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Top 10 Cowboys First Round Picks

John Williams

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DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys All-Time Sack Leader, Announces Retirement
Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

As we count down the final seconds toward the NFL Draft, I've taken some retrospective looks at the Dallas Cowboys history in the NFL Draft. The other day I went over the success rate of the Cowboys during the Jason Garrett coaching era.

Today, I'm taking a bit of a lighter look at the top 10 first round picks made by the Dallas Cowboys in their nearly 60 year history.

Before I get into this, let me just say that I don't have the benefit of some of my elders who've been fans of the Dallas Cowboys since the 60s, 70s or even the 90s since I came on board a few years after my family moved to Texas in 1997. So, I don't have the first-hand knowledge of some of these guys, but I've dug deep into the history of America's Team.

With that said, let's get into the Top 10 First Round Picks

10. Tyron Smith, OT, University of Southern California

Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: T #77 Tyron Smith 4

Cowboys LT Tyron Smith (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Under Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys had never used a first round pick on an offensive lineman. That was until Jason Garrett became the head coach and was able to convince the Owner and General Manager that protecting their most valuable asset, Tony Romo, was of the highest priority.

The ninth overall pick in 2011 hasn't disappointed. In seven seasons with the Cowboys he's become one of the most dominant players in the league at his position. He's made the Pro Bowl the last five seasons and was awarded first-team All-Pro selections in 2014 and 2016. Coincidentally, those were also the years that Dallas made the playoffs and had the league leader in rushing.

While the Dallas Cowboys have since added other first rounders, it was Smith who started it all, and he remains the veteran leader in the offensive line room.

Slowed by back injuries over the last couple of seasons, if Smith can maintain his Pro Bowl form he'll find himself enshrined in the Dallas Cowboys' Ring of Honor as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

9. DeMarcus Ware, EDGE, Troy

When Bill Parcells came on board with the Dallas Cowboys in 2005, it marked a switch from the 4-3 defense the Cowboys had been running for-ev-er to the 3-4 Parcells preferred. In the 2005 NFL Draft, they made DeMarcus Ware the 11th overall pick out of small school Troy. He didn't disappoint.

In nine years with Dallas, Ware made the Pro Bowl six times including four first-team All-Pro seasons. He was a dominant force on a defense that lacked playmakers at other positions for much of his tenure.

When he left for the Denver Broncos, due to age and injury issues, there was an outpouring of criticism from the fans. He was a beloved player, often playing injured and helped keep the Dallas Cowboys afloat when they didn't have much reason to contend for the playoffs.

The 8-8 seasons at the start of the Jason Garrett tenure, though disappointing, were also a result of Ware's presence. Like Tony Romo on offense, if Ware hadn't been around, some of those historically bad defenses under Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin would have been even worse and they wouldn't have so much as sniffed .500.

Ware went on to two more Pro Bowl appearances with the Denver Broncos and won a Super Bowl in 2016.

He's back helping the defensive linemen with the Dallas Cowboys and it's only a matter of time until he receives his Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame inductions.

8.  Calvin Hill, RB, Yale

Calvin Hill earned first-team All-Pro honors his first year in the NFL in 1969 and helped the Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl in 1971. He made the Pro Bowl four times with the Cowboys and never had less than 1,000 total yards for Dallas.

His career with the Cowboys was short-lived, but had an impact. Though they only won one Super Bowl with Hill on the roster, they made it to the NFC Championship game three other times, winning one.

7. Ed "Too Tall" Jones, DT, Tennessee St.

The first overall pick in the 1974 NFL Draft, Ed "Too Tall" Jones was a huge part of the Dallas Cowboys reaching the Super Bowl four times in five years in the mid-70s. Jones played 15 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys and averaged seven sacks a season from 1982 -- when sacks became an official stat -- to 1989.

Jones is a member of the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, made the Pro Bowl three straight seasons from 1981 to 1983 with a first-team All-Pro selection in 1982.

Cowboys Blog - 4

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Irvin (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

6. Michael Irvin, WR, Miami

Michael Irvin may not have the statistical accomplishments that players like Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Cris Carter have, but it can't be understated how important Michael Irvin was to the success of the Dallas Cowboys in the 90s.

While Troy Aikman might have been seen as the leader of the team, Irvin was the heart of the team. The swagger that came from the Miami Hurricanes teams of the late 80s carried over with Irvin to his role on the Dallas Cowboys.

Selected 11th overall in 1988, Irvin was selected to the Pro Bowl five straight seasons from 1991-1995, earning first-team All-Pro accolades in 1991. That 1991 season was statistically Irvin's best as he went for more than 1,500-receiving yards and scored eight touchdowns. That season should extinguish any thought that Irvin wasn't in the same tier as Rice and Brown.

