The Dallas Cowboys have had a ton of success drafting in the first round over the past decade.
Whether it’s the first round or the seventh round, drafting college prospects in today’s NFL is an inexact science with a low percentage of success.
The 2017 NFL Draft, being held in Philadelphia, will kick off on April 27. Dallas currently holds the 28th overall pick in round one. Led by dynamic rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott last season, the Cowboys proved themselves worthy of Super Bowl contention in the near future. One more “hit” on a first rounder could push Dallas over the top in the NFC.
Here are the previous 10 first round picks made by the Cowboys (dating back to 2007):
- 2016: RB Ezekiel Elliott (4th overall)
- 2015: CB Byron Jones (27th overall)
- 2014: OG Zack Martin (16th overall)
- 2013: C Travis Frederick (31st overall)
- 2012: CB Morris Claiborne (6th overall)
- 2011: OT Tyron Smith (9th overall)
- 2010: WR Dez Bryant (24th overall)
- 2009: No pick in Round 1
- 2008: RB Felix Jones (22nd overall)
- 2008: CB Mike Jenkins (25th overall)
- 2007: DE Anthony Spencer (26th overall)
Six of the last seven first-rounders are starters and play a key role in Dallas’ success, especially on offense. The seventh player, Morris Claiborne, just hit free agency this offseason following five years with the team. Three of these players — Bryant, Smith and Frederick — have earned second mega contracts from the team.
Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin are the cornerstones of one of, if not the most talented offensive lines in the league. Their consistent, dominant play was one of the primary reasons Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were able to succeed as rookies in 2016.
The rookie rusher was even named a First Team All-Pro for his performance last season. Elliott and fellow playmaker Dez Bryant are perennial Pro Bowl candidates and should remain together for at least the next three seasons.
Even Anthony Spencer and Felix Jones were key contributors. The former was a consistent presence on the defensive front during his eight-year career in Dallas. Spencer played in 104 games and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2012. The latter, RB Felix Jones carved out a niche in the Cowboys backfield behind Marion Barber and Demarco Murray. He compiled 3,794 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns over five seasons with the team.
While Morris Claiborne filled a need in 2012, he didn’t exactly live up to the superstar expectations that come with the sixth overall pick. Claiborne started 43 of 47 games, but he missed 33 games during that span due to injury. Other defensive backs selected in the first 32 picks that year included Mark Barron (7), Stephon Gilmore (10), Dre Kirkpatrick (17) and Harrison Smith (29).
Sticking with the cornerback trend, Mike Jenkins could be worthy of a mention in this category. The physical defensive back spent five years with Dallas, including a Pro Bowl nod in his second season (2009). However, Jenkins became much more of a liability in his final years with the team (missed seven games in final two seasons). He would go on to brief stays in Tampa Bay and Oakland.
Unlike a number of NFL teams consistently picking in the top 10 or top half of round one, the Cowboys have been a model of consistency in this area over the past decade. Their selections haven’t all been flashy, but most have netted a quality starter or contributor. There’s nothing ugly about that.
Given the team’s recent track record on day one, there is reason to be hopeful again in 2017.