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Football

Yes, Everyone Hated the Cowboys’ Draft as Much as You Think

There’s data and everything. Even if Dallas happens to be good at this particular thing.
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The football media wasn't as high on Dallas' draft class as Jerry Jones and Will McClay were. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We’re a now a month removed from the NFL Draft, which is apparently how long it takes for an enterprising German named Rene Bugner to compile a pretty comprehensive dossier about how the draft literati graded each team’s haul.

Bugner—bless him—pored through 29 media members’ draft grades, then sorted them by best to worst (top down) and easiest to toughest graders (left to right). On the far right is a column displaying the collective GPA.

You can peruse the findings here, but I’ll warn you: you won’t like the results.

For starters, Philadelphia was the runaway first-place finisher. The Eagles walked away with a collective GPA of 4.12, powered by receiving at least an A- grade on all 29 evaluators’ lists. Right behind them sits one of Dallas’ old-school rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As for the Cowboys themselves? You’ll find them much farther down the list: third from the bottom, with an average GPA of 2.35. One grader, Fantasy Pros’ Thor Nystrom, even handed them an F.

What should you take from all this? Probably not a ton, given the arena. No one around these parts is terribly shy about critiquing all things Cowboys—me extremely included—yet, as we’ve pointed out on multiple occasions this offseason, the draft is where Dallas has earned benefit of the doubt. A year ago at this time, no one knew the name of DaRon Bland, the fifth-round pick who ended the season as Dallas’ second-best cornerback. Two years ago, Micah Parsons was a possibly overdrafted off-ball linebacker, not a W.M.D. the Cowboys would unleash as the most feared pass rusher in football. A year before that, Trevon Diggs was a decent enough stab at cornerback in the second round, not a plug-and-play solution to a problem plaguing the team for a decade.

There have been misses along the way, of course; Dallas probably isn’t asking Stephon Gilmore to plug the hole opposite Diggs if it doesn’t whiff on Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright on back-to-back Day 2 picks in 2021. It’s just that the Cowboys have been demonstrably good at this since Will McClay assumed control over their drafts nine years ago.

Past triumphs are no guarantor of future success, of course. But consider the guy who handed out that F grade. A year ago, Nystrom’s hobby horse was comparing Liberty quarterback Malik Willis to a righthanded Michael Vick, a tantalizing idea that sunk like cinder blocks in the ocean once Willis slipped to the third round of the draft, got passed up by journeyman Josh Dobbs as the Tenneessee Titans’ backup quarterback, and has now been usurped as their quarterback of the future by Will Levis, a man who puts mayonnaise in his coffee.

The point of this isn’t to dunk on Nystrom; it’s that scouting draft prospects is hard. And, when dealing with an uncertain enterprise, track record can count for a lot. Until future notice, the Cowboys have it. Even if, judging by the draftniks’ assessments, this year’s crop of rookies may require something of a leap of faith going into their first NFL season.  

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Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…

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