Over the next 10 days, we will endeavor to elaborate about our more specific beliefs about the Cowboys' 2017 draft plans. But today, I wanted continue an annual tradition and fill in the blanks on a particular topic that goes hand in hand with player selections on draft day in Dallas. With so many people wondering if the Cowboys will use the draft day to "make another splash" (to go get that War Daddy), we need to ponder the track record around here of making splashes.
This will be the 24th draft that the Cowboys will participate in since Jimmy Johnson left town before the 1994 draft. In that time, the Cowboys have certainly taken on a different reputation for their drafting ability and one of those cliches that analysts will use is the idea that "Jerry cannot sit still" on draft day.
He is thought of as an owner over the years who falls in love with a target and then trades up to go get him without worrying too much about the cost. He is thought of as a major downgrade to Jimmy Johnson's 5 years of drafts, but in fairness, Jimmy compares favorably to almost anyone who ever drafted in any organization so that isn't a stretch. Presently, we cannot oversimplify the front office by saying it is Jerry Jones sitting on a throne calling out orders to his servants. Rather, Will McClay, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett all have significant say and on most moves, we believe that Jerry serves more as a tie-breaker than a decision maker.
Anyway, through covering this team, I feel it is always more helpful to actually deal in facts rather than what we can recall. If you polled draft experts, many would accuse the Cowboys of trading up all of the time. Others might say that they actually trade down quite a bit. Obviously, this seems to indicate they certainly enjoy trading in general, up and down. In this post, I wish to document the trades they have conducted that take place using picks from the top 3 rounds (Top 100) only. But that alone will take up quite a bit of space.
Below is a very basic summary of the trades by era. The Player +/- is simply a quantity count of Top 100 players in versus out in these trades. They, by no means, account for quality of players so it is a flawed discussion for sure. But, just so you can see the activity by era, here it is:
So, by my count, 27 trades that involve Top 100 picks over the 23 drafts by Jerry Jones. If nothing else, you should never leave your television set during draft coverage, because as the cliche tell us, he can't sit still in that war room. If the Cowboys lack success, it isn't because they are napping. In fact, quite the opposite might be true. A nap might be what they need over the years.
However, you might find that the Jason Garrett/Will McClay/Stephen Jones era is the time in the last few decades where the Cowboys "slow their roll" a bit. Oh, sure, Peter King assured us that the Cowboys were trying to do everything in their power last year to go get Paxton Lynch in Round 1. But, let's at least compliment them that they had a price and held strong to that price, rather than make the trade at any cost. So, they are active, but not desperate. And that is the balance we should want them to have.
Everyone points to Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his plans. Some suggest he is overrated. I would say this study should get you to see his genius. The Cowboys are a minus-2 in 23 drafts on Top 100 picks. Belichick has gained, according to this study on Grantland from 2 years ago - "it's like he's been handed the 99th overall pick in each of his 15 drafts just for showing up and saying yes to overanxious teams." We can point to Tom Brady as a reason why the Patriots have been successful. But, I think to put solid rosters around him, we need to look at the Belichick draft plan.
Starting with 2016 and working backwards, here are the Cowboys trades involving the traditional "Day 1" picks - including the names that those picks ended up being:
Jason Garrett/Jerry Jones Era
2016: No Trades
2015: No Trades (in the top 100 picks, that is)
2014: Traded 2014 second round pick #47-Trent Murphy and third round pick #78-Spencer Long to Redskins for second round pick #34-Demarcus Lawrence TRADE UP
2013: Traded #18-Eric Reid to 49ers for pick #31-Travis Frederick, third round pick #74-Terrance Williams. TRADE DOWN
2012: Traded #14-Michael Brockers and #45-Alshon Jeffery to the St. Louis Rams for 6th overall- Morris Claiborne. TRADE UP
2011: No Trades
Summary of Garrett/Jones: 6 drafts and 3 major trades. Plenty of activity and definitely leading us to believe that they are still spending some time locking in on a target and displaying urgency to grab it. You may recall that even when they traded down in 2013, they still talked about Travis Frederick as "the last of the Mohicans" that they had to have. But, 2015 and 2016, the Cowboys are grabbing their full allotment of players and getting the right ones.
