Why Cowboys shouldn’t draft a QB with fourth-overall pick

Should Dallas take Jared Goff or Carson Wentz with the fourth-overall pick? Mike Renner has the answer.

| 7 months ago
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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:

Laremy Tunsil, LT, Ole Miss

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State

DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

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.] 

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Adam LeClair

    I wouldn’t be surprised. Jones did say he wanted a Favre/Rodgers situation (ignoring his logic that Romo would be Favre, and Wentz/Goff would be Rodgers)

  • Kristjan

    As a Cowboys fan, I don’t think you should use Manning, Favre and Brady as a guide for how long Romo will last. Not only are all 3 in the dicsussion for “best qb ever”, but none (other than Manning that sat out an entire year to get healthy) missed as many games as Romo has in recent years.

    I like Romo. A lot. That being said, if we get 2 more productive years out of him, I will be happy.

  • Johnny

    100% agree, it would be silly not to invest in this short super bowl window. Dumbest thing I ever heard was we won’t be picking in the top5 anytime soon so we must take the quarterback of the future. Yah just like we predicted last season’s 4-12, or how we predicted the year before that’s 12-4 season. We will stink again in the future, it happens to every team whos franchise quarterback eventually retires or gets fired. Look we have a franchise quarterback right now who gives us the best chance to get to a super bowl. We have to many holes to spend premium picks on a player who won’t impact a super bowl run. And if Romo goes down guess what??? We will be picking in the top 5 next year. I want Elliott so bad, but this front office won’t take him. I just want us to take a dynamic player to help us now in this small super bowl window, and a 4 overall qb simply won’t do that.

  • Levin Adkins

    People say that they are primed for a Super Bowl run but had it not been for the 12-4 season, everyone would say they HAVE to take a QB at #4. My issue is why is everyone treating the 4-12 season as the anomaly and not looking at the 12-4 season as the potential outlier considering they had 3 consecutive seasons of 8-8 prior to that. I’m a Cowboys fan through and through but I dont agree with the notion of forgoing a QB if one falls into your lap because you think you can make a run at the Super Bowl. I would rather get a QB who could potentially keep your franchise in the playoff discussion for the next 15 years as opposed to opening yourself up for 4-12 and 5-11 seasons for 5 years because they didnt properly invest in a QB and chased a Super Bowl that they didnt even achieve. One player isnt going to turn the tide and if we make a Super Bowl run, we were going to do it with or without that first round pick. History shows that first round defensive linemen dont make much of an impact their rookie years anyway so this preconceived notion that Joey Bosa could be the player we are missing is foolish. By the time he starts to make a big impact, Romo could be on his last legs

    • Zach

      Absolutely agree. I think I would take Ramsey over Goff or Wentz, but outside of him I would absolutely take one (personally I think Wentz is a better system fit). The only other argument I have been making that you didn’t mention is that whatever QB we draft is going to have a much better chance to succeed in the NFL if he sits behind Romo for a year or two as opposed to us waiting til Romo’s body gives out, being forced to draft the best QB available (much like we did in ’01 with Quincy Carter) and then throwing that guy into the starting lineup week 1 of his rookie season.

      • Tito Puente

        It’s interesting, because you can use their logic about doing what’s best for the team to argue both ways.

        Not only will Dallas probably not have another chance to draft a franchise QB soon (and they’ll need one soon), in PFF’s preview on the top two QBs it makes it clear that — both of these quarterbacks would be better served spending a couple years on the sidelines.

        So when ‘what’s best for the team’ is often what’s best for your franchise QB, and Dallas is a better situation than any of these other teams for a young QB. They won’t be traumatized by going 2-14 with the Browns their first couple years, and with a great O-Line, even when they bring in the young QB he’ll be able to lean on the run etc.

        It’s not like any of these top 5 position players are going to immediately take the Cowboys over the top in the next two years to win the SB. Even above-average to good QBs are usually a lot more valuable to franchises than Pro Bowlers at a lot of positions (and they have longer careers).

    • Phillip Brennan

      I think your contention would be legit if you simply looked at W/L records (8-8, 8-8, 8-8, 12-4, 4-12) in a vacuum without considering any relevant context. In reality, the Cowboys 12-4 season was a direct byproduct of the team buying into its identity as a run team in 2014. Further, to act as if last year’s 4-12 season wasn’t directly related tied to Romo’s health is to not tell the story at all; the team’s 3-1 record with Romo at the helm speaks to that.

    • JudoPrince

      People saying a team is primed for a Super Bowl run is meaningless. People make those claims about many teams. The bottom line is that you never know how a season will shake out. The Cowboys could have just as easily gone 12-4 last season as opposed to 4-12. The injury to the QB and WR1 were simply devastating as they had no replacement level talent to fill the voids. It’s a thin line in this league between competing for a Super Bowl or picking near the top of the following year’s draft. The Cowboys could fall anywhere in between next season depending how the injuries shake out.

    • AKjester

      These QBs don’t sound like sure things. Neither has sounded like the next Andrew Luck and even he has had some serious struggles. I would say if the staff has a grade on a QB as a future perennial pro-bowler, they should take him. Otherwise, taking the best talent may be best for the Cowboys.

  • cka2nd

    Is there a QB who should be available after the first round who would make more sense for the Cowboys?

    • McGeorge

      Johnny Manziel?

  • crosseyedlemon

    It makes no sense to use a first round pick on a player unless he can be projected as an immediate starter. Going into last season the Cowboys were the favorites in their division and without the many devastating injuries they probably could have made the playoffs. This is not a team that needs to hit the panic button just because they had a year of setbacks.

  • Drew

    gotta take Goff if he falls to you, and knowing how clueless the Browns organization is, they will take Wentz or someone else. Goff is a take, 2-3 years behind Romo and he has a decade to QB Americas Team. Its a no brainer in my eyes. In fact, if i were the Cowboys and the Browns took Goff, i would trade down. There is a ton of talent in the first 3 rounds of this draft and the Boys need a lot of help on D….make the smart move and get more picks, unless Goff is there at 4