individual preferences.  Reasonable folks can come to different results honestly.  The key is to state why you choose player A over player B and position Y over position Z.

The third article discussed the skill positions on offense.  These include QB,TE, WR, RB.  There were different number of choices even among these positions.  There are only a few options at QB or TE, four RB and a slew of WR.  That seems to indicate which positions we are interested in.

Astute readers should note that I have shifted from using PFF player rankings to a consensus ranking from NFLDraftBuzz from article to article.  Note you will see some players with the same numbers.  That is a function of averaging.

For example, [1 + 3] divided by 2 is the same as [3 + 1] divided by 2, when two rankings services rank player A as 1 and B as 3 and the other service ranks them the other way.  With many services there could have been fractional differences, I deleted those fractions.

Different sites have their own rankings and small changes can have major effects on any draft.  PFF, CBS, DraftTek, and NFLDraftBuzz have different rankings of players, though many of the estimates will be similar for most players.  The  best players are known as the best for a reason, but a few player estimates can be widely different.  Hopefully, using a consensus will minimize the overall variance.

These rankings are all estimates which means some will be wrong, but we see that in the real draft too.  One team makes what looks to be an unusual draft pick and the rest of the league has to adjust. Every year, a draft pick can seem strange as many sites use generic rankings, but each team has specific characteristics that they are looking for.  A 3 4 Defense needs different players than a 4 3 Defense.  A secondary that focuses on press coverage seeks different players than a zone defense.

The NFL have their own site where they list their estimates of player futures.  I list their rating scale for the players involved below.

8.00		perfect prospect
6.50 - 6.60	boom or bust 
6.10 - 6.19	backup develop 
                to good starter
6.00 – 6.09	abo ave backup
5.88 – 5.99	average backup
5.60 – 5.69	practice squad

The NFL also provides separate estimates of the players production in college and athleticism.  This allows us to create a 2 x 2 matrix similar to what OCC used. I have arbitrarily set 75 out of 100 as the dividing lines for each axis because 75 is between a marginal 50 and a perfect 100.  This creates four quadrants.

Quadrant I – High Production/High Athleticism

These are the ones that you want to draft.

Quadrant II – High Production/Low Athleticism

These are hard workers, who may not have high potential.  These are the high floor types.  They can be good and their enthusiasm can help drive other players

Quadrant III – Low Production/High Athleticism

These are the high ceiling types.  Perhaps they played out of position, but you are cautioned that they may need some type to develop if they ever do.  One should look to see their motivation levels. Interviews are very important for these players to determine which or both in the case.

Quadrant IV – Low Production/Low Athleticism

These are the players who are not normally drafted. Perhaps they may be UDFA.

Conceptual basis

I present the order of the quadrants based on the order of the data from the NFL.  I think from a conceptual basis changing the order makes more theoretical sense. 

Ath	Prod	Quad
High	High	best
High	Low	ceilings
Low	High	floors
Low 	Low	worst

Then the high athleticism/low production would be second as high ceiling.  Then, low/high is third as high floors.  Quadrant IV is the worst. Change the order of production and athleticism and Quadrant II is Quadrant III and vice versa, but the concept is the same.  Label each axis and it becomes clear so everyone is talking the same language.

Data by Round

We then look at the data arranged by round.  I have arranged the groups of players by when the consensus says they would be slotted and list which draft pick we would have to use to get that player.  We start with players who we would have to trade up to get. 

Of course, some players we think are out of reach sometimes fall to us.  Nobody really expected Lamb to be available when we drafted.  It might be unusual, but you should prepare for the unlikely and be able to shift as the draft unfolds.

In the recent articles I discussed each player in more detail.  Here is their consensus draft slot, their grade potential and their quadrant for each player.  I highlight particular players of specific interest as standing out from the rest of their group.  Then discuss those highlighted player in the recap.
Move up
Slot Rate Quad  POS  Name		  

016  6.72  2  CB Branch		
017  6.36  2  WR Addison		
020  6.44  1  OL Jones, B		
022  6.29  3  WR Smith-N			
023  6.40  2  CB Witherspoon				
025  6.38  2  OL Torrence			

Branch stands out for an outstanding 6.72 rating.  Jones is the best OL within reason based on the consensus rankings.

Our Pick:  026
Rd 1:  001 – 031

029  6.43  1  CB Porter				
029  6.39  1  CB Ringo				
029  6.37  1  RB Gibbs
Porter is the best press Cornerback and has the highest rating.  See the highlighted discussion earlier on why Porter, Ringo, and Gibbs have the same slot.

For the following, we must use our 026 to get these players or trade down.  They will not be available with our next pick.

