It feels like it’s been a decade, but only two years have passed since Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott led a renaissance of sorts within the Dallas Cowboys as rookies.
Dak ultimately won Rookie of the Year honors that season (Zeke had a great case for it as well as MVP), and the impact of what rookies can do in the NFL was highlighted again. The bar had been raised.
Of the two, only Elliott was a first-round pick, and obviously first-round picks carry the highest pedigree and the highest expectations (Dak defies this conventional wisdom). Last season when Green Bay’s Kevin King made a play early on in the game the Packers played against Dallas there was a collective sigh from Cowboys fans that wanted the former Washington cornerback with last year’s first-round pick.
First-rounders don’t always have elite seasons in their rookie years, but they’re certainly capable of it. The Cowboys will face some pretty high-profile first-round rookies in 2018.
Week 1 - at Carolina Panthers, D.J. Moore, 24th overall
Week 2 - New York Giants, Saquon Barkley, 2nd overall
Week 3 - at Seattle Seahawks, Rashaad Penny, 27th overall
Week 4 - Detroit Lions, Frank Ragnow, 20th overall
Week 5 - at Houston Texans, N/A
Week 6 - Jacksonville Jaguars, Taven Bryan 29th overall
Week 7 - at Washington Redskins, Da’Ron Payne, 13th overall
Week 9 - Tennessee Titans, Rashaan Evans, 22nd overall
Week 10 - at Philadelphia Eagles, N/A
Week 11 - at Atlanta Falcons, Calvin Ridley, 26th overall
Week 12 - Washington Redskins, Da’Ron Payne, 13th overall
Week 13 - New Orleans Saints, Marcus Davenport, 14th overall
Week 14 - Philadelphia Eagles, N/A
Week 15 - at Indianapolis Colts, Quenton Nelson, 6th overall
Week 16 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Vita Vea, 12th overall
Week 17 - at New York Giants, Saquon Barkley, 2nd overall
The Cowboys will face both first-round receivers in D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley (many wanted this to be the selection Dallas made) and they’ll also take on Rashaan Evans, the linebacker they passed over when they chose Leighton Vander Esch, when they play Tennessee.
There were three running backs taken in the first round this year and the only one that Dallas doesn’t play is New England’s Sony Michel. They’ll take on both Saquon Barkley and Rashaad Penny a total of three times thanks to Barkley playing for the division rival Giants.
All together the Cowboys will play first-round offensive players a total of seven times and defensive players a total of six times. Three of their games (Houston and Philadelphia) take place against teams that didn’t have a first-round selection.
There were five quarterbacks taken in the first round and Dallas will dodge all of them barring a playoff game against the Cardinals or Super Bowl game against the Browns, Jets, Bills, or Ravens. Typically rookie quarterbacks need some time to assimilate (save for Dak) so it would have been fun to see Kris Richard’s secondary try to pick them off.
It stands to reason that New York’s Saquon Barkley will be the one that makes the largest impact against the Cowboys this season. He gets two shots against Dallas and was the second overall pick, the Giants are definitely going to work him similarly to how the Cowboys did Zeke two years ago.
Which first-rounder worries you the most?