The 10 most important players on the Dallas Cowboys
1. RB Ezekiel Elliott (47 points)
2. LB Sean Lee (36)
3. LT Tyron Smith (35)
4. WR Dez Bryant (26)
5. C Travis Frederick (24)
6. G Zack Martin (18)
T-8. TE Jason Witten (13)
T-8. DE Taco Charlton (13)
T-8. G/T La'el Collins (13)
10. DT Maliek Collins (9)
Elliott and the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. were as close to unanimous vote-getters as there was in the East divisions—the lowest Zeke finished on any ballot was third (Vrentas), and he notched three first-place votes. No surprise, considering his impact on the Cowboys’ 2016 season.
A minor upset in that second slot, though. This is a roster built around its dominant offensive line, led by all-world tackle Tyron Smith, so it speaks to Lee’s value that he placed above Smith, Frederick and Martin (plus Bryant). Last season, Lee finally managed to dodge the injury bug again and landed a first-team All-Pro nod as the lead of Dallas’s defense. No one ranked Lee No. 1, but the veteran linebacker earned a No. 2 vote (Feldman) and did not drop lower than sixth elsewhere.
Byron Jones fell at the opposite end of the voting spectrum. Four of our five voters left him off their ballots, with only Emily Kaplan placing him in the top 10 (ninth).
Vetting the Votes: Emily Kaplan defends her top-10 selection of Byron Jones — Defense has always been the weaker link for the Cowboys, and there’s been huge turnover in the secondary. Dallas drafted four DBs in 2017 to compensate for the four it lost in free agency (Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, who have combined for 224 starts). That promotes free safety Byron Jones, with all of 27 starts over two years, into an important leadership role.
Other Cowboys receiving votes: Tyrone Crawford (eight points), Orlando Scandrick (seven), Jaylon Smith (six), Chidobe Awuzie (five), Nolan Carroll (five), Anthony Brown (three), Byron Jones (two), Demarcus Lawrence (two), Cole Beasley (two), Dan Bailey (one).