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 Super Bowl, 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
- 6 DL – Russell Maryland, Kelvin Pritchett, Shante Carver, Greg Ellis, Ebenezer Ekuban, Marcus Spears
- 4 LB – Robert Jones, DeMarcus Ware, Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Spencer
- 5 DB – Kevin Smith, Roy Williams, Terrence Newman, Mike Jenkins, Morris Claiborne
Offense – 9 picks
- 2 OL – Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick
- 2 WR – Alvin Harper, Dez Bryant
- 1 TE – David LaFleur
- 2 RB – Emmitt Smith, Felix Jones
- 2 QB – Troy Aikman, Steve Walsh
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 – Darren Woodson, Dwayne Goodrich, Tony Dixon
Offense – 20 picks
- 8 OL – Steve Wisniewski, Larry Allen, Shane Hannah, Flozell Adams, Solomon Page, Andre Gurode, Al Johnson, Jacob Rogers,
- 4 WR – Alexander Wright, Jimmy Smith, Kevin Williams, Antonio Bryant
- 4 TE – Kendall Watkins, Anthony Fasano, Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar
- 3 RB – Daryl Johnston, Sherman Williams, Julius Jones
- 1 QB – Quincy Carter
3rd round – 31 picks
Defense – 17 picks
- 7 DL – Rhondy Weston, Jimmie Jones, Darren Benson, Mike Ulafale, Willie Blade, Jason Hatcher, 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 – Mark Stepnoski, 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 – DeMarco Murray
- 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 – Wide Receiver (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 – Leon Lett, 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.
- 1994 – 1999 (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 Jimmy Johnson 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, Chris Canty, Rob Petitti, Jay Ratliff (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 – Doug Free, Nick Folk (4 other players never started)**
- 2008 – Orlando Scandrick (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 Bill Parcells 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 injury replacement. For example: Kyle Wilbur started a few games last year at linebacker and defensive end, 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 Pro Bowl – 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.