The best receiver in the 2010 NFL Draft, Dez Bryant surprisingly slid down the board on draft night. The Broncos passed on him at #22 overall in favor of Demaryius Thomas, and two picks later the Dallas Cowboys saw an opportunity to add their new #88.
With the New England Patriots on the clock, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys traded up for their pick to select Bryant at #24.
Let's continue the "Cowboys on the Clock" series by taking a look at Bryant's career so far in Dallas.
Bryant was electrifying in his rookie season, as the dynamic target out of Oklahoma State caught six touchdown passes and returned a punt 93 yards for a score in a prime time Monday night game vs. the Giants at home.
The following year, with Roy Williams gone, Bryant easily took over the starting job - and would start all but three games across from Miles Austin. He would nearly double his yardage total from 2010, finishing the season with 928 yards and 9 scores.
Bryant would continue to improve in 2012, as he finished third in the NFL in receiving touchdowns, throwing up the X twelve times while going for a career high 1,382 yards.
Dez would be named to his first Pro Bowl following the 2013 season, where he once again ranked third in receiving TDs with 13. This surpassed his 2012 total as a new career high.
Although it was clear that Bryant and Romo had something special, the team missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year. It was not until 2014, with a dominant ground game provided by DeMarco Murray, that Bryant was able to thrive once again while helping this team make the playoffs for the first time in his career.
In his contract year, Bryant broke the Cowboys single season TD record. Thriving off of defenses that keyed in on Murray, Bryant would have his signature game late in the season during a Sunday night game in Philadelphia.
Romo and Bryant connected for three scores, as the Cowboys won a close game 38-27. It was a pivotal win for their NFC East chances, and Dallas clinched the division with a week 16 throbbing of the Colts at home.
Bryant would then face the Lions in his first ever playoff game from AT&T Stadium, and see double teams for most of the day. This allowed other play makers like Terrance Williams to have big days, as T-Will went for 2 scores on just three receptions.
Of course, his most important catch came in the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter, as Romo found Williams for the game-winning score that sent Dallas to Green Bay for the Divisional Playoffs.
In gut wrenching fashion, Dez Bryant would have a chance to make his signature moment late in the fourth, this time on a fourth and short play in the red zone. Channeling his inner Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson, Bryant went up to catch a lob from Romo over Sam Shields.
He then proceeded to fight for every inch towards the goal line, as the ball moved within his arms while extending for the touchdown. The play would go to review, and Bryant was robbed of the reception thanks to that bobble.
Romo and the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs, and Bryant looked ahead to free agency. The "Dezline" as it began to be called got closer and closer, as the two sides failed to reach a deal deep into the summer.
Finally, on July 15th, the two sides reached a 5 year deal that would keep Bryant in Dallas. With expectations higher than ever, the first year of Bryant's deal would be a total failure, as he was injured throughout the season.
When he was on the field, never at 100%, Bryant couldn't get anything going - being thrown to by the likes of Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel.
Bryant, for his career, has lived up to his draft expectations. Outside of Antonio Brown, he is far and away the second best WR taken in 2010 when it comes to receptions and yards. He also has 59 touchdowns, which is the most out of that draft class since 2010. Eric Decker, in second place, has caught 50 touchdowns.
With that said, Cowboys Nation should be very excited to see Bryant and Romo try to return to their 2014 form this upcoming season.
You can also get excited for tomorrow's installment of Cowboys on the Clock, as we'll look at 1994 first round pick Shante Carver. First, let's take a quick look at the other players Dallas has selected with the 24th overall pick in their history:
Calvin Hill, 1969, RB
Hill was the first player to ever be drafted in the first round out of the Ivy League, as he had a successful athletic career in both football and track at Yale. Although he was constantly injured throughout his time as a Cowboy, Hill made four Pro Bowls during his five seasons with the team - including one in his rookie year. He won Super Bowl VI with the team.
Robert Jones, 1992, LB
The 1992 NFL Rookie of the Year, Jones was a key part of the Cowboys league-leading defense. That Dallas team would go on to win the Super Bowl, and Jones would end his career in Dallas after four years with three Super Bowl titles.
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Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
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