The Dallas Cowboys are pretty good at drafting in the first round. We’re talking pretty good. Over the course of the last decade, the Cowboys found multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl players with their first-round selections. The one time that they didn’t draft in the first round was because they traded the pick for a receiver that saved their season and revitalized their offense. I’d say that is capital well spent.
Dallas Cowboys first round picks, 2010-2019
- 2010: Dez Bryant
- 2011: Tyron Smith
- 2012: Morris Claiborne
- 2013: Travis Frederick
- 2014: Zack Martin
- 2015: Byron Jones
- 2016: Ezekiel Elliott
- 2017: Taco Charlton
- 2018: Leighton Vander Esch
- 2019: (traded for Amari Cooper)
This list is pretty fascinating in the year 2020. The best players are obviously the offensive linemen and Ezekiel Elliott (where best is defined by their talent relative to their position). The group also happens to feature the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receiving touchdowns in Dez Bryant, a promising young linebacker in LVE, two current free agents, Taco Charlton, and Morris Claiborne.
Amazingly, having just won one with the Kansas City Chiefs, Claiborne is the only Super Bowl Champion on this list. He is not the only player on this list to have played snaps for someone besides the Cowboys as the team moved on from Taco Charlton in the first quarter of last season and he quickly latched on with the Miami Dolphins.
Prior to the free agency period of 2020, Charlton and Claiborne are the only Cowboys first-round picks this past decade to play anywhere besides Dallas. Charlton is the only member of the group to have not played on a second contract with the team, but a lot of that is obviously due to the fact that he is also the only person on the list to not last the duration of his rookie deal.
Byron Jones is about to be in rare territory for recent Cowboys first-round picks
While Morris Claiborne ultimately left the Cowboys, he did get a second contract with the team. The team didn’t pick up his fifth-year option but he ultimately played for them in that year (2016). Claiborne signed a one-year prove it deal prior to the Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott season of 2016 and afterwards began bouncing around the league before winning a ring.
It is about as firm as it can be a few weeks outside of free agency that fellow cornerback Byron Jones will not be playing with the Cowboys in 2020. Jones is likely going to get offered big money elsewhere and with Dallas needing to pay other players, so on and so forth, there simply isn’t enough “pie” to go around as Jerry Jones would likely put it.
Assuming that Jones does leave, then he will be the first Cowboys first-round pick of the decade to play out his rookie contract with the team and not play on a second deal with the franchise. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
The Cowboys have managed to draft enough talent year in and year out to justify giving them all second contracts, except for Charlton. For what it’s worth, Jones is certainly worth another deal, in this case, too worth it. It took a decade for the dollars and cents of it all to finally reach a tipping point for Dallas, and Jones is the first of the group to truly “get away” in free agency.
This hasn’t happened very often to the Cowboys in recent memory
You have to go back a little bit further than 2010 to find the last time the Cowboys saw a first-round pick play out the duration of their rookie deal without getting a second contract for the team, two years further back to be specific.
The Cowboys didn’t have a first-round pick in 2009 thanks to another trade for a wide receiver in Roy Williams (good times!) so obviously that year doesn’t count as far as this exercise; however, 2008 is a big winner in a depressing way here.
Dallas had two first-round draft picks in 2008 and didn’t re-sign either of them after their rookie deals ran out. Byron Jones is likely going to be joining a club that last inducted Mike Jenkins and Felix Jones. That’s pretty big-time if you ask me.
Of all of their first-round picks since 2008 (there are 11 in that time span) the Cowboys will have had (assuming Jones does walk) six go on to play for other teams. Those “six” need some context, though.
- Mike Jenkins (no context needed, they rebuilt the secondary)
- Felix Jones (no context needed, it was time to move on)
- Dez Bryant (signed with the New Orleans Saints but was injured very soon after)
- Morris Claiborne (no fifth-year option, one-year prove it deal, moved on)
- Byron Jones (again assuming he leaves)
- Taco Charlton (an all around miss)
There are three cornerbacks on that list. Maybe the Cowboys should consider that their first-round evaluations on that position aren’t great? Just an idea. Although maybe they should also consider that the last time they drafted a cornerback in the first round they thought he was a safety and once they realized that he was a cornerback they decided to let him test free agency. Oh wait that’s now. Oops.
Congratulations to Byron Jones on joining a weird list of former Cowboys.