In the 10 drafts between 2006 and 2015, the Cowboys selected 11 players with a sixth-round pick. Of those 11 players, four became eventual starters in the NFL (started 9 or more games in one season), as the table below shows.
|2007||FB Deon Anderson||2009 (3rd season)|
|2008||LB Eric Walden||2011 (4th season)|
|2009||TE John Phillips||2012 (4th season)|
|2012||TE James Hanna||2014 (3rd season)|
Of note, none of the players listed above were immediate starters; all needed two or three years before they would finally emerge as starters.
- Deon "Cricket" Anderson got nine starts in 2009 for the Cowboys, which is a little unusual for a fullback.
- Eric Walden didn't make the final 53-man roster in Dallas and was quickly picked up by the Chiefs after final roster cuts. He would eventually make his way to Green Bay, where he would start for two seasons, and has been a starter in Indianapolis for the last three years.
- John Phillips tore his ACL at the start of his sophomore season and started nine games for Dallas in 2012 before moving on the San Diego.
- James Hanna finally is the only one of the four still on the roster, and the only one of the four to receive a contract extension in Dallas.
Other notable sixth-rounders over that period include Nick Folk and Dwayne Harris. Nick Folk never got a start, but after being drafted in 2007, he was the Cowboys' kicker for three years before being waived at the end of the 2009 season and has been with the Jets since. Dwayne Harris was the Cowboys' primary returner and part-time wide receiver from 2011-2014 before moving on to the New York Giants, and while he was a valuable contributor in his time in Dallas, he only had three starts over his four years with the team.
In sum, that's six of 11 draft picks who became eventual starters - or in the case of Folk and Harris, key special teamers - even if only one of them signed a second contract in Dallas.
This year, the Cowboys selected an unprecedented four players in the sixth round. Going by the Cowboys' record with other sixth-rounders over the last ten years, two of those four rookies could eventually emerge as starters, even if it will likely take two or three years for them to do so.
RB Darius Jackson is in the unenviable position of probably always having Ezekiel Elliot ahead of him, but the contract situations at running back could see him move up into the No. 2 spot behind Elliott fairly quickly: Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar are both playing on the final year of their contracts, and Alfred Morris is on a two-year deal. Simple "contract attrition" could see Jackson move up the depth chart fairly quickly.
CB Anthony Brown is in a similar "contract attrition" situation. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are in the last years of their contracts, and Orlando Scandrick will be 30 next year, so if Brown manages to hang around this year, there could be spots opening up down the line.
S Kavon Frazier is the third rookie here who might benefit from "contract attrition." Both Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox are playing on the final years of their deal, and only Byron Jones and Jeff Heath have contracts beyond this season. If Frazier makes the roster, there'll be a spot waiting for him down the line.
TE Rico Gathers is in a different situation. James Hanna just signed a three-year extension, Geoff Swaim still has three years left on his rookie deal, and Jason Witten, in a wheelchair, will still manage to get open over the middle in 30 years. But with his physical gifts, Gathers can still become a solid contributor, and perhaps an eventual starter, for the Cowboys, if he learns how to play football.
Which 2016 sixth-round player do you think will eventually emerge as a starter for the Cowboys?