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Is it possible the Cowboys second-round gambles could still pay off?

Things aren’t how they used to be.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Remember not so long ago when it was funny to make jokes about the Cowboys second-round draft selection? Okay, maybe it wasn’t funny, but there were definitely jokes. The front office liked to roll the dice in round two and try to cheat the system by landing a good player that other teams had passed up on for one reason or another. If there was a college prospect who was sliding down the board due to injury or a character red-flag player, there would be a running joke about how they’d be on the Cowboys radar.

Well, the joke may be on us now as the team is actually getting some use out of their second-round investments. And it’s not just limited to the most recent draft decisions, but also to the emergence of past “bust” picks. Let’s take a look at the Cowboys last five second-round picks and see how we feel about them now.

2018 - Connor Williams

This guy hasn’t played a lick in the NFL, but already fans are excited. Williams is viewed as a steal for the Cowboys. He’s expected to slide in as the team’s new starting left guard and possibly be the last piece of the puzzle that propels this offensive line into greatness. The team has been fortunate to have some great offensive linemen fall into their laps and Williams looks like another gift. And with Ezekiel Elliott revved up for a big season, this talented offensive line is the gift that keeps on giving.

2017 - Chidobe Awuzie

Last year, the curse of the second-round fallout appeared to be over when the team selected Awuzie with the 60th overall pick. Unfortunately a hamstring injury caused him to miss significant time. He only played in 309 defensive snaps (29%) for the season. It was a slow start, but Chido’s talent started presenting itself once he got healthy. He enters his second season as the team’s number one corner. He’s got the football IQ of Byron Jones and the twitchy feet of Jourdan Lewis. And he’s got the build new coach Kris Richard loves in his players. This could be a breakout year for the team’s young corner.

2016 - Jaylon Smith

There was a warning on the label when Smith was selected that said “do not open until 2017” after a gruesome knee injury put his career in jeopardy. Smith got his first chance to play pro football last year and he definitely played like someone who’s been out of the game a while. But with each new day, the knee of the former Notre Dame star slowly improved. Now, he’s practicing without his brace and if his lateral movement continues to improve, it could just be the beginning of the Godbacker.

2015 - Randy Gregory

As our own R.J. Ochoa reported, Gregory is off to New York to meet with officials concerning his possible reinstatement into the league. Since this will be the fourth calendar year that Gregory has been in the league, it’s hard to get too excited about the possibility to get one good year out of him before he hits free agency. But that’s not how it will go down. As K.D. Drummond explained, he can still be a low cost pass rusher for the next three seasons. There are still a lot of things that remains to be answered with Gregory, but being reinstated back into the league would be a good first start. Staying clean and getting after the quarterback would be the next ones. Is it still possible the Cowboys could salvage this wild card draft pick into something valuable?

2014 - DeMarcus Lawrence

Every single selection above is based on hope and promise, but hasn’t yet translated onto the football field. But that changes here. Lawrence is an All Pro. He’s on a one-year rental of $17 million courtesy of the franchise tag because of the remarkable season he had last year. Sure, there were some doubts early on. Injuries and a failed drug test suspension created some setbacks. And expectations for him were higher due to the Cowboys trading away a third-round pick to move up and get him. But all that is behind him now. He’s one of the team’s best players and if he can put together another strong year, all remaining doubt will be put to rest.

The Cowboys aren’t taking the second-round risks they once were so that certainly helps, but we can’t close the book on some of these earlier dice rolls just yet. What do you think about the Cowboys second-round picks now?

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