The Cowboys have put the lowest premium on drafting defensive linemen in the NFL, post-Parcells

As we all already know, on Thursday night during the first round of the NFL draft, with the Cowboys on the clock at 18 and Florida DT Sharrif Floyd still on the board, the Cowboys decided to trade back to pick #31. They did this despite having a significant need to add youth to a DT position that includes starters Jay Ratliff (32 in August) and Jason Hatcher (31 in July), a hustle guy in Sean Lissemore, and 2012 3rd round pick Tyrone Crawford.

According to CBS Dallas’ Mike Fisher, the Cowboys came into the day with Floyd as at least the 7th ranked player on their board:

The double-pronged error began when Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd experienced a precipitous fall from the top of the draft. Most viewed him as a top-10 talent. I am told the Cowboys not only had a first-round grade on Sharrif but also entered the day with him ranked in the top seven on their board.

So why did the Cowboys change their minds? According to Fisher:

It was a no-brainer. An upfield, high-motor 3-technique defensive tackle, the key to the new 4-3 defense being installed by assistant Monte Kiffin.

But 15 months of study that made Floyd a worthy selection was undone in 15 minutes.

I’m told the Cowboys reviewed Floyd’s work and recalculated their own thoughts … considered the fact that Floyd only had 4.5 sacks in his college career … and committed the cardinal draft-day sin of shuffling their board.

Frankly, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Jerry Jones and Co passed on Floyd. Ever since Bill Parcells left Dallas after the 2006 season, the Cowboys have put a lower premium on drafting defensive linemen than any other team in the league. Here is a chart of how many defensive linemen teams around the league have drafted over the last 7 seasons:

Team Overall 1st round 2nd round 3rd round 4 through 7
Seahawks 14 2 0 2 10
Titans 13 1 2 2 8
Eagles 12 2 3 3 4
Falcons 12 2 0 1 9
Panthers 12 1 3 3 5
Buccaneers 11 3 2 1 5
Lions 11 3 1 2 5
Jaguars 11 2 2 2 5
Bengals 11 0 3 3 5
Rams 10 4 0 0 6
Chiefs 10 3 2 2 3
Packers 10 3 2 0 5
Colts 10 1 1 2 6
Broncos 9 2 2 0 5
Dolphins 9 2 1 2 4
Bears 9 1 2 2 4
Patriots 9 1 1 1 6
Raiders 9 0 1 2 6
Giants 8 1 3 2 2
Browns 8 1 1 1 5
Vikings 8 1 0 0 7
Bills 7 2 1 2 2
Steelers 7 2 0 0 5
Saints 6 2 0 2 2
Texans 6 2 0 1 3
Ravens 6 0 1 1 4
Cardinals 5 1 2 0 2
49ers 5 1 0 1 3
Jets 4 3 0 1 0
Chargers 4 1 1 0 2
Redskins 3 0 1 0 2
COWBOYS 3 0 0 1 2

If you’ll note, the Cowboys have drafted 3 defensive lineman during that span (tied for last), and are the only team in the league not to have drafted a defensive lineman in the first two rounds. Additionally, both of the defensive linemen they drafted in rounds 4-7 were 7th round picks, and one of those two was supplemental pick Josh Brent.

In addition to ignoring his defensive line, Jones has also ignored his offensive line for years, which has been the primary reason the team has failed over the last 3 years. Not to mention, he has put his team in cap hell.

Jerry Jones is a horrible GM. Instead of just taking the player that was at least 7th on his board (assuming Fisher’s report is accurate), Jones got cute, traded out, and wound up drafting a player that he and his staff had rated as a second round talent.  There is really no defense for him at this point.

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  1. DoomsdayReturns says:

    Although I would agree that the Cowboys should have stayed at 18 and taken Floyd, your chart is disingenuous at best. The only way you can get your count to work out is to discount college lineman that were selected to play LB in the 3-4, and then not count them as 4-3 DE’s now that the Cowboys are switching to that alignment. The Cowboys have selected 7 player that played line in college since 2006.

    1. They were not counted as DL if, when they were drafted, they were drafted to play LB. That was done for every team.

      1. DoomsdayReturns says:

        Notice the high correlation of 3-4 teams being at the bottom of your chart? Your methodology leads to unfair conclusions.

  2. OlSkool1972 says:

    The Skins number is BS. They’ve got Orakpo, Kerrigan, Rob Jackson, Chris Nield, Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston on the team now and all have been drafted since 2006. They also have guys like Markus White and Anthony Montgomery who were drafted but no longer on the team. They also just drafted Brandon Jenkins this year. And Yes Jimmy drafting DE’s and converting them to LB’s doesn’t change the fact that they were Defensive Linemen when they were drafted.

    1. GvilleEagleFan says:

      I think the point is that the Cowboys aren’t prioritizing the position group of Defensive Line, not that they’re not drafting DL (although that’s true). Excluding players that the team shifts to LB, and thus apparently drafted them with the intent to have them change position, makes sense because those numbers don’t indicate a team’s relative prioritization of their DL starters. If the Boys had drafted 12 DL but none of them ended up actually starting as DL, the point would still hold. Jimmy’s using this particular data for a specific purpose, though I think a related and fair criticism of this approach would be that if the Cowboys see Ware and Spencer as DEs now then drafting them should count toward the number of picks spent on DL.

    2. Orakpo played SLB his rookie season, even when the Skins ran a 4-3.

      Jackson/Kerrigan/Jenkibs/etc were drafted to play OLB in the 3-4. Not linemen.

