The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys News and Notes, 6/16/11: Re-Sign Gerald Sensabaugh?

Jonathan Bales

Let me start by apologizing for the ridiculously low amount of posts here in recent weeks.  A combination of the lockout and a lack of time has led to the sparse article count, but I will make a concerned effort to increase my work in the coming weeks.  On a bright note, the time off from football should allow all of us to come back full force as the season approaches.  Here is my take on some recent Cowboys notes:

  • The Cowboys want to retain Gerald Sensabaugh at a “sensible” (no pun intended) price.

Many of you griped when I ranked Sensabaugh as the Cowboys’ fifth-best player in 2010, but I think he deserved it.   Sensabaugh gave up a team-low 57.1 percent completion percentage, one touchdown, and just 6.95 yards-per-attempt.  In my 2010 Safety Grades, that led to the best Dallas Cowboys Times Pass Defense Rating.

With all of the talented safeties possibly on the market (Eric Weddle, Michael Huff, Dawan Landry, Donte Whitner, Quintin Mikell), no one is going to overpay for Sensabaugh.  If anything, he will get less than he deserves.  With a superior pass rush and a better starting free safety both likely in 2011, Sensabaugh has a chance to have a really solid 2011 in Dallas.  Look for him to be back in Big D this season.

  • John Phillips is completely healthy and ready to challenge Martellus Bennett for the No. 2 tight end job.

Not so fast.  Phillips looked excellent last preseason. . .for all of half of a game.  I am just as excited as you about Phillips’ long-term potential, but let’s not forget Martellus Bennett is probably this team’s best blocker.  He was my No. 4 overall player in 2010.  Yes, on the entire team.

With all of the weapons on offense, the Cowboys’ No. 2 tight end will never get a ton of looks.  Put the best blocker on the field.  Plus, there are ways to get Phillips and Bennett on the field at the same time. . .and I think the ‘Boys should throw the ball often out of those run-heavy looks.

  • The Cowboys appear set to re-sign Stephen Bowen.

I’m indifferent on this move.  Bowen was average at best last year, but the Cowboys have little option.  Depending how the lockout ends, Bowen, Jason Hatcher and Marcus Spears might all be free agents (Spears is definitely gone), so they have to re-sign someone.  That’s especially true if they cut Igor Olshansky.

Like I’ve said before, the team could really benefit from signing a nose tackle and moving Jay Ratliff to end, but it doesn’t appear as though that will happen.

Thanks to David Myers for sending this in.  The image below is actually from Advanced NFL Stats and it shows how second-round picks may be superior to first-round picks in terms of the value-compensation ratio.  I think this is particularly true in recent years, as the gap between elite prospects is shortening.

We’ve had some fine conversations in the “Comments” regarding this topic, with most of you arguing that it is not possible to justify keeping two kickers.  I have disagreed, arguing the value of touchbacks and Buehler’s kick coverage ability are enough for the Cowboys to keep him regardless of who is kicking field goals in 2011.

The link above is to an article detailing why Billy Cundiff’s value to the Ravens last season was the same as a defensive end with 20 sacks.  Put another way, the expected points added from his kickoffs were good enough to rank him ahead of the expected points added of all but six running backs.

By Jonathan Bales

More Evidence ‘Best Player Available’ Is a Poor Draft Strategy

Jonathan Bales

I created a minor ruckus prior to the 2011 Draft when I argued that teams should not necessarily always select the best player available, even at a position of need.  The reason I gave for this was a term called VORP (value over replacement player)–a concept based on position scarcity.  In the past, I defined VORP as follows:

In a nutshell, VORP means selecting not the player with the most projected points, but the player with the largest disparity of projected points compared to the next player at the same position who you could secure in a later round.

In the article I wrote on BPA, I argued:

VORP is an all-encompassing draft strategy that leads to greater ultimate value than BPA–a more short-sighted draft philosophy which disregards the future in favor of optimal value right now.  Would you rather have $100 today (BPA) or $500 tomorrow (VORP)?

Well, my friends at Code and Football (great site, by the way), posted a short article on why drafting the BPA is simply a way to optimize buyer’s remorse.  In addition to labeling BPA a “hoary old theory” (which I love), C and F writes:

Consider this scenario: you have three players in the middle rounds you are considering, whose “true career value” is about the same. We’ll assume drafting is an efficient market for now, so our estimation of the value of these picks is a normally distributed estimate whose mean is based off their true career value. Which one of these men do we draft? We draft the player whose value we have overestimated the most. Consequently, we draft the player most likely to underachieve our expectations.

Since in most drafts there are very few times a true BPA falls into the lap of teams (i.e. players where one is wildly superior to all other candidates), it would seem that BPA is a way of optimizing how heartbroken a team will be over the draft choices it actually picks. Though this approach would appear to gather the best athletes, in a draft with a large error, and multiple situations where you’re picking from nearly equivalent athletes, perhaps all BPA will get you is maximally suffering from buyer’s remourse.

This idea is obviously different from my own, but it is interesting to note that others also view BPA as having little value, outside of optimal suffering.  The Cowboys clearly drafted for value in 2011.  The question is whether they enhanced their long-term value by including position scarcity into their draft motives, or if they opted for the top-rated player at each individual draft slot and ended up with sub-optimal overall value.

By Jonathan Bales

DeMarco Murray Offseason Training

NFL.com has an awesome look at DeMarco Murray’s offseason training with Sam Bradford.