Why Cowboys shouldn't draft a QB with fourth-overall pick
The 2016 NFL draft is less than a month away, and still no one has the faintest idea of how the top five picks will play out come April 28. There is a group of eight players that most analysts agree are in contention to be among those first five selections. They are:
Projections are difficult because there is no consensus-best-player, and no clear-cut top quarterback. One team, though, is especially tough to predict—the Dallas Cowboys. That’s because all eight of those players listed fit in Dallas, whether it be from a need or scheme perspective. So, the question becomes: Who should the Cowboys draft, and more importantly, should they take one of the two top quarterbacks, if they’re available?
The arguments for taking a quarterback are simple. Tony Romo is “old” (36 by the start of the 2016 season). Romo is also injury-prone (missed the better part of two of the last six seasons). Dallas won’t be drafting in the top five again anytime soon (hopefully), and top-end QB talent tends not to last long in the draft. Finding a competent quarterback through free agency or a trade is nearly impossible, as well.
If the Cowboys were to draft a quarterback, there is some precedence. Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Philip Rivers in San Diego worked out well for their respective teams, but it’s difficult to call two isolated cases a significant enough sample size. The fact of the matter is that, for as much as the quarterback position is valued in the NFL today, you don’t necessarily need a top pick to get a talented signal-caller. Of PFF’s 10 highest-graded quarterbacks a season ago, only three were drafted in the top-10 (Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, and Matt Ryan).
In the end, it will come down to the Cowboys’ evaluation of Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. In all likelihood, the Browns will select one of those two with the second-overall pick in the draft, and the other will be there at four. If Dallas truly believes the quarterback that falls to that spot is a sure-fire top-10 talent (based on their evaluation), then by all means, pull the trigger. PFF’s analysts agree that Goff is the kind of special talent that, if he were to fall to the Cowboys, they shouldn’t pass him up. However, it’s very possible that Wentz is the guy that will fall. The North Dakota State QB is much more unrefined, and even with a few years to develop, he’s far from a sure-thing.
The crux of the issue here is that the Cowboys are too good to draft a quarterback right now. This is a roster with the same building blocks (minus DeMarco Murray) from the 2014 team that went 12-4, and now they have a healthy Sean Lee and a budding star in defensive back Byron Jones. At the same time, there are still some glaring holes. Morris Claiborne (38.5 overall grade in 2015) and Brandon Carr (54.7) are both below-average corners on the outside. Tyrone Crawford took a step back a season ago, and new addition Cedric Thornton is their only defensive tackle to grade above 70.0 last season. On offense, even with the addition of Alfred Morris (69.7), they still desperately need a dynamic running back to return the rushing game to its 2014-level. The fourth-overall pick could easily be used to plug one of those holes right away.
If they do draft a quarterback and pass on a guy like Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, or DeForest Buckner, who could all be impact players from day one and fit seamlessly into Dallas’ scheme, their roster, quite frankly, won’t be as talented over the next few seasons. Is that worth the gamble of maybe drafting of the QB of the future?
Romo is 36 years old; in Brett Favre’s last effective season, he was 40. Peyton Manning was 39 when his performance really started to drop precipitously. Tom Brady is still going strong and will turn 39 before the 2016 season kicks off. It’s not unrealistic to believe that Dallas will have three more years of quality play from Romo before they need to look elsewhere. That’s a unique three-year window where the Cowboys are set up for a Super Bowl-run, and it would be silly not to invest in that possibility.
[Editor’s note: Looking for more on the NFL draft? Check out our 2016 NFL draft guide, loaded with scouting reports, signature stats and much more.]