Draft and development are the two keys to Cowboys ending Super Bowl drought


It’s a philosophy called Draft and Develop.

You draft players, turn them into reliable starters and substitutes, and sign them to a second or sometimes third contract. This keeps costs down unless you are developing an elite player who needs to be paid among the highest in their position.

At some point, the Draft and Develop formula has to work, and if the Cowboys are to end their Super Bowl drought, that philosophy will fill the dry ground around The Star.

The main part of Draft and Develop is the youth.

The 2022 Cowboys will have 12 rookies on their 53-player roster and 29 players with less than three years of experience. On the 16-man practice squad, Dallas has five rookies and 11 players with less than three years of NFL experience.

Over the Cap, a website devoted to mapping NFL roster development, says 81% of the Cowboys’ roster is made up of homegrown talent. That’s the highest percentage in the NFL. If you include the practice squad players, that drops to 76.3%, also a league high.

“I love the youth,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “I just think back to when I was a young player and I just understand the excitement and the confidence they can have, and a bit of their naivety.

“Some of these young guys think they’re the best to do it, and I want to make sure they believe that and think that. We’ve got a great mix of young guys with enough veterans to make it a great chemistry, the best locker room I’ve been in, and it’s exciting.

When the Cowboys open the 2022 season Sunday night against Tampa Bay, they plan to throw a rookie left tackle (Tyler Smith) and a right tackle (Terence Steele) entering his third season. The two best defensive players (linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs) are 23 years old.

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The top wide receiver (CeeDee Lamb) is also 23.

There is no doubt that the development part works for the Cowboys in certain positions.

The other side of this philosophy is the growing pains that come with it.

You’re hoping the youth of this roster won’t cost you matches, and if it does, patience is in order.

“It’s draft and development, that’s really what it is,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about winning games. Now we haven’t won a game yet and no matter how old you are, our home opener is against an outstanding football team that is perhaps the oldest and most experienced team in the league.

“Then it really doesn’t matter. This is where we are. What I like is that you look at the amount of growth and the potential ahead of us. We just have to stay the course, day after day, and keep working to do better. They’re a great group to do it with.

A worrying aspect of this team is at wide receiver. Gone is veteran Amari Cooper, who was traded to Cleveland, and James Washington, signed to provide veteran depth, is out until October with a broken foot. Another vet, Michael Gallup, is about to return from surgery for a torn ACL. Gallup will miss the first game, but is expected to return in September.

That leaves Prescott with Dennis Houston (undrafted), Jalen Tolbert (2022 third-round pick), KaVontae Turpin (undrafted) and Noah Brown (39 catches at the start of his sixth season) to help.

Prescott said he had confidence in this inexperienced group. He understands that he will have to feed and chastise the receivers if necessary.

“Give them the answer, depending on what they need help with,” Prescott said, using an expletive to explain how to help receivers.

“If it’s their confidence, obviously I’ll see it in their body language and I’ll know how to pick it up and pick it up, remind them of the good play or good plays they’ve made. And if it’s a route or something in the diagram, make sure they know it and the next time I appear to them I will ask them about it again.

The Cowboys’ plan to use youth to end this Super Bowl drought is drawing mixed emotions from fans. But this philosophy is not something new in the NFL; ask McCarthy.

When he coached the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title in the 2010 season, he said, 10 rookies started in that game.

“It’s how fast can you close the gap between your older players and your younger players,” he said. “I think that’s a very important factor in developing a winning football team.”


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