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Cowboys rank No. 2 in number of Pro Bowlers drafted over last 10 years

How successful have the Cowboys been at drafting Pro Bowlers in the more recent past? Very.

2018 NFL Draft, Day 2 Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Six Cowboys players made the Pro Bowl in January of this year: Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper on offense, along with Jaylon Smith on defense. Five of those players were drafted by the Cowboys; Amari Cooper is the odd man out as a former Raiders draft pick.

Of the six, Jaylon Smith made the Pro Bowl for the first time, and that brought the number of future Pro Bowlers drafted by the Dallas Cowboys over the last 10 years to 13 players. Here’s the full list:

Drafted Round Pick Name Pos Pro Bowls
2010 1 24 Dez Bryant WR 3
2010 2 55 Sean Lee LB 2
2011 1 9 Tyron Smith T 7
2011 3 71 DeMarco Murray RB 3
2011 6 176 Dwayne Harris WR 1
2013 1 31 Travis Frederick C 5
2014 1 16 Zack Martin G 6
2014 2 34 Demarcus Lawrence DE 2
2015 1 27 Byron Jones CB 1
2016 1 4 Ezekiel Elliott RB 3
2016 2 34 Jaylon Smith LB 1
2016 4 135 Dak Prescott QB 2
2018 1 19 Leighton Vander Esch LB 1

Dwayne Harris made the Pro Bowl after he left Dallas, but he was drafted by the Cowboys, so he counts against the Cowboys’ tally. As you probably gathered from the title of this post, those 13 future Pro Bowlers drafted by the Cowboys over the last 10 years are the second-most in the NFL behind only the Kansas City Chiefs, who drafted 15 future Pro Bowlers over the same span.

The Cowboys are often believed to have an advantage in Pro Bowl voting because of their popularity, which is probably true in a general sense. But that popularity only has a marginal impact on the Pro Bowl, as the popular vote only counts for a third of the vote in the voting process, with players and coaches making up the remainder, and very few players and coaches around the league are beholden to Jerry Jones.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have selected 81 players in the draft, 13 of which went on to make at least one Pro Bowl. That’s a “success rate” of 16.0%. Here’s how that success rate compares with the five best teams in the league over the last 10 years.

Team Draft Picks Pro Bowlers in %
KAN 74 15 20.3%
DAL 81 13 16.0%
NOR 61 9 14.8%
CHI 63 9 14.3%
BAL 89 12 13.5%
NFL average 2,552 252 9.9%

As you look at the table, you may wonder why the Ravens (89) and the Cowboys (81) have so many more draft picks compared to the Bears (63) or Saints (61). Part of the reason are compensatory draft picks. Over the last 10 years, the Ravens have collected 21 comp picks (ranked #1 in the NFL) and the Cowboys 13 (#7), while the Saints only got one and the Bears were the only team in the league not to get a single comp pick between 2010 and 2019.

Be that as it may, the Cowboys look to have done pretty well with the picks they had.

I’m generally very cautious about using Pro Bowls as a measure for anything, especially given the vagaries of the voting process and the recent inflation of alternates. But since Pro Bowls are often used as a proxy for the success of a GM, let’s go down that rabbit hole:

If you accept Pro Bowlers drafted as a measure of a GM’s quality, then the Cowboys rank at the very top of the league over the last 10 years. How can that be, knowing that the oft-ridiculed Jerry Jones is the GM in Dallas, some would ask?

Part of the reason for that is the way fans and media allocate credit and blame in Dallas: when the Cowboys aren’t doing well, Jones is at fault; when they are doing well, they either got lucky or someone else in the Cowboys front office did a good job (often despite Jerry). Or put simply: Jerry Jones gets all the blame and none of the credit for what happens in Dallas.

Back to the topic at hand: Despite the numbers outlined above, the Cowboys are far from perfect in their drafting. And if you’re looking for reasons to criticize the Cowboys front office, you’ll find reasons aplenty in the last ten drafts.

But overall, the Cowboys have done better in the last ten drafts than most other teams, and if you take future Pro Bowlers as your success criteria, the Cowboys have outperformed all but one other NFL team.

So the next time somebody wants to tell you how good their team’s front office is and how the Cowboys’ front office has no clue, ask them how many Pro Bowlers their front office has drafted recently. You’ll find that conversations tend to end pretty abruptly after that - especially in the NFC East.

Because somebody is bound to ask, here are all 32 NFL Teams ranked by number of Pro Bowlers drafted between 2010 and 2019.

Team Picks Pro Bowlers % Team Picks Pro Bowlers % Team Picks Pro Bowlers %
KAN 74 15 20.3% CLE 91 9 9.9% HOU 79 6 7.6%
DAL 81 13 16.0% LAC 67 8 11.9% DEN 79 6 7.6%
BAL 89 12 13.5% ARI 76 8 10.5% PHI 80 6 7.5%
MIN 96 12 12.5% SFO 96 8 8.3% CIN 93 6 6.5%
SEA 97 12 12.4% CAR 68 7 10.3% NYG 71 5 7.0%
MIA 76 10 13.2% TAM 72 7 9.7% BUF 77 5 6.5%
PIT 83 10 12.0% TEN 77 7 9.1% IND 80 5 6.3%
NOR 61 9 14.8% WAS 88 7 8.0% NWE 87 5 5.7%
CHI 63 9 14.3% LAR 90 7 7.8% NYJ 71 4 5.6%
ATL 68 9 13.2% JAX 70 6 8.6% OAK 86 4 4.7%
GNB 89 9 10.1% DET 77 6 7.8%

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