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Best Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks From Each Year of the Jason Garrett Era

John Williams

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Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time

Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett is heading into his ninth NFL Draft as head coach of America's Team. Garrett doesn't necessarily get all the credit for the draft as there are scouts and front office personnel who put in lots of time and effort on the prospects that are selected on draft weekend.

With that said, the draft has become the primary vehicle for how the Dallas Cowboys build a roster and it's been mostly successful and they've become one of the better drafting teams in the NFL. Though it started out slow, they've really hit their stride in the last several years, hitting on several picks in the middle to late rounds.

The 2016 draft class was one where they found six players who made significant contributions to the team in 2018. The 2014 draft class produced arguably two of the best players on the team in Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence. The 2011 draft signified a shift in the thinking of the front office, largely thanks to Jason Garrett, who urged the team to invest in protecting its most valuable asset; Quarterback Tony Romo.

As the team prepares to add significant pieces to their 2019 roster, let's take a look back at the last eight drafts and the best selection the Cowboys made each draft. Several of these picks are going to be first round selections, because the Cowboys hit home runs with those picks. With others, they were able to strike gold in later rounds.

Let's take a look.

2011 - Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle, 1st Round, 9th Overall

This pick, more than any other, signified the changing of the guard and philosophy of the Dallas Cowboys led by first year head coach, Jason Garrett.

When the Dallas Cowboys selected Tyron Smith with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, it was the first time in Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones' tenure that the Cowboys had spent a first round pick on an offensive lineman.

After playing right tackle his rookie year, Tyron Smith moved to left tackle and has been one of the best at his position in his eight year career. Smith has been selected as a First Team All-Pro twice and has made the Pro Bowl each of the last six years.

Despite injuries, he's been an anchor on the left side of the offensive line both in the run and the pass game. HIs athleticism, strength, and skill have been a perfect blend as the Dallas Cowboys transitioned to running the ball more than they did early in his career.

2012 - Tyrone Crawford, Defensive Line, 3rd Round, 81st Overall

This was the year that the Dallas Cowboys traded up in the first round to select Morris Claiborne. While Claiborne never reached the level of play expected of a top 10 pick, he was still a solid player when he was available. And his injuries, more than anything, are what kept him from being a long-term answer for the Dallas Cowboys a time cornerback.

Tyrone Crawford, the team’s third round pick from that season has been a solid contributor along the defensive line in his six years with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s been good for five to six sacks a season and has become one of the leaders on the defense.

Crawford’s ability to play both defensive end and defensive tackle has made him an invaluable role player for Rod Marinelli’s defense.

Crawford’s only failure is to live up to the contract the Cowboys front office gave him, but he’s been a good player for the team.

2013 - Travis Frederick, Center, 1st Round - 31st Overall

When the Dallas Cowboys traded back in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and selected Wisconsin Center Travis Frederick, much of the draft community considered it a reach. After selecting Tyron Smith in 2011, the Cowboys continued their offensive line construction by selecting their second offensive lineman in the first round in three years.

It took more than 20 years for the Cowboys to select an offensive lineman in the first round during Jerry Jones tenure and now they had done it twice.

2014 - Zack Martin, Right Guard, 1st Round, 16th Overall

Honorable Mention - DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End, Second Round

Were it not for the 2016 draft class, the 2014 group could be considered the best of the Jason Garrett era. Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence are each top five players at their position.

Zack Martin has been to the Pro Bowl all five seasons he's been in the NFL and has been selected to the First Team All-Pro Team three times. He's played 78 of a possible 80 games in his career, missing time in 2018 because of a hip and knee issues. Prior to that, he'd started every game of his NFL career and been a dominant player while doing it.

While Lawrence has been great, injuries and a suspension slowed his development and it wasn’t until the last two years that we saw the elite play we’ve grown accustomed to. Over the last two seasons, only Chandler Jones and Ryan Kerrigan have more sacks than DeMarcus Lawrence's 25. He's been both great as a pass rusher and great against the run. He's as good as it gets in the NFL.

Anytime you can come away with two All-Pro players in one draft, you're doing something right.

