In 1967, the NFL held its first “common era” draft, with both the AFL and NFL participating together. Since that time, there have been 50 overall #1 picks, starting with defensive lineman Bubba Smith and ending with quarterback Jared Goff in 2016. NFL.com decided to go back and rank all 50 picks in a fun run through football history.
The Cowboys have had the overall #1 pick three times. As it turns out, they have done pretty well with no huge busts. Before we hit their picks, let’s take a look at some of the biggest busts. Most of the huge busts are on the list because of injuries. Guys like Steve Entman (1992), Ki-Jana Carter (1995), Tim Couch (1999, although some would argue talent, not injuries, wrecked his career). Probably the biggest busts that didn’t have some kind of injury associated with them were JaMarcus Russell (2007) and Aundray Bruce (1988). Check out the list, it’s a fun, quick read.
On to the Cowboys and their rankings.
30) Russell Maryland, defensive tackle
Drafted by: Dallas Cowboys, 1991.
Russell Maryland might have been the oddest No. 1 overall pick of the last 50 years. In 1991, the consensus top player in the country was Rocket Ismail. The speedster flew north to the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL, leaving Jimmy Johnson to take someone he was comfortable with in Maryland (his former player at Miami). Maryland was a fine defensive tackle in the NFL, winning three Super Bowl rings and making a Pro Bowl in a 10-year NFL career.
I’d say that’s a pretty fair evaluation for Maryland. Safety Eric Turner went #2 in that draft, receiver Herman Moore went at #10 and Brett Favre was picked at #33.
11) Ed "Too Tall" Jones, defensive end
Drafted by: Dallas Cowboys, 1974.
Not many people were scouting Tennessee State back in 1974, but former Cowboys personnel czar (and my NFL.com colleague) Gil Brandt was. Dallas was rewarded for its interest in the 6-foot-9 Jones with 15 fine years. No player was ever better at anticipating and swatting down passes. Despite being overshadowed by Hall of Fame teammate Randy White, Jones made three straight Pro Bowls from 1981 to '83.
That’s a nice ranking for “Too Tall” Jones. I sometimes forget that he was a number one pick, but he was, and the Cowboys were definitely taking a risk going small school here. Of course it paid off in the end. Danny White was selected with the first pick of the third round by Dallas in this draft. This was the draft that really set the Steelers up for their Super Bowl wins. They got Lynn Swann (#21), Jack Lambert (#46), John Stallworth (#82), and Mike Webster (#125). One of the best drafts ever.
5) Troy Aikman, quarterback
Drafted by: Dallas Cowboys, 1989.
Hard to believe that it was 28 years ago when Troy Aikman was drafted first overall by the Dallas Cowboys. Aikman was the first ever draft pick by Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones. After beginning his career with 11 straight losses, Aikman would eventually start (and win) three Super Bowls. He also posted an 11-5 playoff record in the process. Many league observers consider him the most accurate intermediate thrower they've ever seen. His leadership? Off the charts.
Yeah, that one worked out pretty well. Interesting note that the Cowboys also picked quarterback Steve Walsh as the top pick in that same year’s supplemental draft, he had played under Jimmy Johnson at Miami. Johnson liked competition, and Aikman won it, relegating Walsh to a footnote.
So who was ranked higher than Aikman’s #5?
#4 Terry Bradshaw, #3 John Elway, #2 Bruce Smith and #1 Peyton Manning.
What do you think of the rankings?