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Running the Numbers: Predicting the Value at No. 18

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At DallasCowboys.com, I broke down the historic value of the No. 18 overall selection and suggested the Cowboys trade down if an elite player doesn’t fall. That’s a long link.

With the draft just three short weeks away, anticipation among Cowboys fans is building. That’s particularly true because we really don’t have a strong grasp on the direction the team might go come April 25. Will a top offensive lineman drop to them? Will they target a play-making defender at safety or defensive tackle? Could they perhaps trade down, even out of the first round?

In addition to a wide range of positions, there’s also a vast array of potential career outcomes for whoever the Cowboys draft. I wanted to determine exactly what type of player the Cowboys might be able to expect to grab if they stay at No. 18, so I researched the history of recent first-round picks. Below, I charted the total approximate value, a great measure of total production, for every player drafted in each first-round slot since Jerry Jones took over the Cowboys in 1989.

As expected, the value of picks declines as the draft unfolds. The total production posted by players drafted at No. 18 overall since 1989 has averaged out to an AV of about 35 – right around 65 percent of that of the top overall selections. If we remove players who haven’t yet finished their careers, the AV jumps to about 45.

Of course, that number means nothing without context, so take a look at a few names you might recognize who have generated that sort of production over the course of their careers:

  • DT Cullen Jenkins (50)
  • WR Antwaan Randle El (50)
  • DT Ty Warren (50)
  • DE Marcellus Wiley (49)
  • CB Anthony Henry (48)
  • RB Willie Parker (48)
  • S Ken Hamlin (46)
  • DT Leon Lett (46)
  • RB Marion Barber (45)
  • OT Marc Colombo (45)
  • WR Roy Williams (45)
  • LB Barrett Ruud (44)
  • DE Kenyon Coleman (43)
  • DT Igor Olshansky (43)
  • DE Ebenezer Ekuban (42)

Not what you were anticipating? There’s a really vast range of potential career outcomes for whichever player the Cowboys end up drafting, but we often forget about the busts; Erasmus James, Matt Stinchcomb, Dana Hall and Brian Williams were all selected at No. 18 overall, and it’s certainly possible that the Cowboys miss on their pick and wind up with someone whose career resembles those guys.

Check it out at the team site.

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