2015 - Byron Jones, Corner Back/Safety, 1st Round, 27th Overall

What would we think about Byron Jones had the Dallas Cowboys made him a corner from the get go?Jones was moved around the secondary from tight end cover guy, to safety, and now to corner where  he thrived in 2018. Sure, he had a poor second half of the season, but that shouldn’t erase all the good he did in the first half of 2018.


Byron Jones' name has come up in contract discussions this offseason and it sounds like the Cowboys would like to get a deal done at some point. However, they might want to see more from Jones before dishing out $12-15 million per year.

Randy Gregory is the only other player worth mentioning here, but his off the field drug and mental health issues have kept him from being the top 10 player he was projected to be prior to testing positive in for marijuana before the draft.

We saw flashes of greatness in 2018 and he was one of the team's best defenders in the second half of the season. Another suspension is lingering and could effect his ability to play in 2019.

2016 - Dak Prescott, Quarterback, 4th Round

Honorable Mention - Ezekiel Elliott

Anytime that you can find your franchise quarterback, it’s best selection of a draft class. The Cowboys selection of Dak Prescott led to something that rarely happens in the NFL: a seamless transition from franchise quarterback to franchise quarterback.

When Tony Romo went down in the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, I don’t think any of us knew what to expect from the fourth round draft pick. Though Prescott hasn’t been perfect (no quarterback is), he’s helped the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs in two of his first three seasons, while having a winning record in each of his three years in the NFL.

For his career, Prescott is flirting with a passer rating around 100 and has become one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the league, scoring six touchdowns a season on the ground. Prescott’s become one of the more important leaders on this team. His inability to be phased by game situation or importance is one of his greatest attributes.

Dak Prescott’s never out of a game. Even when he’s not playing well, he always seems to find a way to make plays at the end to get his team back in the game or take it over for the win.

Ezekiel Elliott has been an important player, there’s no doubt about it, but he’s been exactly what he should have been after being selected as the fourth overall pick. When you take a running back that high in the draft, he better lead the league in rushing and be a part of your identity.

The issue isn’t so much in Elliott, the player, it’s in the way the NFL values the running back position these days.

2017 - Xavier Woods, Safety, 6th Round Pick

The 2017 draft is most remembered for the selection of Defensive End Taco Charlton over now-Pittsburgh Steelers Outside Linebacker T.J. Watt, but it was what the Cowboys did after the first round that was remarkable.

Remember that prior to the draft, the Cowboys allowed Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Brandon Carr, and Morris Claiborne to walk in free agency. Two of their top three corners and two of their top three safeties were gone.

In the draft, the Cowboys selected four defensive backs in Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, and Marquez White. The most impressive in their first two years has been Xavier Woods.

Initially Woods had to works some as a slot cornerback because of injuries in the secondary and ineffectiveness of free agent signing Nolan Carroll.

In 2018, Woods made the full-time transition to free safety and was a bright spot for a Cowboys defense that was in the top 10 in many defensive statistics in the NFL.

2018 - Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker, 1st Round

It's still very early in his career, but 2018 first round pick Leighton Vander Esch looks to be an excellent selection thus far.

In his first year, he supplanted Sean Lee in the lineup after Lee returned from injury. Combining with Jaylon Smith, they were one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL in 2018. Vander Esch had a case for defensive rookie of the year. He was tied for the team lead in interceptions and was a tackling machine.

Like I said, it's still early in his career, but if 2018 is any indication, there's a lot to be excited about in the future.

The Cowboys have done really good work at retooling their team as they've stayed competitive during the Jason Garrett era. Though they went 8-8 in the first three years, over the last five, they've gone 48-32, won the NFC East three times, and been to the divisional round of the playoffs each of those three years.

A lot of that success is because of the success they've had in the draft. Few teams can boast as much drafted talent as this young Dallas Cowboys squad can. From their quarterback to their pass rush, the Dallas Cowboys have been able to find the elite pieces at the money positions through the draft. When it comes to the draft, the Cowboys brass is like a kid on Christmas, ready to unwrap their shiny new toys.


Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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NFL Draft

Red River Rivalry Brings WR Devin Duvernay to Dallas, Hopefully to Stay

Brian Martin

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Red River Rivalry Brings WR Devin Duvernay to Dallas, Hopefully to Stay 1

If you happen to be a fan of college football and the Dallas Cowboys, then the 2019 Red River Rivalry between the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns might just be a game you want to tune in for this weekend. Both teams will showcase quite a few players who could enter the 2020 NFL Draft and one of the more talented, although still underrated, players could be of interest to the Cowboys.

Enter Texas Longhorns Wide Receiver Devin Duvernay.

When it comes to positions the Dallas Cowboy would be most interested in next year's NFL Draft, wide receiver might not be at the top the list… or so it would seem from the outside looking in. But if you look a little deeper only Amari Cooper, who the Cowboys will extend eventually, and Michael Gallup are locks to stick around beyond this season. That's where Devin Duvernay comes in.

With Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin under one-year contracts, the Dallas Cowboys could be looking for their next slot receiver. Devin Duvernay may be new to the position with the Longhorns this year, but he's already proving to be a dynamic weapon out of the slot and could be exactly what the Cowboys are looking for.

The slot WR position is an important one for the Dallas Cowboys, especially for Quarterback Dak Prescott. It has become a security blanket of sorts over the years for Prescott and finding a sure-handed receiver he's comfortable with is easier said than done. Luckily though, they don't come much more reliable than Devin Duvernay.


Devin Duvernay

Texas Longhorns WR Devin Duvernay (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

According to the folks over at Pro Football Focus, Duvernay was one of the rare collegiate WRs who didn't drop a pass in 2018. That's pretty impressive considering he played the Z-receiver role with the Longhorns last year before moving into the slot in 2019. I'd say that's pretty sure-handed. Down the field targets are much more difficult to haul in than the ones thrown near or around the line of scrimmage.

Sure handedness isn't Devin Duvernay's only impressive trait though. His physicality and infectious attitude on the field is something that would pair nicely with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, both of whom are a little low-key/reserved as far as their on-field persona is concerned. Duvernay is a WR who likes to punish would be tackler and he has the build to do just that.

At 5'11", 210 pounds, Duvernay's thick, well muscled frame is much more RB-esque than that of a traditional receiver. His build is comparable to Carolina's D.J. Moore and San Francisco's Deebo Samuel, both of whom were taken relatively high in their respective drafts the past couple of years. His play to both of these WRs is similar as well.

The soon to be former Longhorns WR has all the intangibles to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball. His physicality alone makes him difficult for any defensive back to tackle, but he also possesses elite speed as well. He claims he can run a 4.3 40-yard dash and his film certainly suggests he's capable of doing just that.

Overall, Devin Duvernay is absolutely someone the Dallas Cowboys should keep an eye on when the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns meet up this weekend in Dallas for the Red River Rivalry. I'd be more than happy if he ended up being one of their Day 2 selections, which is where I have him being drafted right now.

Do you like the idea of WR Devin Duvernay in a Dallas Cowboys uniform?


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NFL Draft

Cowboys Land CB in Matt Miller’s way-too-early 2020 NFL Mock Draft

Brian Martin

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Matt Miller's 2020 Mock Draft Predicts Cowboys Strengthen Their Secondary

What better way to kick off the 2019 NFL regular-season and the start of college football then a way-too-early 2020 mock draft? Well, you're in luck. Matt Miller, one of my favorite draft analysts, just released his latest 2020 NFL Mock Draft for Bleacherreport.com and you may be surprised as to who he selected for the Dallas Cowboys.

One of the reasons I enjoy Matt Miller's work above many other so-called "draft analysts" is because he has his ear to the ground and has a pretty good connection with scouts around the league. That kind of information is pretty invaluable, but he also has a solid understanding of team "needs". Add all of that up and you get a really solid guesstimate of who could be on a certain teams radar, in this case the Dallas Cowboys.

Let's take a look at who Matt Miller predicted the Dallas Cowboys could draft in the 2020 NFL Draft with their first-round selection. Miller set this particular mock draft according to current Super Bowl odds from Caesar's Palace.

