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Eagles vs. Cowboys: Comparing draft picks

Eliot Shorr-Parks
December 06, 2018 - 6:49 am

In the NFL, the first step towards building a franchise that competes year-after-year is finding a quarterback. Both the Eagles, with Carson Wentz, and the Dallas Cowboys, with Dak Prescott, believe they have found that player. Time will tell if either team is correct. The duo will face off this Sunday for first place in the NFC East. 

The second step is building your roster through the draft. It is the best way to find players that perform better than their salary and the best way to keep your team competitive. Ideally, free agency should be used to fill in the cracks, as opposed to building the foundation. 

As the Eagles, Cowboys, Wentz and Prescott prepare for what should be the new beginning of a historic rivalry, it is Dallas that has done a better job building a foundation that should keep them competitive in the future. The Eagles might have a better roster right now, but there is little debate that looking forward, the Cowboys’ front office has done a better job than Howie Roseman has stock piling young talent through the draft. 

This season, as the Cowboys have surprised many on their way to a 7-5 record, they have done it on the backs of young players. Over the last three seasons, the Cowboys have drafted 27 players. The big names amongst those players include Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. The contributions the Cowboys have received from players later on in the draft, however, have been almost as impressive. 

Here is what the Cowboys are getting this season from players they drafted between 2016 and 2018:

Total snaps: 6,959

Average snaps this season per pick: 257  

Total play percentage: 43% (16,170 available snaps)

Players over 50% of snaps: 9

As you can see, nearly half of the snaps the Cowboys have gotten from their players this season —43% — have come from players they have drafted in the last three years. Eight players from the last three drafts have played over 50% of the snaps on either offense or defense this year. Players like cornerback Anthony Brown and free safety Xaiver Woods, both drafted in the later rounds, are playing key roles on the second-best defense in the NFL. 

It is a very different case with the Eagles. 

The Eagles have made 21 picks over the last three years. Part of the reason they have had six fewer picks? They have traded picks for players. Cornerback Ronald Darby, running back Jay Ajayi, receiver Golden Tate — all three were acquired for picks. The package to trade up for Wentz also cost the Eagles picks. The trades helped the team win the Super Bowl last season. 

Even with fewer picks, however, the Eagles have not done a good job finding young players in the draft to help their team. 

Here is a look at what the Eagles are getting this season from players they have drafted between 2016 and 2018:

Total snaps: 3,860 

Average snaps this season per pick: 183 

Total play percentage: 23% (16,632 available snaps)

Players over 50% of snaps:

As you can see, the Eagles are getting far less help from their last three rookie classes than the Cowboys are. Only three players — Wentz, Isaac Seumalo and Jalen Mills — have played more than 50% of the snaps on offense or defense. The Eagles have gotten roughly half as many snaps from the last three draft classes as the Cowboys have. Instead, the Eagles’ team is built mostly around players acquired through free agency and trades.

You could make the argument that the Eagles’ rookies aren’t playing as much because of the talent they have ahead of them. For a rookie like Dallas Goedert, who is behind Zach Ertz, that might be the case. For all of the veteran talent the Eagles are supposed to have, however, the reality is that the Cowboys’ roster — comprised of young players — has outplayed the Eagle so far this season. It is also hard to find many young players on the Eagles roster, outside of Goedert, that are being held back because of a veteran ahead of them. 

Going forward, if the Eagles want to continue to compete with the Cowboys for NFC East titles, they are going to need to improve in the NFL Draft, and start to find players that can contribute right away like Dallas.  

Here is a complete look at the draft classes of the Eagles and Cowboys over the last three seasons:

Cowboys (27):

2018

Leighton Vander Esch, LB — 557 (74%)

Connor Williams, OT — 508 (65%)

Michael Gallup, WR -- 503 (64%)

Dorance Armstrong, DE — 213 (28%)

Dalton Schultz,TE — 146 (18%)

Mike White, QB — (not on team)

Chris Covington, LB — 1 (>1%)

Cedrick Wilson, WR  — (not on the team)

Bo Scarbrough, RB -- (not on the team)

2017

Taco Charlton, DL — 301 (40%)

Chidobe Awuzie, CB — 610 (81%)

Jourdan Lewis, CB — 107 (14%)

Ryan Switzer — (not on team)

Xavier Woods, FS — 608 (81%)

Marquez White, CB — (not on team)

Joey Ivie, DT — (not on team)

Noah Brown, WR — 60 (7%)

Jordan Carrell, DT — (not on team)

2016

Ezekiel Elliott, RB — 694 (89%)

Jaylon Smith, LB — 711 (94%)

Maliek Collins, DT — 306 (40%)

Charles Tapper — (not on team)

Dak Prescott, QB — 773 (99%)

Anthony Brown, CB — 568 (75%)

Kavon Frazier, SS — 183 (24%)

Darius Jackson — (not on team)

Rico Gathers, TE — 110 (14%)

Eagles (21):

2018

Dallas Goedert, TE — 362 (43%)

Avonte Maddox, CB — 354 (47%)

Josh Sweat, DE — 62 (8%)

Matt Pryor, OG — 0 

Jordan Mailata, OT — 0  

2017

Derek Barnett, DE — 234 (31%)

Sidney Jones, CB — 284 (37%) 

Rasul Douglas, CB  — 259 (34%)

Mack Hollins, WR — 0 (injured reserve) 

Donnell Pumphrey, RB — 0 (not on team)

Shelton Gibson, WR — 64 (7%)

Nate Gerry, LB — 85 (11%)

Elijah Qualls, DT — 0 (not on team)

2016 

Carson Wentz, QB — 672 (81%)

Isaac Seumalo, OG — 523 (63%)

Wendell Smallwood, RB— 258 (31%) 

Halapoulivaitai Vaitai, OT — 246 (29%)

Blake Countess, S — 0 (not on team)

Jalen Mills, CB — 457 (60%)

Alex McCalister, DE — 0 (not on team)

Joe Walker — 0 (not on team)

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at [email protected]!

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