Though he's only 38th in receptions and 27th in receiving yards, Irvin was the epitome of a "do-it-all" receiver as his run blocking was a key to Emmitt Smith's success.

Irvin was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and was a member of all three Super Bowl winning teams in the 1990s. Along with the other "Triplets," he maintains a place in the Cowboys Ring of Honor.

5. Tony Dorsett, RB, Pittsburgh

The second overall pick in the 1977 NFL Draft, Tony Dorsett has his name in the Hall of Fame and rushed for more than 12,000 yards in his 11-year career. His career rushing total is ninth most in the history of the NFL. With more than 1,300-rushing yards in the playoffs, he sits 4th All-time.

As a rookie, he helped the Dallas Cowboys win their second Super Bowl in 1977. He was selected to three straight Pro Bowls from 1981-1983 and was a first team All-Pro in 1981. Also a member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

4. Randy White, DE, Maryland

Randy White was the second overall pick in the 1975 draft. "The Manster" was and still is a huge part of the Dallas Cowboys community.

White was named to the Pro Bowl nine straight seasons from 1977 to 1985, and in that same time frame was named to the All-Pro's first team eight times.

Randy White went to three Super Bowls with the franchise in the middle to late 70s, winning one in 1977. White and Harvey Martin were selected as Co-MVPs of Super Bowl XII.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994, White is in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.

2. Bob Lilly, DT, Texas Christian University

Cowboys Headlines - Bob Lilly Named "Greatest Cowboys Defender"

Dallas Cowboys DT Bob Lilly

Bob Lilly, also known as "Mr. Cowboy," was a part of the Dallas Cowboys teams of the 1960s and 1970s that affectionately became known as America's Team.

There's no way to quantify his impact to those teams since tackles and sacks aren't recorded with Pro Football Reference for the time that he played with the Cowboys. Cowboys historians, however, know the impact the Hall of Famer and Ring of Honor member had on the franchise.

He played 14 seasons with the Cowboys from 1961 to 1974 and was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times, including 10 straight seasons from 1964 to 1973. Lilly was also selected to the All-Pro's first-team six years in a row and seven overall.

He was a feared member of the "Doomsday Defense" that tormented opposing teams in the 60s and 70s. Lilly helped the Dallas Cowboys win their first Super Bowl in 1971.

2. Emmitt Smith, RB, Florida

Emmitt Smith was drafted as the 17th overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft. The NFL's All-Time leading Rusher was, like Troy Aikman, a big reason for the Dallas Cowboys' historic run in the early 90s. Emmitt was a huge part of the identity of those Cowboys teams that former teammate and current Head Coach Jason Garrett is trying to recreate.

He was a physical runner who played hurt and gave up his body for the team. It's incredible that he had a 14-year career and never suffered any major injuries. His durability is nearly as impressive as his statistics were.

Like Wayne Gretzky in the NHL, Smith's rushing totals will be nearly impossible to match or break as it has turned into more of a passing league, and given the way the NFL uses running backs in today's game.

Smith is a Hall of Famer and member of the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and was awarded MVP for Super Bowl XXVIII.

1. Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA

When the Dallas Cowboys made Troy Aikman the number one overall pick in the 1989 draft, they were at a transition point in the history of the franchise. Jerry Jones had purchased the team and Jimmy Johnson was brought in as head coach. A lot of changes were underway, and they got everything they could have hoped for when selecting Aikman first overall.

He was a leader on and off the field, a great player, a three-time Super Bowl winner, and a Hall of Famer. He may not have the statistics of some of his contemporaries like Dan Marino, Joe Montana, or Brett Favre, but that is a result of the symbiotic balance the Dallas Cowboys were able to create with the run and pass game.

While he benefited from being on a great team, he was also a huge part of what made those teams great.

Aikman was selected as Super Bowl XXVII's MVP in their 52-17 win over the Buffalo Bills. He is a Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor member and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys have had tremendous success in the first round of NFL Drafts, more so than they've had flops.

Tonight they have a great chance to add to the legacy of those Hall of Fame players who have gone before them.



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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.

A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.

First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Landon Collins
  • Lamarcus Joyner
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Adrian Amos
  • Clayton Geathers
  • Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
  • Glover Quinn
  • Tre Boston
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • George Iloka
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Adrian Phillips

Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.

With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.

Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.

The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?



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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.

Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?

As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.

Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.

That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.

However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.

Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.

Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.

The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.

Just something to think about...



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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.



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