036  6.48  1  TE Kincaid				
039  6.27  1  OL Harrison			
040  6.35  1  WR Flowers		
042  6.50  1  WR Hyatt			
042  6.36  1  CB Forbes				
043  6.41  2  OL Schmitz				
047  6.34  1  DE Amudike U

Note Hyatt has the highest rating, but the 6.50 scale represents "boom or bust" and indicates a higher degree of risk.  Forbes is an excellent choice at CB, but at 177 lbs. he has risk associated with him. Yet, Dallas is known for choosing high ceiling players.

Kincaid is a fine talent at TE, but other TE ‘s are available later.  The same concept applies to WR and DE.

Schmitz has the lowest quadrant in this group.

Our Pick:  058
Rd 2:  032 – 063
058  6.23  3  RB Achane	

We must use our 058 for the following:

067  6.23  1  QB Hooker				
074  6.37  1  DE Hall				
076  6.00  4  DT Dexter				
078  6.19  3  LB Hensley

I love Achane for his world class speed, but there are other RB options.    Hall and Hooker are quadrant  1 and Hensley is among the best LB. A higher rated DT can be drafted later.
Our Pick 090:
Rd 3:  064 – 101

092  6.15  4  RB Bigsby			
093  6.35  3  WR Scott				
096  6.27  1  CB Brents	
096  6.33  3  DB Skinner				
099  5.96  3  LB Overshown				

Brents stands out by quadrant.  Scott is close to the rate given to earlier CB’s.
Our Pick:  129
Rd 4:  102 – 134

103  6.10  3  DT Young			
116  6.13  3  OL Steen		
119  5.82  3  CB Garner					
120  6.34  3  TE Schoomaker
133  6.24  1  RB Abanikanda	

Abanikanda stands out as the only quadrant I player in this group.  The DT and TE are similar to earlier bigger name players. Steen seems to be the safety valve if we miss out on earlier picks. Garner has lower ratings.

We must use the pick for:

152  5.96  3  QB Hall						
155  5.69  3  WR Jarrett			
160  5.80  4  CB Austin

Hall borders on quadrant I.  He has a production score of 74 just short of the 75 required and 89 for his athleticism.
Our Picks:  161, 169, 176	
Rd 5:  135 - 177	
We must use a pick for:

180  5.83  4  DB Dean

Our Pick: 212
Rd 6:  178 – 217

217  5.82  3  DB Connor

We would have to use pick 212 for the following:
220  5.85  3  DB Owens			
221  5.92  3  DB Hill				
222  6.11  4  CB Bush			
223  6.18  3  CB Ward
225  5.88  4  CB Brooks			
232  5.65  4  WR Tinsley		
240  5.64  4  QB Duggan			

Bush and Ward stand out for their ratings.

Our Pick: 244
Rd 7:  218 – 259

None listed

Summary based on Dallas Draft Picks

I will highlight the players in bold.  In essence, I have created a finalist list or a smaller board from the 45. There are a range of positions and some options within those positions.  The key is fewer players to compare among positions make the tradeoffs easier to understand. Yet that also means that good players are left off for specific reasons.

CB 	5
LB	1
DE	1
DT	1

OL	2
TE	2
OL	2
WR	1	
RB	1

Now we list the highlighted players, the draft slot and the draft capital that slot requires.  The draft capital is from DraftTek. You can refer to this later when you would prefer a different option or to make a trade.
Slot  Capital	Player

016  1000  CB Branch
020  0850  OL Jones, B
029  0640  CB Porter
036  0540  TE Kincaid
039  0510  OL Harrison

074  0220  DE Hall
078  0200  LB Hensley
093  0128  WR Scott
096  0116  CB Brents
103  0084  DT Young

120  0054  TE Schoonmaker
133  0039.5RB Abanikanda
152  0029.4QB Hall
222  0001  CB Bush
223  0001  CB Ward

Based on that data presented, I present options for each pick.  There are options that others could reasonably make.  I discuss why I chose these players later.  My choice is listed in bold.

Draft Pick Capital

I have updated the draft pick slots from the beginning of the series.  The following data is from DraftTek.  We have slightly new numbers and slots for two fifth-round and one sixth-round comp picks.

Pick  Capital

1.026  700
2.058  320
3.090  140
4.129  043
5.161  025.8
5.169  022.6
5.176  019.4
6.212  005
7.244  001

Note the level of precision to get to fractions of points is ridiculous.  The error factor alone is bigger than that.  A trade will not be so exact either.

First Pass Analysis with Options

1.026  039  OL Harrison

2.058  067  QB Hooker	
       074  DE Hall		
       078  LB Hensley	

3.090  093  WR Scott	
       096  CB Brents 	
       103  DT Young	
       120  TE Schoonmaker	

4.129  133  RB Abanikanda 
       152  QB Hall

5.161  ---   
5.169  ---	
5.176  ---		
6.212  222  CB Bush
       223  CB Ward
7.244  ---

Note I did not choose some in the later rounds. That frees up some minimal draft capital for another earlier pick.  In the discussion below, I suggest a pick that could be taken later which also frees up more capital.  Others can reasonably use that capital in a different manner.

