Dallas Cowboys: Opt-out players, the wild card in the 2021 NFL Draft

(Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images) /

The 2021 NFL Draft is setting up to be most difficult to evaluate draft in Dallas Cowboys draft history. COVID-19 has taken it’s pound of flesh from the NFL evaluation process and teams will be holding their collective breath as they make their picks in this April’s draft.

The NFL Combine as we know it has been cancelled, essentially removing the level playing field scouts use to compare/rank/stack players. In it’s place will be individual Pro Days which are much less uniform and considerably more manipulatable.

To make matters even more difficult for teams and scouts, is the 2020 college football season. Not only did just about every player play a shorter season, but some opted out of the season entirely and haven’t played football for over a year. For many of them, they will have a 20 month gap in competitive football play between their last college snap and their first game snap in the pros.

Opting out in the midst of a global pandemic is perfectly understandable, and on it’s own, should in no way be held against the individual players.  But the time away from the game and overall lack of game tape will certainly add to their risk as prospects and cause some teams to flinch, amking for some very unstable draft boards.

Opt-out players will have a huge impact on the Dallas Cowboys 2021 NFL Draft

The Dallas Cowboys are expected to consider a handful of players who opted out of the 2020 college football season. Offensive tackle Reshawn Slater from Northwestern, linebacker Micah Parsons from Penn State, and cornerback Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech are three the Dallas Cowboys could see in the first round.

Farley is largely considered CB1 in the class and his 2019 game tape backs it up. But he’s relatively new to the position and after opting out in 2020, he may offer more growing pains than most Top-10 draft picks typically offer. This could cause Patrick Surtain II to jump him on some boards (even if scouts think Farley’s the better prospect).

Like Farley, Parsons is considered to be the top player at his position this draft cycle. But like Farley, Parsons is fairly raw in his development and is more potential than finished product. Parsons is someone who we could see slip much farther than Farley because of the position he plays (off-ball linebacker) and some off-the-field incidents and horrific allegations .

The ultimate decision maker in NFL war rooms is typically the general manager. Adding talent is an import job requirement of an NFL GM, but perhaps even more so, is limiting risk. Risk-adverse GMs are going to shy away from players who have been away from the game and/or have limited game tape.

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It’s not just the opt out guys either. Many smaller school players saw their seasons either delayed until this coming spring or outright cancelled. They are in the same boat because they also have less game tape and extended time away from the game.

Trey Lance, one of the top QBs in the draft class, fits into this category. His ceiling says he could be QB2 in this QB stacked class. But for all the factors just discussed, his floor is also extremely low. Lance is still expected to go in the top-6 given his potential and the position he plays, but he could slip all the way to the Dallas Cowboys at 10 (which would be the perfect trade-down scenario for Dallas).

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The point is, The opt-out players are wild cards in this 2021 NFL Draft and they will likely have a huge impact on the Dallas Cowboys draft board, either directly through the Cowboys’ own risk-assessment, or indirectly because other teams’ hesitation.

  • Published on 01/29/2021 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 01/29/2021 at 10:20 AM