  3. Tim says:

    They’ve taken an offensive lineman in the first round in two of the last three years, and they signed to OG free agents to large contracts last offseason. I think we can retire the “Jerry Jones has ignored his offensive line for years” meme, it’s outdated. Jerry changed his stripes there.

    On your DL numbers, I agree the Cowboys have drafted a low number of defensive lineman since Parcells, but there are two reasons why that makes a bit of sense:

    -The Cowboys came out of the Parcells era stacked on the DL– Canty, Spears, Ratliff, Bowen, Hatcher, etc. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to draft players early at these positions when it’s a position of strength on your team.

    -The Cowboys played a 3-4. So they start 3 defensive linemen, not 4 like 4-3 teams. So unless you want to start counting OLBs as defensive linemen picks, it’s not fair to compare a 3-4 team with a 4-3 team in the “number of DLs drafted” category.

    1. 4-3 or 3-4… Doesn’t matter. They’re still last in the league. It’s not like I excluded the 3-4 teams.

      And they did ignore the OL for years, did they not? And it was a huge reason for their lack of recent success, was it not? Why is it not worth mentioning? It’s recent and relevant.

      Meanwhile, Canty hasn’t been on the team since 2008, Spears sucked, and the other guys (Ratliff aside) weren’t so good that there was no reason to add talent. It’s not like they had some sort of dominant DL.

      1. Tim says:

        Yes, OL was a recent issue but I think pasting it in as one of the sub-bullets in the “Jerry Jones is a terrible GM” case has become outdated.

        On the DL issue:

        I actually think this roster has a strong core of young players to build on at the moment (I am going to ignore the cap issues for a moment, and just look at personnel on the roster). The front office has injected a lot of young talent into the LB corps (Lee, Carter) and the secondary (Carr, Claiborne, Scandrick, hopefully Johnson and Wilcox) over the past years, as well as the backfield (Murray and Randle). At wideout you’ve got Dez and Williams, TE you have Hanna and Escobar. And on the OL, you’ve got Tyron Smith and Frederick as cornerstones at the two toughest spots to fill. That’s a solid young core in a lot of areas.

        The glaring exception is the DL (let’s ignore QB, because it’s a unique position). Ware, Spencer, and the DTs are aging. And I am sure that that is the next position area that the Cowboys will target. You can’t draft for every position every year. They took Crawford and Wilbur. We’ll see hwo they play out. I would guess the strategy is that they get another year or two of high-level production out of the current group. Barring injury, that doesn’t seem unreasonable– Spencer and Ware are excellent players without injury histories, and Hatcher and Ratliff have the potential to be a strong DT tandem.

        You can’t draft for every position. I guess I don’t see the DL decision as a horrific oversight so much as a conscious choice to focus on more pressing needs elsewhere.

        1. It’s a span of 7 years. 55 picks. 3 DL, and only 1 earlier than the 7th round.

          1. Incisive Reply! says:

            As always Jimmy!!

          2. Tim says:

            The Patriots have taken 3 OLs in Rounds 1-4 since 2006.

            But I don’t expect you to write a criticism of how awful their front office is next. And you shouldn’t. Because the numbers are meaningless without context, and a 7 year draft history of one position group does not tell the story of a front office’s overall competence.

            The Cowboys had a strong DL for several years and focused their draft acquisitions on other positions. As I laid out above, it has left them with a strong young core in many areas. The DL numbers you are citing do not automatically indict the front office, no matter how much you want them to.

            1. Pats’ OL has been good, Cowboys’ hasn’t. And I’m not sure I’d call the Cowboys’ DL “strong.”

              1. Jimmer says:

                On the flip side, how many wasted picks have the Eagles made on DL? Probably could have used some of those picks on LB’s, a weakness the last 3-4 years.

                Just goes to show how clueless Roseman is. Drafting another QB in the 4th (when they already have 3 QB’s) Sure, Lane Johnson is solid, but how smart do you have to be to not mess up the 4th pick in the draft. Then again, he’s probably the reason they were picking 4th.

                Let’s keep in mind Jerry’s clueless team finished 4 games better than the Eagles last year.

              2. Tim says:

                I was not comparing the Pats’ OL to the Cowboys’. I was indicating that a competent front office can go several years without focusing on an isolated position group. Your DL numbers are not an indictment of the Cowboys’ front office.

              3. catch_22 says:

                3/4 of the Cowboys DL have been to the pro bowl, with 2 of them being all-pro. You don’t call that “strong”?

            2. giantsgalaxy says:

              The Patriots OL haven’t been a detriment to their success. The Cowboys OL has. Simple as that.

  4. take dat says:

    Jerry only got three standards to live by n Dallas; 1Remain the most popular team 2 most entertaining team win or losing 3 remain having more rings than any NFC East team.

  5. David_Does_Dallas says:

    From the sounds of it in the interviews, they were dead set on taking a linemen in the first round which was part of the negotiations with Tony Romo (not sure about the first round but Tony made them commit to adding talent to the line). They were hoping one of the big six would fall to them, when they didn’t, they traded back and took their best rated lineman. This is why Garrett was so upset, I am pretty confident he wanted to take Floyd there at 18. Obviously, I think this is a bad strategy, I like the pick, not the trade down. The whole early part of this draft was to give Jones’ long term investment ever chance to succeed, he even stated as much in the interviews. If you haven’t listened to the post draft interviews, you should, they are pretty telling.

  6. Jeff says:

    There was also a report that Jason Garrett and Tom Ciskowski (director of scouting) wanted to select Floyd but Jerry and Stephen insisted that they trade back with SF.

  7. T_S_O_P says:

    With all the dead money tied to Jay, could he afford Floyd?

    1. Yeah, they could sign him.

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