There is always a certain excitement that comes with Draft Day as every team is 0-0 and set to add some brand new talent to their roster. History tends to repeat itself, however, making it increasingly valuable to look at previous draft day successes and failures of the Cowboys brain trust.
Jerry Jones has been the team’s General Manager for more than 20 years, but for sake of brevity we will keep it to the last decade. Also, Stephen Jones has taken over a large bulk of the personnel type decisions over the past decade, making those picks more relevant to 2016.
Here are just a few of the incredible hits and devastating misses the Cowboys have endured during the last 15 drafts.
- 143 overall pick, 2008 NFL Draft.
Once teams reach the fifth round, the odds of finding a long term quality starter become much slimmer. Teams usually end up taking players with a certain physical skill, and then pray for the best.
Dallas found an absolute winner in the fifth round with Orlando Scandrick.
He has been the most consistent cornerback on the roster since 2013, and his loss a season ago cannot be underestimated. Expect big things out of #32 this fall.
Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
- 24th overall pick, 2010 NFL Draft.
Dez Bryant is the perfect Cowboy. There is just something about seeing him out there in the number 88 dominating defenses that feels so right.
Bryant fell in the 2010 draft due to some off the field concerns. Mind you, Dallas had recently lost Terrell Owens after the ’08 season, and the Roy Williams experiment had been a disaster. There was a clear need for a number one target in the offense.
Enter Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys took a calculated risk on Dez in the first round, and he has become everything the team could’ve possibly dreamed of him being. Of course, Dallas notoriously passed on Randy Moss due to some off-the-field issues, and luckily for us they did not make the same mistake twice.
The Great Wall of Dallas
Ok, I am sort of cheating with this one, but I couldn’t decide on just one of the four first-round-quality players on that offensive line.
Tyron Smith kicked it all off. JJ Watt and Justin Houston may have still been on the board, but there is no way logical to second guess the selection of Smith. He has cemented himself as the best Left Tackle in football, and should hold that crown for the foreseeable future.
Travis Frederick was considered a reach by many “experts” when he was taken, but he and the organization proved every last one of them wrong. This was both a huge draft steal, and a huge hit for the Cowboys.
Then in 2014 they stayed smart, stuck to their plan of building up this Great Wall, and passed on the self-destructive Johnny Manziel in favor of All-Pro guard Zack Martin. Another fantastic draft maneuver.
La’el Collins is probably the biggest steal of them all, however. A projected top-15 pick, Collins went undrafted due to the investigation of the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Worth noting, he was not involved in the crime at all, and Dallas signed him a week after the draft. Dallas drafted three projected first round players a year ago, but Collins has arguably had the biggest impact of all three so far.
Sean Lee, Penn State
- 55th overall pick, 2010 NFL Draft.
Flashback to 2010 for a moment. Bradie James and Keith Brooking are the Cowboys Inside Linebackers and they needed a young stud to take the reigns from these two aging backers as soon as possible.
Sean Lee has been all that and so much more.
Lee slid to the Cowboys in round 2 due to injury concerns, which still remain prevalent though he did play in most of 2015. Regardless, Lee has been the Captain and the General of this defense since he entered the league.
He forces turnovers, makes what seems like every tackle, and has become one of the best Inside Linebackers in all of football. And the Cowboys drafted him in the 2nd round after already finding Dez Bryant.
DeMarcus Ware, Troy
- 11th overall pick, 2005 NFL Draft.
While each of the aforementioned “hits” have all enjoyed successful NFL careers so far, I think it is fair to say DeMarcus Ware may very well be the Jones’ best draft work.
The Cowboys were coming off of a 6-10 2004 season and desperately needed a defensive playmaker to help turn a franchise that had just one winning season in the new millennium around. They got exactly that in Ware.
DeMarcus went on to tally 117 sacks over his nine year stay in Dallas, en route to what has become a first ballot Hall-of-Fame-worthy career.
Ironically, the word is that Parcells actually wanted to draft Shawn Merriman here, but Jerry overruled him and decided to take Ware. Good call, Jerry.
Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State
- 18th overall pick, 2006 NFL Draft
The Bobby Carpenter pick wouldn’t be as awful had he just been taken in a later round. But 18th overall, with Antonio Cromartie and Tamba Hali still on the board? Oh, what could’ve been.
In four seasons, Carpenter did not start in a single game for the Cowboys. He recorded only 96 tackles and 3.5 sacks, and failed to receive a second contract. Tamba Hali could’ve been a Cowboy! Ugh.
- 22nd overall pick, 2008 NFL Draft.
Let me first say, I really liked Felix Jones. Every once in a while he showed flashes of his home run speed that could strike fear in any defense. When Felix had the ball, Dallas had a chance to score.
The problem was, he didn’t stay healthy enough to get the ball too often. Jones failed to have a season where he had 200 carries or reached 1,000 yards during his five year stay in Dallas.
Julius Jones had recently departed and the team thought Felix Jones could be the lightening to Marion Barber’s thunder. Unfortunately, both players fizzled out of the league rather soon after the ’08 draft, and the Cowboys never got to see the full potential of them together.
To add insult to injury, Dallas missed out on Chris Johnson, who was still on the board.
The Morris Claiborne Trade
Look, Morris Claiborne started to turn things around a season ago. He was able to stay relatively healthy and play some solid football. I am glad the team was able to retain him for another season, and I certainly hope he can continue to improve for his sake, and the sake of the team.
My problem with the move has more to do with what Dallas gave up, who was still on the board, and when they drafted Mo.
Drafted 6th overall in 2012, Claiborne has had nothing short of a shaky career here in Dallas. The Cowboys gave up their first round pick, 14th overall, and their second rounder to move up for Mo. They left David DeCastro, Luke Kuechly, Mark Barron, and Michael Brockers all on the board.
To make matters even worse, their 2nd round pick could’ve been used on Bobby Wagner. Wagner and Lee together would have been magical.
While this trade was certainly a dark spot on Jerry Jones’ General Manager status, it hopefully wont deter the team from taking a defensive back in the top 10 during future drafts (Jalen Ramsey, please).