With Randy Gregory becoming a Denver Bronco this offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have no players left from their 2015 NFL Draft. While all draft classes eventually move on, it's a bit more alarming after just seven seasons.
Here's a quick reminder of who comprised the Class of 2015:
- 1st – CB Byron Jones
- 2nd – DE Randy Gregory
- 3rd – OT Chaz Green
- 4th – LB Damien Wilson
- 5th – DE Ryan Russell
- 7th – LB Mark Nzeocha
- 7th – OT Laurence Gibson
- 7th – TE Geoff Swaim
While no longer Cowboys, most of the class are still contributing for other teams. Jones is playing on his franchise-level contract with the Dolphins, Gregory just got a lucrative deal from Denver, Green is backup in Pittsburgh, and Wilson just signed with Carolina after starting for Kansas City and Jacksonville the last three years.
In fact, Russell and Gibson are the only two guys who are out of the league. Nzeocha has been a backup and special teamer with the 49ers the last several years and Swaim just started 16 games for Jacksonville last year.
Ironically, one of the Cowboys' most impactful players from 2015 wasn't drafted. OT La'el Collins has been a key offensive lineman since his arrival but also departed this offseason, released in a cap-clearing move and now starting for the Bengals.
So why is any of this noteworthy? Players come and go all the time.
While that's very true, guys like Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and DeMarcus Lawrence from 2011-2014 are still here and key players for Dallas. Travis Frederick would be among them if not for a freak medical issue.
Considering that the 2015 class still has multiple NFL starters and backups to its name, it's unfortunate that none of those players are contributing to their original team. And while it's for a variety of reasons, it seems to come back to Dallas' recent struggles with contract negotiations and cap management.
Gregory was reportedly about to re-sign with the Cowboys in March before a last-minute snag in contract language sent him bolting for Denver. And while there are signs that Collins' release was more about personal issues, the official reason from the team was to create cap space.
The problem with not having any contributors left from 2015 is that it means having to throw assets at replacements in stead of improvements at other positions. For example, if Gregory was still here, Dallas could've used their 2022 2nd-Round pick somewhere else instead of defensive end.
Some of this is circumstantial and random. For example, Swaim wasn't re-signed in 2019 after four injury-plagued years in Dallas. But he just played a full season for Jacksonville and, had he been more reliable here, Geoff may very well still be here in a significant role.
We're not far off from seeing this kind of exodus again from the 2017 class. Only Jourdan Lewis and Noah Brown remain from that class and there's a strong chance that neither will be with the team in 2023.
The organization heaps a lot of praise on Will McClay for his work in scouting and talent acquisition. What this illustrates is twofold; we still have plenty of misses in the draft, and the front office needs to get better about retaining the successful picks.
This talent treadmill is a huge factor in the Cowboys' lack of progression beyond the early rounds of the playoffs. We need to get more long-term benefit out of our draft classes and avoid wholesale cleanouts of talent within just 6-7 years.