Why the Dallas Cowboys May Pass Over the Better Player in the Draft

Michael Gallup #13 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Michael Gallup #13 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have certain positions they hope to attack early in the draft, but what happens if a generational player falls into their laps at a position they didn’t intend to target?

It’s not all about having the best scouting department when it comes to the the Draft. The Dallas Cowboys could have the best scouts in the world but it won’t matter a hill ‘o beans if they let other factors trump their player rankings. In the same vein they can’t follow scouting reports exclusively to build big boards (prospect ranking boards) without taking other factors into account.

The NFL Draft requires a multifaceted approach. Selecting the best player available (BPA) is the underlying goal but multiple factors go into making the rubric in which to follow. The weight these other factors hold and their general implementation will either make or break a draft – regardless of how well the scouting department does their jobs.

Team Needs

Applying team needs is usually the No. 1 culprit in a mucked-up draft. If a team decision-makers see a hole in the roster, they apply an added weight to that position when the draft rolls around. This causes them to overvalue players at a position of weakness and undervalue players at a particular position of strength. This can cause huge swings from one draft board to next – even if the scouting reports are the exact same.

For instance: Team A and Team B may both have WR2 rated as the No. 7 player in the draft. But if Team A has a major need at WR while Team B happens to be rather deep at WR, Team A could have WR2 positioned in their top-5 while Team B has him back at Pick 20. Both scouting departments had the same assessment, yet the ultimate valuation is extremely different because the respective general managers let team needs hold a high level of influence.

Positional Value

How teams weigh “need”, “positional value”, and “draft depth” threatens to disrupt even the best scouting departments in the NFL

Similarly, position value holds an important role in the draft process. The best player in the entire draft could be a fullback or guard, but since fullback and guard aren’t regarded as important than other positions, those players drop on the draft board. In the same way, quarterbacks and edge rushers rise above their rankings.

QB and Edge are thought of as two of the most important positions, so they have extra weight. That’s why we see quarterbacks with second round grades repeatedly go in the top-15 of the draft, year after year. It’s a vital position.

To get a handle on how teams value positions, in the tweet above we have the most recent averages for top-10 players at their position. This illustrates why teams always seem to reach on QBs and DEs – these positions are more valuable than most others.

Actual positional value will change from team to team. As Dallas Cowboys fans know, some positions they choose to neglect are based on the scheme they play. We also know that universally, cornerback has been rising in value at a rate higher than most other positions. Teams are learning that coverage can have bigger impact in winning than pass-rush and adjusting their economies accordingly.

Draft Depth

The last factor to consider is positional depth. Again, something Dallas Cowboys fans know all-too-well. Dallas admitted to drafting multiple players over the years at least partially based on the depth (or lack thereof) in the draft. Players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Taco Charlton, and Trysten Hill were some of those players.

All of these factors are important to consider when executing an NFL Draft. And all of these things threaten to castrate an otherwise excellent scouting department if the weights are not applied appropriately.

Dallas Cowboys: ‘What if’ scenario

Something we proposed a month ago (which equates to 43 weeks in quarantine years), is what will Dallas do if Jerry Jeudy falls to them at Pick 17? The Dallas Cowboys need to find a WR3 in this WR-rich draft but they don’t need to do it in the first round. That’s because the draft is loaded at WR and future stars are sure to be found in the later rounds.

we know the Dallas Cowboys will be using “need”, “positional depth”, and “positional value” to influence their picks and to detour them away from BPA. How much and at what cost will potentially make or break their draft.

If we’re looking at needs, we see cornerback unequivocally at the top of the list. Behind that we have defensive end, safety, and defensive tackle as legit needs. Based on previous drafting, we know Dallas applies a fair amount of weight for this. They also use a hefty supply of weight to positional value. Last season the Dallas Cowboys showed us once again they don’t value safeties nearly as highly as they value defensive line. It lines up with the NFL’s positional spending as a whole since the top-10 safeties in the league average $12.6 million annually while the top-10 defensive tackles average $17.5 million.

So looking at the scenario above, we know the Dallas Cowboys will be using “need”, “draft depth”, and “positional value” to influence their picks and to detour them away from BPA. How much and at what cost will potentially make or break their draft.

What they can’t do is loose sight of the individual players and their potential impact in the NFL. CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs, and Jerry Jeudy are all considered to be the top of this ultra-deep WR draft class. Most draft experts believe all of them will be Pro Bowlers at the next level and given their skill level and polish, it wouldn’t be surprising to see at least two out of three reach All-Pro levels quickly in their careers.

If one of those three falls to Dallas, would it be wise to pass over a future All-Pro for someone who’s a maybe just a future top-20 player at his particular position? Needs are important to consider. As is depth and positional value. That’s where things get complicated.

Dallas Cowboys: Long-term vs Short-term

Making things even more difficult is the fact that those top-3 WRs are so polished they can hit the ground running and make big impacts in their first year. Guys like C.J. Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson, and Javon Kinlaw are more project players. Something I wrote about last week was how no matter who Dallas picks in the draft, it’s not going to make the defense more talented than it was last season with Byron Jones occupying CB1.

None of those three defensive players are likely to make huge impacts for two or maybe three seasons (although need says Henderson will start at CB from Day 1). And in two or three seasons, the complexion of Dallas Cowboys will have drastically changed.

More from Cowboys Draft

WR specifically will be at a crossroads in a couple years with Michael Gallup looking for a new mega-deal. Given the structure of his deal, Amari Cooper will be cuttable at that point and Dallas will have to decide whether they want to stick with Coop or let him go and extend Gallup. Either way they’d have Lamb, Ruggs, or Jeudy there for a seamless transition. That’s important because no area of the NFL game is more important than the passing game and maintaining the passing game should always be chief concern.


Is this just an extremely long-winded way to say “Draft Jerry Jeudy, if he’s there!” No (but yes, I do general feel that way). This is to point out how complicated the draft process is and to illustrate how the Dallas Cowboys could have the best scouting department in the NFL but it won’t mean squat if they inappropriately apply too much weight to “need”, “draft depth”, and “positional value”.

There is a very real possibly the Dallas Cowboys will purposely pass over someone they see as sure-fire superstar and settle for a lesser player. And it’s all because of the weights applied to their decision-making model.

I, for one, value the long-term health over short-term fixes. I also despise the idea of passing over a better player for matters such as “need” and “draft depth” (although I greatly apply positional value and would be hesitant to ever take a RB, off-ball LB, IOL, or SS in Round 1).

3 Dallas Cowboys on the verge of breaking out. dark. Next

So what do you think? How much weight do you give to the three enemies of BPA? You can’t completely ignore them, can you? You can’t let them control you either. Managing weights is what separates the winners from the losers and teams that limit their needs prior to the draft tend to come out the victors in the draft.

  • Published on 04/10/2020 at 11:33 AM
  • Last updated at 04/11/2020 at 17:13 PM