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Recent History Suggests Cowboys Shouldn’t Draft Defense in the 1st-round

Drafting defensive players in the 1st-round has gone poorly for Dallas recently.

Defense. Defense. Defense. All around Cowboys Nation you can almost hear fans chanting for the Dallas Cowboys to draft the best defensive player in the first-round in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft with the 10th overall pick. But, history actually suggest that might not be a good idea.

I’m a firm believer we can learn a lot from history, which is why I decided to take a look at how the Dallas Cowboys used their last 10 first-round draft picks and what became of the player selected. What I discovered completely shocked me and it might you as well.

Of the Dallas Cowboys last 10 first-round picks six have been spent on offense and four on defense. That’s pretty close to being an even split, but once you learn the outcome of those selections you’ll see for yourself it favors drafting offensive players by a wide margin.

Offensively the Dallas Cowboys have pretty much hit home runs with their last 10 first-round picks. Five out of six of those drafted have at least made three Pro Bowls. The only omission from that group right now is Wide Receiver CeeDee Lamb, who should earn that distinction as well based on how well he played as a rookie. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the defensive players they drafted.

Of the four players drafted with the Dallas Cowboys last 10 first-round picks two have been complete busts and two have made a Pro Bowl appearance. Surprisingly enough, that sounds a lot better than it actually is because none of these players received a second contract from the Cowboys. Well, there might still be hope for one.

Morris Claiborne and Taco Charlton are obviously the first-round busts we’d all like to forget about. Neither one came anywhere close to living up to their draft pedigree with the Cowboys or anyone else. The Charlton pick particularly still hurts considering Dallas could’ve drafted TJ Watt, a three-time Pro Bowler.

The Dallas Cowboys did have two Pro Bowlers of their own though, Byron Jones and Leighton Vander Esch. Sadly though neither turned in the cornerstone player the Cowboys were envisioning. They let Jones walk last offseason instead of paying him a second contract and LVE has the Sean Lee syndrome and can’t seem to stay healthy.

As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys are pretty much batting zero with the defensive players they’ve selected with their last 10 first-round draft picks. These were the types of players the defense was supposed to build around. It’s no wonder the defense is in the state it is now. Those are some major whiffs that can’t be ignored.

Now, I’m not saying the Dallas Cowboys should avoid drafting a defensive player with the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. I just think they need to be more vigilant when evaluating these players than they may have been in the past. They simply can’t afford to let history repeat itself.

What do you think?

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Brian Martin

Written by Brian Martin

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.


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  1. Drafting defense in the first round this year is a great idea I think the best idea. The problem is the players the front office choose in the first round on defense like Taco Charlton with Tj watt starring you in the face. As far as mo Claiborne no one expected him to be anything less than an all pro even Deion sanders was cheesing when we drafted him

  2. In spite of the draft histoty on defense, I still believe we should draft the best available defensive player. It was left in shambles, so we need to carefully draft one, no matter what. No TE’s, OL, etc. Cornerback is our weakest position at this point in time.

  3. Busts happen even to offensive players (Eagles fans look away) the eagles drafted Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson and they draft JJ AW over DK Metcalf , it’s just up to the scouts to do a good job on if they gonna draft this guy or that guy , what is some weaknesses in this guys game ?You got to find that flaw and figure out if that flaw is too big to take with the 10th pick or it isn’t and is that flaw so big that we can’t take that said guy even though that’s one of our biggest needs .

    For me i’m taking Surtain or Farley is there at 10 as per CBS Sports Draft prospect rankings which has Farley ranked at 11th and Surtain at 13th as far as overall the best prospects in the draft , 10 isn’t a reach at all for either one as that’s a big need with the unknown of who will be on the team alongside Diggs , in the end you got to take what you need ESPECIALLY if those players are not a reach of where you are picking

  4. So we shouldn’t draft defense this year because 2 of our 4 previous first round picks on defense didn’t work out? Even though we clearly need more help on the defensive side of the ball? Like, is this a serious article or did you write it as a joke?

    • Did I say that anywhere in the article? I believe I said in the last paragraph the Cowboys need to be extra vigilant if they draft a defensive player in the first-round so that history doesn’t repeat itself.