Round One Trade up

I want B Jones, but that would cost to trade up.  Jones is a bigger name tackle, but a smart team would use him as the best real guard in the draft.  One of our largest holes last year was LG.  He would fill that and more.  

Given when Jones will be drafted, teams will try him at tackle to begin.  He should be good enough to be a tackle, but I still think his best position is guard and would be for us. We often look for a college tackle to move inside to guard. I do not think he will be available to us when we draft, nor do I think we trade up; but Smith and Jones would set our left side for a decade.

Torrence may be available depending on how the draft goes.  He is considered the best pure guard in the draft, but did not do well at the combine. I am not sure that I would trade up to get him. Given the hole at LG, he would be a reasonable pick if available.

Round One Stay Put

In the first round, there are three players available in their normal first round slot.  We can get two CB’s and RB in the first round.  Porter is the best press cover in the draft, but CB have good picks later in the draft. Gibbs is a fine RB, but RB has other options in later rounds.

There ae also some players in the second round we would have to use our first pick to get.  Harrison is one such pick.

Torrence vs Harrison sets up an interesting discussion in itself.  As noted, Torrence is the best pure guard; but if we take Harrison, that moves new Smith back to guard.  

Harrison has great pass protection skills, but he is not very strong to be a pro guard right now. He has made major improvement last year.  The main reason why he is not as strong now is that he is very young. He will develop further in the NFL.

In the first round, I would take Harrison as the best OL estimated to be available. Harrison is the prototype player that Dallas drafts mimicking the age and competitiveness of classic Smith and new Smith.  

Classic Smith was in his teens when drafted.  New Smith was very young when he was drafted.  Harrison is one of the few players born in 2002 in the draft.  Most younger players in the draft were born in 2001 and some highly touted players were born in 1999 and even 1998 with the Covid lockdown and more college eligibility.

It is harder to find a good tackle than a good guard. Harrison-Smith is better than Smith-Torrence, even as I think Smith is a better tackle than guard.  Smith was an above average LT as a rookie and should improve. This pick will provide a huge increase in depth in addition to talent.

In order of priority without any cost, just based on where we would use the players.

   LT      LG

Smith	   Jones
Harrison   Smith
Smith	   Torrence

Mid Rounds

I like DE Hall as the value pick in the second round.  If you want to take a QB, then Hooker is an option.  Given he will be a backup for a while, this is a big move especially after restructuring Dak’s contract again. We can get a QB Hall in the fourth round, who just missed being in the first quadrant.

In the third round, I really like Brents.  Yet we can get CB with possibilities in the sixth round.  This is a good place to get a solid WR in Scott.

Fourth round is a no-brainer to get Abanikanda. He is a first quadrant guy with better skills than earlier picks.  Hall at QB might be backup choice to use additional draft capital.

Late Rounds

We can get a DB in the sixth round who can develop to be a backup to solid starter.  Readers will see that there are lots of gaps in the late rounds.  

These gaps are a blessing in disguise.  Later picks have pretty low probabilities of success.  We can use the draft capital for these slots to trade up for some options in the earlier rounds with higher probabilities of success.  That could be used for the QB Hall or TE Schoonmaker with capital left over.  

Other Adjustments
I would draft Harrison at the slot to make sure I got him.  Again, I need to point out using different draft guides, you have different estimates of when players will be chosen.

Yet, for GAMING or MOCK PURPOSES trading down opens up draft capital.  In decision-making theory that is the cost of perfect information.  You just do not really know what  will happen in the draft.  That capital can be used for alternative players or additional players.  

The point difference from is large enough for another third or fourth round pick. Almost enough to get LB Hensley by himself or certainly DT Young and TE Schoonmaker or some combination with CB Brents or Skinner.   Some fifth round points could help out. 

Firth round capital 
Pick  Capital	

5.161  25.8		
5.169  22.6		
5.176  19.4	
7.244  01.0	

Total  68.8

Trade down for Harrison
Pick  Capital

026  700  original cost	
039  510  available at

Diff 190
Plus 068  fifth and later

Tot  258  more capital
To get some combination of

078  200  LB Hensley 
096  116  CB Brents 
096  116  DB Skinner
103  084  DT Young
120  054  TE Schoonmaker
152  030  QB Hall

In addition to these through six rounds:

1.026  OL Harrison or trade down
2.058  DE Hall
3.090  WR Scott
4.129  RB Abanikanda
6.212  CB Ward
Reasonable folks can come to different solutions.  One could make a mock draft contest of the 45 player or even my finalist list. What would you do with these players? 

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