Whether or not the Dallas Cowboys are or ever were truly “America’s Team” is something that could be debated up through eternity. One thing that is not in question is all of those championships won by the team over the past five decades. The Cowboys have won the Super Bowl five different times, and the franchise was responsible for the “Team of the 90s.”
Looking at all of the team’s picks starting back in 1961, it’s hard no to notice that Dallas has certainly missed on guys in the first round. The team has also hit on Hall-of-Fame players; all-time greats at running back, quarterback and wide receiver. Truth be told, you could put any one of the top three players atop this list and be right.
Here are the top 10 first-round draft picks in Dallas Cowboys history
10. Dez Bryant — WR — 24th Overall in 2010
Bryant really needs to come with an asterisk next to his name on this list. He has, after all, only played for the Cowboys and in the NFL for four seasons. There’s no way of knowing for sure what he will become.
Bryant certainly has the goods to be a superstar wide receiver though, and he should only get better in the near future.
The young play-maker went for 92 receptions, 1,382 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. Bryant finished 2013 with 93 grabs, over 1,200 receiving yards, 13 receiving touchdowns and a rushing score. What Bryant needs now is a true mentor, somebody who can keep him focused on the tasks at hand and also teach him what it means to be a member of the Cowboys.
The No. 3 player on this list would be the perfect fit for such a role.
9. Jim Jeffcoat — DE — 23rd Overall in 1983
Jeffcoat was never a superstar pass-rusher listed among the likes of Lawrence Taylor. He was, however, good value for Dallas considering where he was selected in the ’83 NFL Draft. He didn’t make any starts in his first season in the league, but Jeffcoat changed that and in a big way beginning in 1984.
Jeffcoat had 11.5 sacks and 82 tackles in his first season as a starter. He followed that up with a 12-sack season in 1985, and then by having 14 sacks and 65 tackles in 1986. Jeffcoat didn’t miss a single start from 1984 through 1987. He then had arguably his best season in the league in 1989 when he finished the year with 11.5 sacks and 100 tackles.
Jeffcoat ended his Dallas career with 188 appearances, 94.5 sacks and 690 tackles while with the club.
8. Terence Newman — CB — 5th Overall in 2003
Newman has, since 2003, tiptoed the line that separates ball-hawk corner from shutdown corner. He had four interceptions in each of his first two seasons in the NFL. Newman sits at sixth overall in interceptions (36) among active players. 32 of those picks were snatched during Newman’s nine seasons with the Cowboys.
Newman has twice been named to the Pro Bowl; in 2007 and then in 2009. He parted ways with the Cowboys after the 2011 season before joining the Cincinnati Bengals. Newman had two interceptions in each of his first two years with the Bengals.
7. Edward Lee “Too Tall” Jones — DE — 1st Overall in 1974
Jones became a starter in his second NFL season, and he would remain in the team’s lineup up through the conclusion of the 1978 campaign. He was part of the Dallas side that won Super Bowl XII.
Then, in the prime of his physical life and of his NFL career, Jones took a break to embark on a boxing career.
Jones wouldn’t stay away from football for long. He returned to the Cowboys in 1980, and it was during the second stint of his NFL career that he earned personal awards. Jones made it on Pro Bowl squads every season from 1981 through 1983, and he was a first-team All-Pro in ’82. He is a member of the Pro Football Reference 1st Team All-1980s Team.
6. DeMarcus Ware — DE — 11th Overall in 2005
Ware was, when in his prime, as feared a pass-rusher as any in the NFL. After grabbing eight sacks in his rookie campaign, Ware would go on to accumulate 11 or more sacks every year from 2006 through 2012. He is currently fourth among active players in career sacks, and 18th on the all-time list.
Ware made the Pro Bowl every year from 2006 through 2012, and he was a first-team All-Pro each season from 2007 through 2011. His resume is that of a player on the cusp of being a Hall-of-Famer, but Ware may need to have one or two additional good seasons in order to guarantee himself a spot in Canton.
5. Lee Roy Jordan — LB — 6th Overall in 1963
Jordan, somewhat generously listed at 6-foot-1 and 221 pounds during his playing days, was undersized for a middle linebacker. What he lacked in size was more than made up for in Jordan’s competitive nature and his determination. He was also known to be a student of the game and a leader on and off the field.
Jordan retired after 14 seasons, all spent with the Cowboys. He held the franchise record for total tackles when he called time on his playing days. Jordan was named to five Pro Bowl squads during his career, and he is member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
4. Randy White — DT — 2nd Overall in 1975
White was not a star for the Cowboys right out of the gate. He started in only a single game in his first two seasons in the NFL. Then came 1977, when White became a defensive mainstay upon finding a home at defensive tackle.
That was the first season he was named to the Pro Bowl, something that would become a trend for White. He was a seven-time first-team All-Pro from 1978 through 1985 (1980 was the only exception). White was a Co-MVP for Super Bowl XII, and he is a member of the 1994 Hall of Fame class.
3. Michael Irvin — WR — 11th Overall in 1988
“The Playmaker” was named to five Pro Bowls, he was part of those Dallas sides that won three Super Bowls in the 90s, he retired with nearly 12,000 receiving yards (11,904 to be exact), and he is in the Hall of Fame. Now that you’ve read that information, imagine what Irvin could have been had he chosen to minimize his partying, keep better company, and had he decided on a football-first mentality.
Irvin had the goods to be the greatest wide receiver to ever play in the league, and anybody who says otherwise is selling his talent short. He is also one of the brightest football minds you’ll ever encounter. Irvin was a phenomenal player, yes, but could have been even better.
2. Tony Dorsett — RB — 2nd Overall in 1977
Dorsett is, in discussions about the all-time great NFL running backs, placed in the tier beneath that which holds the likes of Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and others. That may be a fair assessment talent-wise, but do not discount his consistency as a weapon coming out of the backfield, and what that meant to those Dallas teams.
Dorsett failed to rush for at least 700 yards in one – one – of 11 seasons in the NFL. He picked up over 1,000 yards on the ground in eight of his first nine years in the league. Dorsett is tenth all-time in total yards from scrimmage and eighth all-time in career rushing yards. He only had to wait until 1994 to be enshrined in Canton.
1. Troy Aikman — QB — 1st Overall in 1989
Aikman serves as possibly the greatest example of why teams should be patient with young quarterbacks. In his first season in the league, Aikman tossed double the amount of interceptions as touchdowns that he threw (18 to 9). He went 0-11 as a starter. He had a rating of under 56.
Aikman and the ‘Boys improved – and improved – as time went one. The UCLA product would go on to win the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl on three occasions, and he was named the MVP for XXVII. Concussion issues famously ended Aikman’s career early, but he nevertheless took his rightful spot in the Hall of Fame in 2006.