25. Dallas Cowboys

Bryce Hall

Virginia Cavaliers CB Bryce Hall

The Pick: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia

Matt Miller predicting the Dallas Cowboys select Cornerback Bryce Hall with there first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft definitely seems like a plausible possibility. He knows the Cowboys can't afford to pay everyone and he even said as much. With Byron Jones and Anthony Brown entering a contract year in 2019 and with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis having expiring contracts after 2020, Dallas' secondary could definitely need addressing.


The Cowboys know this as well which is why they probably attempted to add some developmental depth to the CB position through the 2019 NFL Draft when they took Mike Jackson in the fifth-round. Jackson has the attributes they look for in their corners, but in no way has he looked like he'd be ready for a starting role next season. That makes Miller's Bryce Hall selection a definite possibility.

According to Miller's 2020 mock draft Bryce Hall is the fourth secondary player to come off the board. There were three cornerbacks selected ahead of him and one safety. He does fit the mold Kris Richard prefers in his CBs (6'1", 200) and also has the physical playing style in press coverage Richard likes as well. All in all, this is a very solid prediction for the Dallas Cowboys.

Whether or not the Dallas Cowboys would choose to select a CB this early is unknown at this point. But, it certainly seems like a high possibility considering all the corners with expiring contracts in a year or two. I think the Cowboys could look into taking a tight end or a safety with their first-round pick as well, but again it's way too early to have any kind of clue as to how their draft board will look like when the 2020 NFL Draft rolls around.

I don't know about you, but I'll be keeping a closer eye on Bryce Hall this season just in case Matt Miller is correct. I'd like to get a head start to see just how well he would fit, or not, with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you like the Bryce Hall selection for the Dallas Cowboys?


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NFL Draft

2020 RB Options for the Cowboys if Things Turn Ugly With Ezekiel Elliott

Brian Martin

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2020 RB Options for Cowboys if Things Turn Ugly With Ezekiel Elliott

The Dallas Cowboys could have a Le'Veon Bell-type situation on their hands in regards to Ezekiel Elliott. It's been reported Zeke is contemplating a holdout until his financial demands are met by way of a contract extension. This could put the Cowboys between a rock and a hard place.

Ezekiel Elliott is technically still under contract for two more seasons because of the fifth-year option he carries as a former first-round draft pick. Threatening to hold out seems a little premature, but Zeke has the Cowboys by the short hairs right now, meaning the leverage is on his side.

This is a situation that could, unfortunately, turn ugly, and quickly.

Check out Ep. 6 of Cowboys Weekly - Segment 1 for more discussion from Inside The Star on Ezekiel Elliott's Hold-Out situation:

The Cowboys have several other mouths to feed and Zeke may not be at the top the list considering his continued immaturity issues off the field. His on-field production is undeniable, but so are the red flags that keep popping up. It may be time for Dallas to look for his successor and fortunately, the 2020 running back draft class is a pretty good place to start.

Let's take a look…

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Jonathan Taylor

Wisconsin Badgers RB Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor (5'11", 219) would probably be the ideal candidate to replace Ezekiel Elliott for the Dallas Cowboys. He is one of the more productive collegiate running backs expected to enter the 2020 NFL Draft and has the intangibles that are eerily similar to Zeke as far as size, speed, and power are concerned. Unfortunately, that likely makes him a top 10 selection, putting him out of reach of the Cowboys.

Taylor doesn't come without his warts though. As a true Junior, he's seen a lot of action in his three years as the starting RB for the Badgers. That wear-and-tear is a cause for concern because it could lead to durability issues once in the NFL. He also has struggled with his ball security. He's put the ball on the ground 12 times in the last two seasons, which will need to be cleaned up at the next level. But, there's no denying his talent.

D'Andre Swift, Georgia

D'Andre Swift

Georgia Bulldogs RB D'Andre Swift

D'Andre Swift (5'9", 215) is one of my favorite RB options in the 2020 draft class to replace Ezekiel Elliott if things turn ugly with the Dallas Cowboys. He doesn't have the same kind of production as Jonathan Taylor and is still somewhat under the radar because he's been stuck in a committee with the Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Elijah Holyfield the last two years. But mark my words, he will be the next great RB to enter the NFL out of Georgia. Swift could be as ideal of a candidate to replace Zeke as there is.