Wade Phillips/Jerry Jones Era
2010: Traded #27-Devin McCourty and #90-Taylor Price to the New England Patriots to select Dez Bryant and pick #119. TRADE UP
Traded 2010 second round pick #59-Montario Hardesty, 2010 fourth round pick #125-Clay Harbor to Eagles for 2010 second round pick #55-Sean Lee TRADE UP
2009: Cowboys acquire WR Roy Williams and a 7th from Detroit for #20-Brandon Pettigrew, #82-Derrick Williams, #192-Aaron Brown. TRADE OUT
Traded away pick #51-Andy Levitre to Buffalo Bills for 75th Robert Brewster and 110th Victor Butler picks. TRADE DOWN
2008: Traded #28-Lawrence Jackson, #163-Owen Schmitt, #235-Brandon Coutu to Seattle for pick #25 Mike Jenkins. TRADE UP
2007: Cowboys trade away #22 Brady Quinn to Browns for #36-Kevin Kolb and 2008 first round pick #22-Felix Jones. TRADE DOWN
Then, Cowboys Traded #36-Kevin Kolb, #87-Stewart Bradley, #159-C.J. Gaddis to Eagles for #26-Anthony Spencer. TRADE UP
Summary of Phillips/Jones: This is where trading up to "get your guy" really got traction. They went up to get Anthony Spencer and then up to get Mike Jenkins and then up to get Dez Bryant and then to get Sean Lee. In the process that that cost a total of 10 picks to get 3 players and 1 additional (and significantly lesser pick). If you add to that the 2008 Roy Williams trade that gutted the 2009 draft, they basically spent 13 picks to get 5 players. And we wonder why this team has so many holes.
They also had 2 trade downs, including the 2007 trade down to get an extra #1 in 2008 (Felix Jones) and a trade down in 2009 where they picked up quantity but dropped significant quality to do so. Just stay there and grab Andy Levitre has been said quite a few times since that bad idea of a trade down and settle for Robert Brewster (who never played) in the 3rd Round.
Bill Parcells/Jerry Jones Era
2006: Cowboys Traded #49-Kellen Clemons to Jets for #53-Anthony Fasano, #189-Drew Coleman, #211-Pat McQuistan. TRADE DOWN
Cowboys Traded #80-Clint Ingram to Jaguars for #92-Jason Hatcher and #125-Skyler Green. TRADE DOWN
2005: No Trades (but the extra pick from 2004 accounted below).
2004: Cowboys traded away #22-J.P. Losman to Buffalo for #43-Julius Jones, #144-Sean Ryan, 2005 first round pick #20-Marcus Spears TRADE DOWN
2003: No Trades
Summary of Parcells/Jones: As you can see, this is a unique period in which draft picks were used poorly, but they were always valued. The Cowboys only participated in 3 trades in 4 drafts of top 100 picks, but each time they were accumulating bodies and stepping back. They sent away 3 picks and brought back 8. This is how a roster is built quickly, if it can be done properly. Mistakes were made when Parcells ran the war-room, with the Steven Jackson/Julius Jones decision chief among them, Bobby Carpenter, and many offensive linemen too (Jacob Rogers, Stephen Peterman), and of course the legendary battle where Parcells wanted Marcus Spears or Shawne Merriman over DeMarcus Ware. But, overall, the efficiency and conservative nature of his draft day philosophy is in sharp contrast to say, Phillips/Jones.
