FRISCO - In their previous 60 NFL Drafts, the Dallas Cowboys have selected 739 players, highlighted by 11 future Pro Football Hall-of-Famers. They’ve also, however, wasted precious picks on a basketball player (Pat Riley in ’67), a baseball player (Merv Rettemund in ’65) and an Olympic sprinter (Carl Lewis in ’84) that never set foot on a football field.
Suffice to say, the Cowboys have historically been one of the most surprising teams in one of sports’ most fickle events.
In ’09 they orchestrated a Dirty Dozen, flubbing all 12 picks. In ’64 they recovered from a top-pick whiff to historically nab three Hall-of-Famers. In line with their lineage of inconsistency, the rolling five-year report card reveals a mixed bag of good (CeeDee Lamb in ’20, Leighton Vander Esch in ’18 and Ezekiel Elliott/Dak Prescott in ’16) and downright putrid (Trysten Hill in ’19 and Taco Charlton in ’17).
Though they’ve never had the 10th overall pick – as they do this year – drafting around that selection in the past has netted them Hall of Famers in Michael Irvin (11th in ’88), DeMarcus Ware (11th in ’05) and Tyron Smith (9th in ’11).
Given the nature of the draft in general and the impulse of owner Jerry Jones specifically, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint their 10th pick on April 29. (Though CowboysSI.com is darn sure trying!)
Considering it’s much easier to look back with hindsight rather than ahead with foresight, my Top 10 best all-time Cowboys’ picks (with my "worst'' selections to come):
10. Bob Hayes – Hall-of-Fame personnel director Gil Brandt drafted him in the 7th round in ’64 purely for his speed out of Florida A&M, and wound up with a receiver that revolutionized the forward pass and sprinted all the way to Canton.
9. Jason Witten – Third-rounder in ’03 made 11 Pro Bowls, owns franchise records for games played, receptions and receiving yards, and is destined for Hall of Fame after his Oakland detour.
8. Tony Dorsett – You better be right when you trade up to the No. 2 pick and in ’77 the Cowboys certainly were, landing the Rookie of the Year, Super Bowl champ and eventual Hall of Fame running back.
7. Larry Allen – Drafted 46th overall in ’94 out of Division II Sonoma State, he blossomed into one of the one of the most dominating offensive linemen of his era with a Super Bowl, 11 Pro Bowls and a bust in Canton.
6. Zack Martin – It’s not merely that the offensive lineman made the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons since being drafted 16th overall in 2014, it’s also that he isn’t Johnny Manziel.
5. Troy Aikman – Seemingly a no-brainer, but several draftniks including ESPN’s Mel Kiper touted Tony Mandarich as No. 1 in ’89.
4. Rayfield Wright – Brandt stole another Hall of Famer from out of the blue, drafting the offensive lineman out of Georgia’s tiny Fort Valley State in the 7th round (182nd overall) in ’67.
3. Emmitt Smith – Jimmy Johnson desired Baylor linebacker James Francis in ’90, but instead drafted the NFL’s all-time leading rusher 15 spots behind another running back, Blair Thomas.
2. Larry Brown – A 12th-round afterthought (320thoverall) from TCU in ’91, he won three Super Bowl rings and was MVP of Super Bowl XXX.
1. Roger Staubach – While Captain America’s four-year Navy commitment scared off most teams in ’64, Dallas gambled, waited and eventually hit the jackpot with a 10th-round pick (129th overall) that blossomed into a Hall of Fame quarterback and the franchise’s first two Super Bowl victories.
Biggest bar-room brawl omission? How about Dak Prescott? And still to come ... yes, we have a Bottom 10 on its way as well.