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Cooks & Gilmore trades: Dallas likely will not miss those fifth-round picks at all

Based on recent history the Cowboys probably got more for those picks via trade than if they’d used them in the draft.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

After trading for WR Brandin Cooks and CB Stephon Gilmore last week, the Cowboys now have two fewer fifth-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. While you’d always like to have as many picks as possible, Dallas’ recent history in the 5th round shows that using them in these trades probably will lead to might better outcomes.

With their original selection and two compensatory picks, the Cowboys had three total fifth-rounders before last week. They sent one of those compensatory picks to the Colts in exchange for the veteran corner Gilmore. Their original 5th, plus a 6th in 2024, went to the Texans for Cooks.

Gilmore turns 33 this September and Cooks is turning 30. One might argue that these picks would be better spent on players in their early 20s who can potentially give you a much longer return on investment. Think about a guy like former CB Orlando Scandrick, who was a 5th-round pick in 2009 and played for 10 seasons in a key role.

Last year, Dallas added two exciting young prospects with CB DaRon Bland and LB Damone Clark as fifth-round picks. Bland was one of the best rookie corners in football and Clark, despite missing offseason work and much of the regular season from back surgery, started contributing quickly in the LB rotation. We have high hopes for both of their futures.

Not only do you potentially get more time with these younger players but you also get four years of cheap labor. DaRon Bland’s rookie contract is only worth about $4 million total, giving you a top-three corner with an annual cap hit of just around $1 million. He’ll be one of the best bargains on the roster from now through 2025.

So yes, when those fifth-round picks actually turn into Blands and Scandricks, that would be a better way to use them. But there’s a reason that we had to go all the back to 2008 to find the Scandrick example, and it’s why nobody needs to cry about losing those picks for Cooks and Gilmore.

Here’s a look at Dallas’ 5th-round picks over the last 15 drafts:

  • 2022 - CB DaRon Bland
  • 2022 - LB Damone Clark
  • 2022 - DT John Ridgeway
  • 2021 - WR Simi Fehoko
  • 2020 - DE Bradlee Anae
  • 2019 - CB Michael Jackson
  • 2019 - DE Joe Jackson
  • 2018 - QB Mike White
  • 2015 - DE Ryan Russell
  • 2014 - WR Devin Street
  • 2013 - RB Joseph Randle
  • 2012 - WR Danny Coale
  • 2011 - CB Josh Thomas
  • 2009 - DB DeAngelo Smith
  • 2009 - S Michael Hamlin
  • 2009 - K David Buehler
  • 2008 - CB Orlando Scandrick

Not exactly the Ring of Honor, is it?

Some of these players didn’t even make the Cowboys roster in their rookie seasons. None of them but Scandrick earned a second contract in Dallas. In just the last two years we’ve already seen the team move on from John Ridgeway and are still waiting for Simi Fehoko to find an offensive role.

A few players like Josh Thomas, Mike White, and Michael Jackson have found work after being discarded by the Cowboys. The talent was there but either the opportunity or the system in Dallas just wasn’t right for them.

But as you can clearly see, the fifth round hasn’t yielded much in a long time. In fact, you can even go back to the lauded drafts of Jimmy Johnson’s era and won’t find any big wins coming out of that round.

What’s funny is that Dallas has had surprising success in the 6th round. They have found immediate contributors like CB Anthony Brown, S Kavon Frazier, S Xavier Woods, WR Cedrick Wilson, and S Donovan Wilson just since 2016. Maybe they should just keep trading back?

The point here is that while we all like to have more spins at the roulette wheel, the odds of success are obviously not great. Trading those fifth-round picks for proven, immediate help like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore was a wise play given the Cowboys’ clear desire to improve from just making occasional playoff appearances.

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