Dave Campo/Jerry Jones Era
2002: Cowboys traded #6-Ryan Sims to Kansas City for #8-Roy Williams, #75-Derek Ross, #186-Zuriel Smith. TRADE DOWN
Cowboys traded up to #63 to take Antonio Bryant and #129 Jamar Martin, sending Chicago #72-Roosevelt Williams, #104-Alex Brown, #140-Bobby Gray. TRADE UP
2001: Cowboys traded #37-Idrees Bashir to Colts for #52-Chris Chambers and #81-Kenny Smith. TRADE DOWN
Cowboys trade #52-Chris Chambers to Dolphins for #56-Tony Dixon and #122-Markus Steele. TRADE DOWN
Cowboys trade for pick #53 Quincy Carter by sending the Saints #70-Sedrick Hodge and #81-Kenny Smith. TRADE UP
2000: Dallas traded 2000 first round pick #19-Shaun Alexander, 2001 first round pick #7-Andre Carter to the Seattle for Joey Galloway. TRADE OUT
They also traded pick #80-Darrell Jackson to Seattle for James McKnight. TRADE OUT
Summary of Campo/Jones: We really don't think Dave Campo was involved in the drafting, so this might have been more the "Jones and Larry Lacewell" era. Wow. To see it all on paper again is tough to read. This is where things really started spiraling out of control as Jerry went "all in" on the Galloway trade. In fact, he went so crazy that we really forgot about the overpayment for James McKnight with the SAME TEAM! Then, the targeting and drafting of Quincy Carter and Antonio Bryant in which neither guy was what you hoped he was and then finally a very impressive job trading back in 2002 for 3 picks to just fall back 2 slots to take the guy you truly wanted. Pretty crazy reviewing these drafts and the gutting of the Galloway trade which set the 2001 trade back initiative into motion. What is truly nuts is that the Galloway trade did not scare him off the Roy Williams idea in 2008.
Chan Gailey/Jerry Jones Era:
1999: No Trades
1998: No Trades
Summary of Gailey/Jones: about as non-descript an era of the Cowboys history as we can find. The only notable footnotes of these 2 drafts would be the Randy Moss/Greg Ellis decision which has been discussed pretty thoroughly by now.
Barry Switzer/Jerry Jones Era:
1997: Cowboys trade with the Eagles to get #22-David LaFleur and send away #25-Jon Harris, #155-Luther Broughton, 1998 third round pick #70-Brian Alford. TRADE UP
They then trade #54-Kevin Abrams to Lions for #65-Dexter Coakley and #101-Antonio Anderson. TRADE DOWN
1996: Cowboys trade Washington Pick #30 - Andre Johnson for #37-Kavika Pittman and #67-Clay Shiver. TRADE DOWN
Cowboys get pick #49-Randall Godfrey from Miami in exchange for #60-Michael Cheever and #99-Phillip Daniels. TRADE UP
1995: Cowboys trade Tampa Bay pick #28 - Derrick Brooks for #41-Ronald Davis and #63-Shane Hannah. TRADE DOWN
Cowboys trade Atlanta pick #41 - Ronald Davis for #46-Sherman Williams and #110-Eric Bjornson. TRADE DOWN
1994: Cowboys trade for pick #23 - Shante Carver from San Francisco (also receive pick #217) for #28-William Floyd and #62-Tyrone Drakeford. TRADE UP
Summary of Switzer/Jones Era: This was certainly a very active era where the Cowboys were constantly doing something in these 4 drafts. In the end, the trades up and trades back seem to cancel each-other out in number - but don't be fooled. The quantity is out-weighed by the details. The 1995 passing on Derrick Brooks for what amounts to Sherman Williams, Shane Hannah, and Eric Bjornson seems crazy. Also, the amount of heaven and earth that was moved to get Troy Aikman his new tight end in David LaFleur should not be under-rated, either. And in 1994, sending a 1st and 2nd to get Shante Carver is a bit cringe worthy, too.
In a day and age where studies continue to prove that the only way to win in the long term is by trading down (see those studies here and here) this should show that aside from Bill Parcells being here and doing just that, every other Cowboys draft room of the modern era seemed to err on the side of giving more than they received -- although this current group seem pretty well-read.
Resist the urge to instinctively shrug off sending a 3rd round pick away to move up 4 spots in the 1st. It is a move that the winning organizations almost never make.