There’s a good chance that when the Dallas Cowboys go on the clock at Pick 10 this April, tight end Kyle Pitts will be the best player on the board. And if he is there, he’ll probably be the BPA (best player available) by a pretty wide margin.
Such was the case last season when, against all odds, receiver CeeDee lamb fell to them at 17. And while the Dallas Cowboys didn’t hesitate to turn in the card for Lamb, they may pass on Pitts altogether. Hypocrisy? Inconsistency? Stupidity?
Maybe all of those, but the two situations are really apples and oranges, and deviating from the BPA this time, may be the wise move to make when you consider a few factors.
CeeDee Lamb was an entirely different draft scenario for the Dallas Cowboys than Kyle Pitts is
CeeDee Lamb in 2020
CeeDee Lamb falling to them was such a surprise event, Jerry Jones said the team didn’t even prepare for it in their practice scenarios leading up. It was just too absurd to even entertain. But when Lamb did fall, Dallas pounced.
With Amari Cooper re-signed long-term and Michael Gallup on the rise, the need wasn’t glaring at receiver. Especially since TE Blake Jarwin was expected to breakout as a full-time down-the-field pass catching weapon.
If the 2020 season was any indication of what’s to come from Lamb, the Cowboys were wise in their decision. Lamb looks every bit the WR1 we thought he was when he was drafted. And he stands ready to be a dominant force in Year 2 with the Dallas Cowboys.
Kyle Pitts in 2021
With TE Kyle Pitts projected to be available to Dallas when they go on the clock at Pick 10, it’s understandable people are drawing comparisons between this and last year’s situation. Dallas doesn’t need another pass-catcher, per say, but Pitts is so much better than the other options likely to be available, like Lamb was in 2020, Pitts may be the best option.
Before I go any further I want to point out I’m neither arguing for Pitts or against Pitts. I’m simply trying to put the situation into perspective and put a stop to the comparison between the Lamb scenario and the Pitts scenario, because they are tremendously different.
First we must recognize the difference in positional value between WR and TE. While WR is the third highest paid position group in the NFL (after QB and Edge), TE is the lowest paid position (excluding special teams).
This is extremely telling if you want assess how teams around the league value certain positions.
From a budgeting perspective, you want the Dallas Cowboys to pick a player who plays a high value position with their top pick. At pick 10, the Cowboys are slated to pay, whomever they may draft, roughly $5M per season. And at Pick 10 you expect to select a player with Pro Bowl potential.
CeeDee Lamb looks primed to achieve Pro Bowl status as soon as next year. Since a top-10 paid WR costs an average of over $18M per season, Lamb offers Dallas roughly a $15M savings over the next few years. How great is that?
Let’s say Dallas picks Pitts at Pick 10. And let’s say Pitts meets expectations and also looks like a Pro Bowler early. Financially speaking, he’ll only offer a cost savings of $3.7M each year – a far cry from the below market savings you’re getting from Lamb who plays a higher value position.
But that’s the money side of things and people don’t always care about other people’s money as long as the product on the field is good, right?
But even on the field we’re seeing a vastly different environment for Pitts here in 2021 than we did for Lamb last season.
For starters, it’s the position Pitts plays: TE. Blake Jarwin is expected to be back and at 100%. He may be unproven and coming off a significant injury, but the kid showed enough in the past to make him an early candidate for Breakout Cowboy of the Year (OK, that’s not really a thing, but dang it, it should be). Since both Pitts and Jarwin are primarily pass-catching TEs and offer little as blockers, they’re basically going to be stealing opportunities from each other.
Speaking of diminishing returns, every pass-catcher you add to this Dallas Cowboys attack, you’re getting less and less from the individuals since there’s only one ball to go around. While the same was true last year with Lamb, the situation is different this time around.
If you remember, last year there were questions about both Amari Cooper’s ability to stay healthy and his ability to perform on the road. He put both to bed in 2020 and looks every bit the elite receiver we were hoping he’d be. Additionally, Lamb is now in the mix. Many, including me, are predicting he’ll lead the Cowboys in receiving next season. He could pass Amari Cooper as the top dog any day.
Finally, it’s the situation on defense we must consider. When Dallas drafted Lamb they thought they had a pretty darn good defense. Dallas was actually a top-10 defense in 2019 (by the traditional yards against measurement). Whereas they’re going into the 2021 NFL Draft with a bottom-10 defense.
I don’t have to remind Cowboys Nation how opponents moved the ball at will against Dallas last season and how even the top ranked offense (when Dak was slinging it) couldn’t overcome the abomination that was the Dallas D.
Now maybe Kyle Pitts proves to be the next Travis Kelce or George Kittle in the NFL. Maybe he’s every bit he’s projected to be and is a perennial Pro Bowler in the NFL. But that value probably won’t pay off until about five years down the road, given all the factors we just covered.
Maybe Kyle Pitts is the best move for the long-term health of the club, maybe he’s not. What he isn’t, is in a comparable situation what CeeDee Lamb was in last year because picking Lamb was a no-brainer. Pitts requires some very critical thinking if you’re the Dallas Cowboys.