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25 Year History Of Dallas Draft Picks Under Jerry Jones

Around this time of year, there are always fans that overstate or understate the commitment of their team to draft certain types of players. This is due to the frustration felt by the fans of the 31 teams who did NOT win the previous , and by our own faulty memories. We tend to judge front offices too harshly or too lightly based on their recent success in the post-season, not on their actual success in drafting good players.

Since Cowboys fans have much to be frustrated about, before we get into the full swing of the criticism that is bound to come in May due to the fact that the Cowboys cannot draft enough players to fill every need, and even if they did, the likelihood of drafting successfully at each position is exceedingly low, I think it would be a good idea to look at the FACTS of how the Cowboys have drafted players since Jerry Jones bought the team 25 years ago.

1st round – 24 picks

Defense – 15 picks

Offense – 9 picks


2nd Round – 30 picks

Defense – 10 picks

  • 1 DL – Kavika Pittman
  • 6 LB – Dixon Edwards, Darren Smith, Randall Godfrey, Kevin Burnett, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter
  • 3 DB – , Dwayne Goodrich, Tony Dixon

Offense – 20 picks


3rd round – 31 picks

Defense – 17 picks

  • 7 DL – Rhondy Weston, Jimmie Jones, Darren Benson, Mike Ulafale, Willie Blade, , Tyrone Crawford
  • 4 LB – Godfrey Miles, Dexter Coakley, Dat Nguyen, Jason Williams
  • 6 DB – Clayton Holmes, Mike Middleton, Charlie Williams, Kenny Wheaton, Derek Ross, J.J. Wilcox

Offense – 14 picks

  • 10 OL – , James Richards, Erik Williams, James Brown, George Hegamin, Clay Shiver, Steve Scifres, Stephen Peterman, James Marten, Robert Brewster
  • 2 WR – Stepfret Williams, Terrance Williams
  • 1 TE – Jason Witten
  • 1 RB –
  • 0 QB


If we stop for a moment to consider that the first 3 rounds are considered the premium picks, we can look at some of the Cowboys' tendencies:  The Cowboys tend to draft for defense in the first round, and then offense in the second round.  The third round leans slightly toward defense, but is more even overall.  Also, the Cowboys have tended to draft for D linemen in rounds 1 & 3, and O linemen in rounds 2 & 3.

The Cowboys have had very little success drafting for defensive backs in the 2nd & 3rd rounds, while all of their 1st round DB's have become starters in the NFL. The Cowboys have had very good success finding linebackers in rounds 2 & 3.

Looking at it from an overall standpoint, the Cowboys have had a total of 85 picks in the first 3 rounds in the 25 years since Jerry Jones bought the team – 10 more than the average NFL team which has had 75 picks in that time.  Considering that the Cowboys traded away three 1st round picks for WR's Joey Galloway and Roy Williams, they've still had an above average chance to pick “premium” players. Just looking at these 85 premium picks, here is how the picks have been used by position in the first 3 rounds of the draft:

  • 20 – Offensive Linemen
  • 14 – Defensive Linemen
  • 14 – Linebackers
  • 14 – Defensive Backs
  • 8 – (10 if you include Joey Galloway and Roy Williams)
  • 6 – Tightends
  • 6 – Running Backs
  • 3 – Quarterbacks

Since only 23 of the 85 picks (27%) used have been for offensive skill players, it is hard to justify the complaints that Jerry Jones is only interested in drafting flashy offensive skill players.  The Cowboys have drafted almost as many offensive linemen (20) as they have offensive skill players in the last 25 years. And if you consider that Daryl Johnston was considered an honorary offensive lineman, the count is almost dead even.

Also, the distribution of how the Cowboys have drafted defensive players in the last 25 years could not be more even – 14 players for each level of the defense.  So much for the accusation that the Cowboys are only interested in drafting defensive backs.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys have had very little success in the 2nd & 3rd rounds with Defensive backs, which may be why so many fans forget that the Cowboys have tried to find DB's in the 2nd & 3rd rounds. Only Darren Woodson stands out as a success story, despite many Cowboys' attempts.

So, having taken a look at how the Cowboys have used their premium picks; let's take a look at the picks the Cowboys have used from the 4th round on. Here is a complete list of the starters the Cowboys have found in the later rounds:

  • 1989 – Tony Tolbert (11 other players never started)**
  • 1990 – Kenny Gant (1 other player never started)**
  • 1991, Larry Brown (9 other players never started)**
  • 1992 – (9 players never started)**
  • 1993 – Ron Stone, Brock Marion (4 other players never started)**

Note:  Jimmy Johnson's record of drafting starters after the 3rd round:  6 for 40 – only 15%. Keep that in mind when you get all excited about players drafted in the later rounds.

  • 19941999 (31 players never started)**
  • 2000 – Mario Edwards (4 other players never started)**
  • 2001 – Matt Lehr (5 other players never started)**
  • 2002 – (5 players never started)**

Jerry's record in the later rounds after left: 2 for 47 – a dismal 4.2%.

  • 2003 – Bradie James (3 other players never started)**
  • 2004 – Patrick Crayton, Jacques Reeves (3 other players never started)**
  • 2005 – Marion Barber, , Rob Petitti, (1 other player never started)**
  • 2006 – Pat Watkins (4 other players never started) **

Note:  Bill Parcell's record of drafting starters after the 3rd round:  8 for 19 – a remarkable 42%!!!!

  • 2007, Nick Folk (4 other players never started)**
  • 2008 (2 other players never started)**
  • 2009 – (10 players never started)**
  • 2010 – (4 players never started)**
  • 2011 – (5 players never started)**
  • 2012 (5 players never have started)**
  • 2013 (3 players have never started)**

Jerry's record of finding starters after the 3rd round since left:  3 for 37 – a dismal 8.1%

Note:  When I say never started, I mean they never won a starting position. The players may have started a game as an replacement. For example: Kyle Wilbur started a few games last year at linebacker and , but was never considered the 1st string player.

Only 19 of the 142 players the Cowboys have drafted after the 3rd round (13.3%) have become front-line starters.  And many of those can only be considered marginal starters. Of those 142 players, only 7 have been to a – Tony Tolbert (1x), Leon Lett (2x), Ron Stone (3x), Brock Marion (3x), Marion Barber (1x), Jay Ratliff (4x), and Nick Folk (1x).

Looking at the hit rate on picks after the 3rd round, I wouldn't put too much stock in the Cowboys' late round picks this coming May.  Jerry has proven to be pretty inept without Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells when it comes to picking players in the later rounds.

Of all the later round players, Nick Folk is the only Pro Bowler Jerry picked on his own.

I hope this brief history helps give everyone some perspective on the upcoming draft. Good luck with your mock drafts, and don't spend too much brain energy on trying to find starters later in the draft – unless you happen to be Bill Parcells.

Scott Harris
Scott Harris
Engineer, writer and private NFL analyst, he began developing his own statistical analysis program in 1998 to measure and predict the performance of NFL teams. Scott is also a self-taught expert on the NFL salary CAP, analyzing how Cowboys contracts affect the team this year and in future seasons. Mr. Harris' skill lies in digging inside the numbers to explain which statistical measurements matter, and which do not. Mr. Harris developed his skill at writing for his college newspaper, and had his own politically oriented blog for several years. A passionate fan of the Cowboys, Scott uses his skill with numbers and writing to provide a unique viewpoint of the Cowboys and the NFL as a whole. He is a native of the DFW metroplex and currently resides in Golden, Colorado designing environmental controls systems for data centers, high rise buildings, college campuses, and government bases.

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