Dallas Cowboys are elite drafters but consistently fail to capitalize on it

(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

The 2023 NFL Draft is two months away, and the majority of Dallas Cowboys fans are anxiously awaiting to see who the Cowboys will draft with their first-round pick. Cowboys fans are writing up mocking drafts at a fever pitch and dreaming about who will be the next great Cowboys.

Because the Cowboys have not played in the Super Bowl since the end of the 1995 season and let alone appear in an NFCCG (NFC Championship Game), the only positive thing this rabid fan base can hang its hat on is that they draft very well (that is an understatement).

The Dallas Cowboys have a successful track record of drafting well but has yet to cash in on the success of these good players. Without free agency offering much value, the draft is the only glimmer of hope most of them can cling to.

It is also the only time Jerry Jones will receive praise because he generally gets out of the way and allows Will McClay, Vice President of Player Personnel for the Cowboys, to do his job.

In fact, McClay does such a good job that Jerry has entrusted McClay to run the entire draft board/room while Jerry actually plays puppet to McClay’s puppeteer. Jerry pretends to be the man calling the shots and answering the phone calls on draft day.

The Dallas Cowboys have a successful track record of drafting really good players but has yet to cash in on their strength.

The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2023 draft with several options to add to last season’s 13-6 team, and there are prospects galore. From running backs to tight ends, there are several draft picks that could be day one starters at the beginning of the 2023 season. And that is not wishful thinking either. The proof is there.

McClay finding the right players to fit the coaches’ scheme is probably the easiest part of his job, but the hard part is watching this franchise do nothing to support or build around them.

From 2010-2018, Dallas drafted 13 talented players who became Pro Bowlers: Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray, Dwayne Harris, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Demarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith, Dak Prescott, and Leighton Vander Esch.

That’s just from that decade alone. Six of those players are no longer with the organization, and they were all major contributors who never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs. It must be noted that the majority of them were high round picks with Harris being the only one drafted in a late round (6th round).

Bryant, Murray, and Frederick definitely missed out on a golden opportunity to achieve some real success as former quarterback, Tony Romo, guided the team to a 12-4 record, NFC East crown, and a playoff victory in 2014. At the time, Bryant was a top-5 wide receiver, Murray had emerged as a legitimate star running back (led the league in yards in 2014), and Frederick came into the league and made himself one of the best.

Well before their heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 Divisional playoff game, the trio of Romo, Bryant, and Murray had already being established themselves as good players that needed a supporting cast to put them over the top. However, Dallas’ front office waited too late to address their anemic defense and by the time they did, Romo’s body had betrayed him and the opportunity had passed.

It is the only time in franchise history where the top players at their positions, who set franchise records, did not win a Super Bowl, let alone make an appearance in one NFCCG.

If that makes you mad, then an article from 2015 will make you even madder because Dallas had drafted the most Pro Bowlers from 2005-2014. Besides Bryant, Murray, Frederick, and Smith, Dallas drafted Mike Jenkins (2008, CB), Martellus Bennett (2008, TE), Anthony Spencer (2007, dl), Nick Folk (2007, K), Jason Hatcher (2006, dl), DeMarcus Ware (2005, LB), Marion Barber (2005, RB), and Jay Ratliff (2005, DL).

That is almost two decades worth of good to elite players with no success except a few playoffs wins. How does a franchise waste the talents of so many good players? It is a rhetorical question, but a question that still remains because how can a team that does so good in the drafting department come up so empty like a soda with no sugar! Man…come on Jerry & Stephen!

This leads into the current Dallas team that has hit on some young guns who are the cornerstones of this franchise: CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Micah Parsons, and Dak Prescott. We all know Dak is the franchise signal caller and is not going anywhere, so I’m really focusing on the Dallas’ last trio of star draftees-CeeDee, Diggs, and Parsons.

The trio has had career years and are top-15 at their respective positions (yes CeeDee earned his stripes this year and is at the latter part of the top-15). Dallas drafted CeeDee and Diggs in the first and second rounds in 2020 and then hit the jackpot with Parsons the following year in the first round.

These three players are Dallas’ biggest play makers and the reason why Dallas has won 25 games in the last two seasons with many more to come. Big pay day withstanding, Dallas has not had play makers of this ilk since their Super Bowl-winning dynasty of the 90’s. They are young, hungry, and have yet to reach their full potential.

But it gets better because this trio is surrounded by good cast of characters that has a good pedigree, too. Pro Bowler Tony Pollard is a dynamic offensive threat that exploded on the scene this season and had a career year. You have to wonder why it took so long for this team to fully utilize his unique skillset that includes a legitimate pass catcher. Smh

Then there is tight end Dalton Schultz, another good player (2018, 4th round pick), who will likely hit free agency. Some team will benefit from Schultz, a sure handed receiving threat that is a good complementary player.

It appears that Dallas struck gold again in the 2022 draft when it found hidden gems in Tyler Smith (OT, 1st round), Sam Williams (Edge, 2nd round), DaRon Bland ( CB, 5th round), Damone Clark ( LB, 5th round), and Jake Ferguson (TE, 4th round). Even though he was undrafted, you can add rookie tight end Peyton Hendershot to this list, too.

There are other candidates from the 2022 draft class that has potential to be really good like wide receiver Jalen Tolbert (3rd round), offensive tackle Matt Waletzko (5th round), and linebacker Devin Harper (6th round). Let us not give up on Tolbert yet because it takes some wideouts a couple of seasons to catch on (pun intended).

He has the tools to be a decent receiver.

In conclusion,

If you go back to 2003 when the Dallas Cowboys drafted future Hall of Famer,  Jason Witten, this franchise has drafted some really talented players over the last two decades. Ware will get enshrined into the 2023 Hall of Fame this year, while Martin and Smith will follow in his footsteps when they hang up their cleats.

But with the current crop of talent on this roster, Dallas must find a way to surround these talented players because no one can win by themselves. The key is to win NFCCG’s and Super Bowls while your star players ball out on rookie contracts-especially players not drafted in the first round (Diggs and Bland).

It is similar to how the Alabama Crimson Tide lands dozens of 5-star football recruits on a yearly basis and wins National Championships. This allows a team to develop and re-sign their own players because they have so many to choose from, but more importantly, a team actually has their own farm system because they are loaded with homegrown draft picks.

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This is another reason why a team does not have to seek the unknown in a high-priced free agent outside of their organization. To be clear, I still believe this team needs to reach out to an elite free agent when the opportunity presents itself. Stop being passive.

If the Dallas Cowboys were gambling in Vegas, this would be the perfect time to cash in their chips for a big pay day because they have missed out on too many opportunities in the last 30 years. Something has to give.