The Dallas Cowboys are having a great offseason. They have retained some important pieces, they’ve added some key players, and they’ve parted ways with a couple of past heroes to save some money. It’s weird to be in such a great place post-free agency, but we should remind ourselves that the good part is still coming. This Cowboys team drafts well. We can quibble over certain selections and obviously, they won’t all be winners, but for the most part, this organization does a great job collecting good players.
Today, we wanted to evaluate the last ten drafts and get a sense of which years were great hauls, and which were not so great. To aid in this evaluation, we’re going to attempt to be objective and rely on Approximate Value assigned each year by Pro Football Focus. Since these players have been in the league for a different amounts of years, we’re going to score them on their average AV value per season. This will give us an apples-to-apples comparison of all the players the Cowboys have selected over the past ten drafts.
Before we evaluate them by year, let’s provide a complete rundown of each player's average AV score to see which players are padding the stats of their respective draft class and which players are weighing them down. Here are the top 10 players in terms of Average Approximate Value.
Now that we have their individual scores, how does each draft class compare to the rest of the groups? Since the Cowboys select a different amount of players from year to year, we again calculated a yearly average based on the sum of the AV scores for each draft divided by the number of players selected. This gives us a year-by-year comparison.
We’ve also included a line to show where in the draft order the Cowboys picked in each of those years since more valuable draft capital will yield better results.
As seen above, the Cowboys' last three drafts have been pretty good. It also shows us some things we already know like the 2014 (Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence) and 2016 (Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott) draft hauls were great. We are also reminded of just how solid the 2018 class was with a handful of solid contributors like Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup, Dorance Armstrong, and Dalton Schultz.
What might be surprising from this is just how fantastic the 2020 draft class was despite picking outside the top half of the draft order. The Cowboys kept hitting home runs that year with picks like CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, and Tyler Biadasz (all of which have earned Pro Bowl honors after just three seasons). From an average AV score standpoint, that draft class even exceeds the memorable class of 2016.
It’s also worth noting that 2020 was the first year of Mike McCarthy who wasn’t that involved with the draft process during his time in Green Bay. With Dallas, McCarthy has taken more of a backseat than the previous coaching staff led by Jason Garrett who is from a family of NFL scouts. Less is more when it comes to allowing Will McClay and the Cowboys scouting department to do their job. With less emphasis on scheme fits that match a coach's preferences and more emphasis on pure talent, the Cowboys have done a nice job in the draft in recent years.
The Cowboys picked late in the order last year and managed to come away with players like Tyler Smith, Sam Williams, Jake Ferguson, and even DaRon Bland (who was selected 167th overall). Why should anything be different this year? While they might not come away with the best draft haul this year, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see them once again out draft their position and bring yet another strong class of rookies to Big D.
The Cowboys already had a pretty talented roster. And they filled a couple of big needs when they added Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks to the team last month. Now, just imagine the Cowboys doing what they do best and that’s orchestrating another quality draft. It would be icing on an already delicious offseason cake.