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Drafting a tight end in the first round is unlikely to have immediate results for the Dallas Cowboys

Chatter is heating up around the Cowboys taking a tight end in the first round.

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It is important to remember what time of year that it is. Given that we are still in the early days of March, you cannot fully trust anything related to any NFL team. Everyone has an interest in information moving in one direction or another, bluffing is a part of the offseason process through free agency and the draft.

This is an idea that our own David Howman touched on with regards to Mike McCarthy’s comments at the NFL Combine last week, but the logic holds true for a lot of things. Given that mock drafts are swirling through the air like spring allergies, there are a lot of names and things that the Dallas Cowboys are being connected to and this week a certain position is taking center stage.

On Tuesday there were mock drafts that dropped by notable NFL Draft insiders Dane Brugler and Todd McShay and both of them had the Cowboys selecting Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid with the 26th overall pick. While Kincaid is a talented prospect and a name that is certainly worth consideration, ultimately it is difficult to see any rookie tight end having a high level of impact in their first season in the NFL.

Not to bang the phrase “win now” or anything, but that doesn’t exactly line up with who the Cowboys are right now.

Drafting a tight end in the first round would unlikely have immediate results for the Dallas Cowboys

It is clear that the Cowboys need to achieve something significant during the 2023 season or else major change could fall over the organization, namely across the coaching staff and at the head post in Mike McCarthy. Call it a “win now” sort of season if you will.

If we operate in a world where the Cowboys do feel a level of pressure to make 2023 the year, then it is hard to see how drafting a tight end in the first round fits that bill. This is the NFL and there is an example in history to prove any sort of point, but generally speaking tight ends are not serious contributors right away. The Cowboys need help now.

None of this is meant to serve as any sort of argument for keeping Dalton Schultz around because it seems like that ship has sailed. But since 2000 the number of rookie tight ends who have eclipsed 1,000 yards in a season (just one way to look at this) is rather slim. Our only presence is a former draft target of many in Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts.

Data from TruMedia

As you can tell there are not any Dallas Cowboys present or accounted for within the top 20. The most notable performance from a player with a star on their helmet was of course Jason Witten back in 2003 (347 yards, one receiving touchdown).

If we look just from a touchdown standpoint (the purpose of the game remains to score points after all) the Cowboys have not gotten a ton of action from rookie tight ends since 2000.

Most touchdown receptions by a Dallas Cowboys rookie tight end since 2000:
  • 2008 Martellus Bennett, 4
  • 2022 Jake Ferguson, 2
  • 2022 Peyton Hendershot, 2
  • 2013 Gavin Escobar, 2
  • 2003 Jason Witten, 1

But these are Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys, and now more so than ever with him taking over the play-calling duties on offense, so shouldn’t his history be important here?

I am afraid to report that there is, as they say, not much to write home about regarding rookie tight ends.

Data from TruMedia

Yards and touchdowns are important, but as mentioned they are only one way to really and truly evaluate the contributions that a player is making to the offense. But this is a lot of history here that would suggest tight end as not exactly the best utilization of resources in the first round of a given NFL Draft. The way that the board falls is important and value should be the priority with a “best player available” disposition, but it stands to reason there will be opportunities for more impact at other positions when Dallas is on the clock.

What’s more is that this year’s draft projects to be fairly deep at the tight end position specifically. With Dallas having young players to move forward with in Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot, they can find much better value with later picks and don’t run the risk of trying to be the exception to 23 years of history.

On top of that, Ferguson and Hendershot serve as examples of value finds later in the draft with the former taken in the fourth round and the latter found as an undrafted free agent. Even Dalton Schultz was an afterthought of sorts with him being drafted in the immediate days after Jason Witten retired (the first time). And it wasn’t even until Dalton’s third season in which we saw legitimate contribution from him, and that only came about because Blake Jarwin tore his ACL in the 2020 season opener. You know, the Blake Jarwin who the team found as an undrafted free agent.

It is never wise to bet against history but that is too shallow of a way to look at this. Considering what we know about rookie tight ends though, where the Cowboys stand at the tight end spot, how the Cowboys have found tight ends over the last 5-6 years, and the level of depth that this year’s tight end class has... selecting one in the first round feels a bit strange.

It goes without saying but what the Cowboys do in free agency before the draft will significantly change some of the calculus here. If they address other positions beforehand and allow themselves more room for flexibility, so be it. But that remains to be seen.

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