Dallas likes an inside runner with zone vision as well as someone who can be a threat in the passing game, and D'Andre fits the bill. Despite being a little smaller in size than Zeke, he still possesses the power to run inside. Then throw in his receiving ability, 32 catches for 297 yards and three touchdowns last season, and you have someone who is more than capable of replacing #21's offensive production. He's projected to be a late first-round pick, which could put him within striking distance of the Cowboys.


J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

J.K. Dobbins

Ohio State Buckeyes RB J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins (5'10", 214) could be someone who is already on the Dallas Cowboys' radar as a potential Ezekiel Elliott replacement. They seem to have a liking for Ohio State running backs (Zeke, Rod Smith, Mike Weber) and could turn to another Buckeye to carry the rock. Dobbins, an all-purpose back and native Texan (Houston, TX) checks all of the boxes the Cowboys typically look for in their featured back.

Dobbins has the size, speed, and vision to be a featured back in the NFL. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards his last two seasons while splitting time with Mike Weber and has averaged about 200 receiving yards during that time span as well. He's not the most physical back, but he keeps moving his feet upon contact. He also needs to improve in pass protection in order to become a true three-down RB in the NFL. But his vision, shorter area quickness, elusiveness, and patience as a runner are all top-notch.

Travis Etienne, Clemson

Travis Etienna

Clemson Tigers RB Travis Etienna

The breakout season of Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, unfortunately, overshadowed the Heisman-worthy year Travis Etienna (5'10", 200) had in 2018. In his first year as a starter, he rushed for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns, all the while averaging an impressive 8.1 yards per carry. If he can follow that up in 2019 he could become the most coveted back in the 2020 draft class and become a really intriguing option for the Dallas Cowboys.

Etienne will probably need to add a little bit more "good weight" and muscle to his frame if he wants to be considered a featured back in the NFL. If he can accomplish that and not lose any of his elusiveness or speed he should climb up draft boards. If not, he may not be of much interest to the Cowboys because they already have a similar RB in Tony Pollard. He does possess plug-and-play talent though, making him a potential Ezekiel Elliott replacement.

Najee Harris, Alabama

Najee Harris

Alabama Crimson Tide RB Najee Harris

Najee Harris (6'2", 230) is yet another big, physical running back who has had to remain patient and wait his turn at Alabama, but 2019 could be his breakout season. With Bo Scarbrough, Josh Jacobs, and Damien Harris ahead of him on the depth chart the last two years, Najee saw limited playing time. But, when he did receive the opportunity to showcase his skill set he didn't disappoint. His physical talent could make him a top-5 running back come draft time.

Despite his limited playing time last the two seasons, he averaged over 6 yards a carry. He rushed for a career-high 783 yards and four touchdowns on just 117 carries in 2018 and should easily surpass those totals this season. In doing so he should become one of the more sought after RBs in the 2020 draft class. With the Cowboys, as Zeke's potential replacement, his physicality would pair nicely with Tony Pollard's slashing style. A Harris/Pollard duo could be just as productive as the Cowboys running game has been in the past.

Honorable Mention

The above five running backs are all potential Ezekiel Elliott replacements who I really like and will likely receive the most national attention due to the programs in which they play. But, they are only a few in what looks like a really strong 2020 RB draft class. Here a few honorable mentions you should also keep a close eye on as well.

  • Cam Akers, Florida State
  • Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
  • Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
  • Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
  • Kylin Hill, Mississippi State

I believe any of these running backs mentioned above at any point in the article could be in play for the Dallas Cowboys if they choose to play hardball with Ezekiel Elliott over his want for a contract extension. The 2020 running back draft class has a plethora of potential starters and this could be in the back of the Cowboys mind when they're determining where they want to spend their money. Paying top dollar for an RB might not fit in their budget, even for one as talented as Zeke.

Do you like any of these potential RBs as replacements for Ezekiel Elliott?


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