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
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.
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
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.
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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.
Travis Frederick’s Return Named Cowboys Biggest Reason For Excitement
Overall, Cowboys Nation feels to be in a positive mood during this year's offseason. Despite early angst over lack of action at the start of free agency, and concern over the Cowboys' draft strategy, most within the fan base seem to have high, yet realistic, hopes for the 2019 season.
Most seem to believe the NFC East will be a two team race, with the last two champions battling for the crown once again down the stretch of the season. Others can see the potential for a dark-horse candidate in Washington, but still believe the Cowboys roster has the edge.
So while Cowboys fans may not think they need a singular reason to look forward to the Fall of 2019, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave them one this week.
NFL Brent Sobleski @@brentsobleski Twitter Logo NFL Analyst The offseason can be as thrilling for NFL fans as the regular season. Player movement constantly refreshes rosters-whether through free agency, the draft or trades. Significant changes inject excitement into franchises, personnel and fanbases. A one-time league doormat can become the league's "it' team simply through a string of acquisitions.
Brent identified the biggest reason for each team to look forward to 2019, with the return of center Travis Frederick being the Cowboys' submission. There's no question that when healthy, Frederick is one of the best centers in the game, and anchors an offensive line many still consider to be at the top of the league.
"A full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper and re-signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal are both reasons for the Dallas Cowboys to be excited. However, the return of Travis Frederick to man the middle of the offensive line is far more pertinent."
Frederick missed all of the 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that I am not nearly qualified enough to discuss. What I do know is that it can be very serious, and it kept Frederick out for the entire year.
The Cowboys offensive line suffered during the early part of 2018, largely due in part to Travis Frederick's absence. Yes, Joe Looney filled in and played as well as anyone could have hoped for, but the disconnect in communication across the offensive line was clear without their usual center. Especially during the first couple months of the season.
If Frederick is fully back and healthy, his presence alone will take the Cowboys offensive line back towards their peak. Combine his comeback with a healthy Zack Martin, and a now bulked up Connor Williams, and the interior of this line has the chance to be special.
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Make Pro Bowl Debuts this Season
Every year, the Dallas Cowboys send quite a few players to the Pro Bowl. This year, the Cowboys sent eight players to the Pro Bowl with Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones being selected to their first Pro Bowl squad.
There is a lot of talent on this year's roster and the Cowboys will likely send someone to the annual all-star game that hasn't been there before. Here are three I think will make a push for Pro Bowl recognition in 2019.
Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
In the first half of the season, Chidobe Awuzie got picked on a bit. His coverage was always pretty good, but he allowed a ton of receptions. Awuzie allowed the ninth highest passer rating in coverage, the 12th most receptions, the 10th most yards, and tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed weeks 1-9 of 2018.
In the second half, including the playoffs, Awuzie was much better and showed a higher level of comfort. His passer rating allowed dropped 50 points and was the 17th lowest in the league among corners who played at least 197 coverage snaps. He allowed fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the 10 games over the second half than he allowed in the first eight games of the season.
Awuzie is one of the tougher players on the team. He plays with a similar edge that DeMarcus Lawrence does on the defensive line.
After spending part of his rookie season injured and rotating in, Awuzie found his stride in the second half of 2018 and was one of the Cowboys better cover players. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Cowboys 2017 second round pick looks to be an ascending player that could make some noise for postseason awards.
Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner
The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2019 NFL Draft looking to find a gadget player they could use on offense, but just as important, they wanted a player who could contribute in the return game. They got him in Rookie Tony Pollard.
Over the course of three seasons and 87 returns, Pollard averaged 30 yards per kick return and returned seven kickoffs for scores. In 2017, Pollard averaged an insane 40 yards per return. He's an incredibly dynamic player with the ball in his hands and though he wasn't used much on punt returns, shows an ability to make people miss and read his blockers.
As Stephen Jones said, "he's got a little Alvin Kamara to him." As a ball carrier, Pollard averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry over his final two seasons at Memphis. He was dynamic as a receiver as well averaging more than 12.4 yards per reception over three seasons in college.
With Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys may not give Pollard enough snaps and touches to have an Alvin Kamara like rookie campaign (120 carries for 728 yards, 8 touchdowns and 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns), but if he's given half that workload, plus what he could do on returns, he'll make noise for Pro Bowl consideration.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
It was a bit surprising to go back and look at which linebackers made the Pro Bowl and not see Jaylon Smith's name. As good as Rookie Leighton Vander Esch was, Jaylon Smith might have been better. By standard metrics -- tackles, interceptions, tackles for loss -- Vander Esch totaled more. Advanced metrics like defensive EPA (expected points added) and playmaking EPA, favored Jaylon Smith's season.
Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch
Jaylon Smith didn't rack up the tackles like Vander Esch, but he was far more impactful over the course of the season. That's not to diminish Vander Esch's contribution to the Cowboys success in 2018. It's important to show Jaylon Smith his due, though.
Smith recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended to go along with his 120 combined tackles in 2018. And that was just his second full season back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in college.
Another season removed from the injury should make Jaylon Smith more confident and more explosive in 2019, which should lead to another outstanding season for the Dallas Cowboys Middle Linebacker.
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Don't let anyone tell you that Pro Bowls don't matter. They do. Sure, All-Pro awards are the more highly coveted recognition, but to the players and to their agents, Pro Bowl selections matter. It's not as exclusive, but in a league with 1,696 players being one of 88 is still a really nice honor. To be a Pro Bowl player mean's you're in the top 5% of NFL players.
Obviously, we'd all prefer none of the Dallas Cowboys play in the Pro Bowl. Because that would mean they'd be preparing to play for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have always provided quite a few participants to the Pro Bowl game, but if the participation was zero in 2020, it wouldn't be all bad.
Will “Rumored” Position Change Help Keep LB Sean Lee Healthy?
Rumors and speculation. That's the point of the offseason we have reached with the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL. That's not necessarily a bad thing because it means players are staying out of trouble, but it's still a slow time nonetheless.
Today, I'd like to dive into some of the rumors and speculation surrounding the Dallas Cowboys right now. I thought I'd start off with Linebacker Sean Lee, and his "rumored" position change heading into the 2019 season. I think it's something worth discussing, as it is just about anything involving General Lee.
If rumors are correct, the Dallas Cowboys are considering a position change for Sean Lee in 2019. He's been their starting weak side linebacker (WILL) pretty much ever since they went to a 4-3 defense, but could be making a move to the strong side (SAM) to replace Damien Wilson. If true, this is interesting on so many different levels.
Sean Lee was initially moved to WILL in the Cowboys 4-3 defense years ago in order to hopefully protect him from the reoccurring injuries he was sustaining year after year. The thought was he would be better protected by not having to fight through so much trash or take on as much contact on the weak side. This was true to some degree, but unfortunately the injury bug continued to bite.
With that in mind, it seems strange the Cowboys are considering moving Sean Lee to SAM since it's considered to be a more physical position to play than he's use to. There is a lot more physicality and contact involved playing on the strong side, which you would think would make him more susceptible to the problem that's plagued his entire career, injuries.
The thought process of having Sean Lee switch to a more physical position seems like a strange one on the surface. A player who has struggled to remain healthy his entire career moving to play a more physically demanding position seems odd, but not if you were to look beyond the obvious.
Yes, the SAM LB position is more physically demanding, but doesn't receive a lot of playing time in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. Damien Wilson only played 30.72% of the defensive snaps in 2017 and 27.93% in 2018. Playing less snaps could actually play in Sean Lee's favor and potentially keep him healthy. That would make the move a win-win for No. 50 and the Cowboys.
A healthy Sean Lee playing SAM would be an upgrade over Damien Wilson. It would also give the Dallas Cowboys arguably the best starting 4-3 linebackers in the entire NFL. You may disagree, but I challenge you to find a better starting trio. I don't think it's possible.
Of course, all of this is just a rumor we are forced to speculate about right now, but it's still interesting to discuss nonetheless. I don't know how all of this will play out in the end, but I can't really think of any reason why Sean Lee shouldn't get the first crack at replacing Damien Wilson as the strong side linebacker in 2019.
Maybe, just maybe this will be the move that will finally keep him healthy.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of Sean Lee making a position change?
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