NFL

The potential future starters among the Cowboys’ day-three picks of the draft

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Since Will McClay took over as vice president of player personnel in 2014, the Cowboys have drafted seven players that have gone on to make the Pro Bowl, the third best value in the league behind the Ravens (9) and Chiefs (8). Those seven players appeared in 16 Pro Bowls, one short of the league-leading Ravens.

But the Cowboys’ draft success isn’t just limited to the top of the draft. McClay’s picks on the third day of the draft from 2014-2020 have started a combined 436 games in the NFL so far, the fourth-highest total in the league.

Starts by Day Three Picks, 2014-2020
Top 8 Bottom 8
Rank Team Starts Rank Team Starts
1 NWE 485 25 PHI 231
2 WAS 471 26 JAX 230
3 ATL 457 27 NYJ 229
4 DAL 436 28 BUF 220
5 CHI 426 29 TB 217
6 BAL 422 30 NO 156
7 IND 415 31 ARI 145
8 GB 409 32 PIT 137

In the seven drafts between 2014 and 2020, McClay and the Cowboys drafted 40 players on day three of the NFL draft. Of those 40 players, nine became eventual starters in the NFL (meaning they started nine or more games in at least one season), as the table below shows.

Cowboys Day Three Starters, 2014-2020
Drafted Player Starter
2014 (4th rd) Anthony Hitchens 2014 (1st season)
2014 (7th rd) Terrance MItchell 2017 (4th season, with KC)
2015 (4th rd) Damien Wilson 2017 (3rd season)
2015 (7th rd) Geoff Swaim 2018 (4th season)
2016 (4th rd) Dak Prescott 2016 (1st season)
2016 (6th rd) Anthony Brown 2016 (1st season)
2017 (6th rd) Xavier Woods 2018 (2nd season)
2018 (4th rd) Dalton Schultz 2020 (3rd season)
2019 (6th rd) Donovan Wilson 2020 (2nd season)

Three of the players above (Anthony Hitchens, Dak Prescott, and Anthony Brown) emerged as year-one starters, the others needed between two and four years before they would finally emerge as starters.

While nine draft picks have become starters so far, some of the more recent day-three picks like Tyler Biadasz, Bradlee Anae, or perhaps Dorance Armstrong might potentially add to that tally. So far though, nine out of 40 is a “hit rate” for starters of almost a quarter.

This year, the Cowboys selected six players on day three of the draft. Going by their recent hit rate, odds are that one to two of those six rookies could eventually emerge as starters, even if it could take two or more years for them to do so.

Linebacker Jabril Cox, based purely on his draft pedigree as a fourth-round pick, should theoretically have the highest chance of emerging as a starter. For now, it looks like he’ll be stuck behind Micah Parsons, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and perhaps even Keanu Neal. But that’s what we thought about fellow fourth-rounder Anthony Hitchens as well, who appeared to be stuck behind the trio of Rolando McClain, Justin Durant, and Bruce Carter in 2014 (Sean Lee was already out with an ACL), but emerged as a starter in his rookie anyway. The Cowboys would jettison both Bruce Carter and Justin Durant the next season, but that’s perhaps a topic for a different post.

The remaining picks will compete in already crowded OL, DL, CB; and WR rooms, but if the Cowboys continue to “hit” on Day Three picks, one more of them might emerge as an eventual starter.

Shortly after the 2019 draft, we asked the BTB community which of the Cowboys’ sixth-rounders from that draft would eventually become a starter:

Perhaps the BTB community can be a bit more prescient on the same question this year: Which 2021 day-three pick do you think will eventually emerge as a starter for the Cowboys?

Poll

Which 2021 day-three pick do you think will eventually emerge as a starter for the Cowboys?

  • 0%

    LB Jabril Cox

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    OL Josh Ball

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    WR Simi Fehoko

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    DT Quinton Bohanna

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    CB Israel Mukuamu

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    OT Matt Farniok

    (0 votes)



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