I gotta admit, I'm not the draftophile I was a few years ago, where'd I'd pore over the draft sites and know the names of the top 100 prospects. I got super busy during the recent COVID unpleasantness and so my last big draft study was 2019.
What I do now is study the candidates **after** they are drafted or signed by the Cowboys. And I am impressed by the job the scouting staff has done. They have been able to find 'those guys' nobody drafted and get them signed early. I've been impressed by the scouts since the Miles Austin days. Somehow they have consistently found these guys and brought them and coached them up. Cole Beasley was one of the more recent examples, along with Cooper Rush, who I am very glad Dallas resigned.
The draft is a crap shoot after you get past the 3rd round. And of course "can't miss" prospects in those first 3 rounds miss all the time. What people need to remember is the sheer size of the draft class and the fact that about 1/2 of the teams in this league have no real idea how to evaluate talent, and/or coach it up once they land it. A lot of very good college football players get drafted by NFL staffs that never coach them up to anywhere near their potential. They end up drafting a guy for a need, then try to make him fit their 'system'. Some guys get lucky after never doing anything for the team that drafted them, then they go to another team and 'catch fire'. That's often because the original team wasn't using them right.
The very first thing that has to happen is that the scout team and the coaching staff has to have a CRYSTAL CLEAR IDEA what system they are running and what kind of players they need to bring in and coach up in that system. The number of teams out there where there's disconnect somewhere between the owner-GM-coaching staff-scouting staff is probably well over 1/2 the league. So out of 32 teams maybe only 12-10 have any real idea what they're doing from the top down, from the owner to the scouting staff.
I've spent some time going over the available videos of the FA guys we've signed so far. I'm happy to report the Cowboys are indeed one of those 10-12 teams that know what they are doing.
The common perception of the general public is that there's a huge dropoff of talent in the NCAA CFB ranks after you get past the 100th prospect or so. Maybe in the olden days, but not anymore. Every class of draftees the pool is massive, and year sees deep talent at particular positions. After 7 rounds of drafting and maybe 24 OT's taken, is there really that much of a drop off between that 24th and 25th guy? Not if you have the right kind of coaching staff.
The big names, the top 10 prospects that go in the first 2 rounds at each position get all the national hoopla, the TV face time, etc. But after you get past the top 10 guys at each position you've entered the territory where the real hard work in scouting begins. And I've learned there a massive amount of undrafted talent out there if you know where to look, and know what you are looking FOR. You're not looking for instant starters in FA once the draft ends; you're looking for talent with certain abilities and skills that you know will benefit from a year or 2 of coaching in your system and then become contributors.
A lot of scouts are good at assessing the strengths/weaknesses of a prospect in a generalized sense. What a great scout can do is look at that prospect and 'see' that within the system his team is utilizing currently, how those strengths and weaknesses make him a good or bad prospect for HIS system.
Countless times I see players drafted who end up being wasted in a system they don't fit into. The GM and the scouts figured they could pound a square peg into a round hole; hey that guy's talented, he should be able to adjust! And it doesn't happen. One reason I'm optimistic about Dallas's past couple drafts is that I don't see our GM and scouts doing this any longer. The past 3 drafts have been slow and steady as she goes, no need for some extravagant, exotic maneuvering. They are finding people that fit into the system they have a clear idea of, and are coaching them up to play in it.
And that's the best case scenario.