  5. I don’t see where drafting 1 defense player changes the defense enough to make an impact immediately. We are still an outscore the opponent team. There are some quality offensive linemen available. If we’re going to be an outscore team, then let’s make sure we have backup lineman when our starters get injured. An injured offensive line has killed the last 2 seasons. Then we can trade our 90 million dollar back for some help on defense. Zeke hasn’t played like the Zeke we used to see since he got his money. Tony is hungry. Feed him.

  6. I just don’t see anything offensively you could draft besides Depth at O-line (unless Sewell was somehow able to drop to us) which we can address with 2nd pick or 3rd as their is almost always a lot of O-Lineman in each draft and a TE ( i think i just vomited) who we don’t need with Jarwin (top 10 TE) and Schultz who’s been one of the most consistent players we have on offense last year , where as NO ONE can name who we gonna have at say CB with Diggs the only one under contract

  7. One player can’t change the defense est 1960 , but when you got Diggs , D Wilson who both look like the could be studs , you put Farley or Surtain in there and you got a Real good secondary , and with the change in defense of 3-4 defense to 4-3 this will benefit D-Law and will help to make the run D better as there is 2 DTs in a 4-3 where as there is only 1 in a 3-4 so you got more BEEF and will help on the run D

    also what do you guys think of trading Cooper (and maybe mid round picks if needed ?) to the Pats for Gilmore ? Am I CRAZY to think that this kind of trade is possible ? I think that kind of trade would benefit us and the Pats as they need a WR and we need a CB .

  8. IMO the hiring of Dan Quinn signals that they are for sure gonna draft Surtain or Farley as those 2 fit PERFECTLY with what Quinn wants in his CBs to be as they’re athletic and they’re long and rangy

  9. This must be a joke.
    Obviously in the past they chose the wrong guy in the first round.
    Cowboys defense ranked dead last in scoring defense and near the bottom in rushing and passing defense.
    Cowboys should mainly draft defense address first the corner position. Maybe offensive lineman or 2 in middle to or get tested offensive lineman in free agency.
    Should only sign talented free agents not the less than mediocre players they usually get as free agents.

  10. We just pick the wrong defensive player, Taco instead of Watt. If we picked Watt, totally different scenario.

    Claiborne is consider a bust. But if you look closer at his time with the Cowboys, one could unwrap the possible reason behind his problem. At LSU, he played primarily MAN coverage Along with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, they had elite MAN DBs. Consequently, Claiborne really didn’t have much experience in zone coverage.

    Cowboys drafted him for his one on one coverage skills for then DC Rob Ryan. Under Ryan, his rookie season was fine. Then that next year Ryan was let go, and Monte Kiffin comes in with his Tampa 2 ZONE scheme. Claiborne was faced with a new learning curve and for whatever reason could not pick up the scheme well, PLUS had injuries that marred his time w/Cowboys. In 2016, he did have his best year with Cowboys, and then signed with the Jets, played well, started 15 games in 2017 and 2018. After that, got a SUPER RING with the Chiefs. The kid was talented, but was put in the wrong scheme, IMO. Of course, the injuries were a pretty big factor also. Bust? I think it may be debatable. Total bust, NO.

    That said, we should go defense at least first two picks. That is the bigger need. Pretty obvious. And as X88 commented, there are offensive “busts” as well.

  11. 1st rd – LB Parsons- 2nd rd DT Barmore- 3rd rd- DB A Samuel and A Cisco- 4th rd- L Eichenberger and best available DE or RB double up on OL and CB

    1sr rd- CB Farley or Surtain- 2nd rd- LB Z Collins- 3rd rd- DT M Wilson and A Cisco 4th rd L Eichenberger and best available DE or RB then double up on OL and CB.

    Just spit ballin

  12. At the 10th pick this year, trade down and get extra picks. There are only 3 or 4 difference makers in this draft. After that, I can’t really tell the difference between #5 through #50, so don’t waste draft capital at #10.

    Also, Dak is not a top 5 QB in this league, I would say he is actually in the 10-15 range. So pay him like this. Great offensive and defensive lines win championships, along with shutdown cornerbacks. That is where more of the salary cap should go.

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