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Why the Cowboys first-round draft pick should be an offensive player

The Cowboys are good at landing star offensive players early and they should stick to what they’re good at.

SPORTS-FBN-ENGEL-COLUMN-FT Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are a great drafting football team. And when it comes to picking players on Day 1, they are exceptional. By now, you’ve heard all the hoopla about them knocking picks out of the park in the first round. If you were to tally up the team’s last 13 first-round draft selections, a remarkable 10 of them (77%) have turned into All-Pros. That’s just crazy.

This team is really good early in the draft, and if you factor in Amari Cooper, whom the team gave up their 2019 first-round pick for, the Cowboys have used 11 of their last 14 picks to acquire players who have all earned Pro Bowl honors as a member of the Cowboys.

Here is the complete list...

However, if you re-arrange things a bit and group them by offense versus defense, it becomes a little more obvious that the Cowboys are much better at striking gold with offensive players than they are with defensive players.

All eight of the offensive players on this list are Pro Bowlers, whereas only half of the six defensive players have turned out. In all, the offensive players have made a total of 37 Pro Bowls to just five Pro Bowls for the defensive players.

Now, to be fair, the Cowboys have drafted eight offensive players to six defensive players so the offense has a slight advantage, but it’s still a little strange how they always seem to get it right on offense but are just 50/50 on defense. And it’s also worth noting that two of the three defensive players they’ve hit on (Byron Jones and Leighton Vander Esch) only had one Pro Bowl season in their careers. Micah Parsons is the lone defensive superstar and you could even make a case that the Cowboys lucked into that pick after initially having their eyes set on a cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft.

All the first-round busts are on the defensive side as Morris Claiborne and Taco Charlton are picks we’d like to forget, and it’s hard not to ponder if they made a similar mistake with Mazi Smith, but it’s too early to be sure on that narrative just yet. But it is fair to question if they are just not as good at evaluating the top-tier players on defense as they are on offense.

One might also suggest that the Cowboys have spent more of their premium first-round draft picks on offense and picked more defensive players late in the round, but that is just not true. The Cowboys have the same offense/defense distribution (4/3) in the top 20 as they have had after the top 20 picks.

So, does this mean the Cowboys should prioritize offensive players over defensive players as the title of this article indicates? Well, not really, but sort of.

What does that even mean?

It means, first and foremost, the Cowboys should stick with the best player available approach and take the most talented player on their board. The Cowboys have more talent on offense and it would be nice to add some impact defensive players, but need shouldn’t force their hand either. If there’s a clear choice as to who the most talented player left on their board is, then keep it simple and run to the podium, regardless of whether they play offense or defense.

However, if they find themselves debating between two players of similar talent, like say a Mazi Smith and a Matthew Bergeron, then maybe it would behoove them to lean toward the offensive player. This is not saying that we don’t trust the Cowboys player personnel department to pick quality defensive players, but rather saying we trust them to hit on offensive players more. Their record speaks for itself. Not missing on a single offensive player over their last eight tries is impressive.

The Cowboys are picking 24th this year and there’s a lot less pressure to hit late in the round than if they had a higher draft pick, but it’s still their most precious draft selection so they’ll want to stick it. It could go in all different directions, but if they truly are better at picking offensive players, why not stick with what they’re good at?

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