The Cowboys have had over two decades of problems with their second-round picks in the NFL Draft. For the last 22 years they have struggled to find solid contributors, let alone standout players, from among the upper layers of available talent. It is a disturbing trend that, hopefully, will soon see a reversal.
In the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected guard Larry Allen from little Sonoma State University. Allen would go on to become arguably the greatest guard in NFL history, inducted to the Ring of Honor and the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the Larry Allen pick was the Cowboys doom. It's almost like the universe has been punishing them ever since for getting such a legendary player with a second-round pick.
As this following historical record shows, our second round additions since L.A. have been nothing short of ugly.
|1995||RB Sherman Williams
TE Kendell Watkins
G Shane Hannah
|1996||KB Randall Godfrey
DE Kavika Pittman
|1997||NO PICK – Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later|
|1998||OT Flozell Adams|
|1999||G Solomon Page|
|2000||CB Dwayne Goodrich|
|2001||QB Quincy Carter
S Tony Dixon
|2002||G/C Andre Gurode
WR Antonio Bryant
|2003||G/C Al Johnson|
|2004||RB Julius Jones
OT Jacob Rogers
|2005||LB Kevin Burnett|
|2006||TE Anthony Fasano|
|2007||NO PICK – Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later|
|2008||TE Martellus Bennett|
|2009||NO PICK – Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later|
|2010||LB Sean Lee|
|2011||LB Bruce Carter|
|2012||NO PICK – Traded to move up for Morris Claiborne|
|2013||TE Gavin Escobar|
|2014||DE DeMarcus Lawrence|
|2015||DE Randy Gregory|
|2016||LB Jaylon Smith|
Ready for some disturbing numbers?
Out of the 24 total second-round players drafted by Dallas since 1995, only three of them (Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode, Sean Lee) have ever gone to the Pro Bowl as Cowboys. That is a stunningly low number given the perceived talent that these guys all had on draft day.
It gets worse. Of the 21 players drafted from 1995 to 2013, a seven of them never even finished their rookie contracts. Another ten guys played out their four-year rookie deals and were not re-signed.
Only the three Pro Bowlers we just mentioned had sustained careers in Dallas with new contracts. The one oddball was Sherman Williams, who was re-signed due to injuries in 1999 and appeared in one game before being released again.
Think about that. We view the second round as the spot where potential stars and solid, long-time starters are drafted. By that standard the Cowboys have failed on almost 90% of their picks over the last two decades.
We have three second-round guys still on the team whose stories aren't fully written yet: DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Jaylon Smith. Unfortunately, the early chapters are not looking good.
Other than a stretch in 2015 when he had seven sacks in eight games, Lawrence has been a disappointment. He has struggled with injuries and missed 18 games in three years. Now entering the final year of his rookie contract, D-Law will need a major improvement to avoid becoming yet another second-round Cowboy who didn't get a second contract.
The tale of Randy Gregory is certainly the most woeful. Injuries limited him as a rookie and a drug suspension knocked him out of most of 2016. He is expected to miss all of the 2017 regular season for a repeated drug policy violation. The Cowboys have not cut ties yet, though, so it remains to be seen if he can get things turned around.
Jaylon Smith was a top-five talent in the 2016 draft who fell because of a major knee injury during his last college game. He is expected to debut this year and has the potential to become one of the few bright spots in the team's history with second-round picks. If Jaylon's knee remains a problem, though, it could quickly become yet another failed attempt.
2017 NFL Draft
It is widely expected that in this year's draft, which occurs just a few days from now, Dallas will pursue a defensive end in the first round and a cornerback in the second. Players like Washington's Kevin King, Florida's Teez Tabor, and UCLA's Fabian Moreau are among the possible options for the Cowboys at the 60th overall pick.
In what is widely considered a deep draft class, and especially at cornerback, one of these players will have a great opportunity to be a success story. They will be joining a Cowboys team coming off a 13-3 season and putting the pieces in place for sustained success. Many of our past rookies weren't so fortunate, joining the team when it was in a state of flux or even dysfunction.
As we've seen with franchises like the Browns and Jaguars, that constant culture of failure rubs off on players. They are expected to be part of the solution but, young and impressionable, quickly become part of the problem. There's nobody there to teach them how to become winners.
The Cowboys have leaders on both sides of the ball. They have one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the game. Dallas has been to the playoffs twice in the last three years. If the rookies they add in 2017 don't show up then it's probably on them far more than the organization.
Or, if nothing else… blame Larry Allen.