34 days and counting until that first name is called in the 2012 NFL draft. Much like Troy Aikman, drafted #1 in 1989, Andrew Luck is the undisputed favorite to have his name called first. The Dallas Cowboys have pick #14, which most draft gurus believes Jerry Jones will select a defensive player. Since it’s that time of year, let’s take a look at the Cowboys 10 year draft history, see who’s stuck it out, who did not, and the top three best/busts of all time.
From 2002 to 2011, the Cowboys drafted 80 players: 13 cornerbacks; 8 linebackers and wide receivers, respectively; 6 of the following: tight ends, tackles, running backs, and defensive ends; 5 defensive backs; 4 centers; 3 guards; 2 of the following: kickers, free safeties, fullbacks, outside linebackers, offensive & defensive tackles, “athletes”; and finally, 1 quarterback. Keep in mind, this is the official NFL draft only, not trades, free agents, or any other means of adding players to the roster. Cornerbacks lead the pack, but it’s somewhat deceptive due to the fact that the Cowboys need help at the cornerback and safety positions. Out of the 13 drafted corners, only 2, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, remain on the team. Oddly enough, they were both drafted in 2008.
By round, there were 10 first, 10 second, 8 third, 14 fourth, 8 fifth, 16 sixth, and 14 seventh rounders. Out of 80 drafted players, as of March, 2012, a measly 23 remain on the current roster. That’s a whopping 29%! 29% is not exactly a glowing retention rate. In fact, it’s downright sad to think so many young men thought they would be Cowboys for life when they heard their names called that special night. For many reasons, such as injuries, personal issues, inability to transition from college to pro, lack of team chemistry, or flat out incapable of competing at this level, players get cut / traded or quit football altogether.
To see how the Cowboys compared to the rest of the NFL, I took a small sample – anonymous by design – all were Super Bowl winners in that same timeframe. I didn’t sample all 32 teams, but this does indicate that the Cowboys are at the low end of the longevity spectrum, compared to their peers.
- Team 1 65 players drafted 24 on current roster 37%
- Team 2 89 players drafted 32 on current roster 36%
- Team 3 91 players drafted 27 on current roster 30%
- Dallas Cowboys 80 players drafted 23 on current roster 29%
Out of the 23 currently on the roster, there are 7 from the 1st round, 2 from the 2nd, 3 from the 3rd, 4 from the 4th, 1 from the 5th, 2 from the 6th, and 4 from the 7th. DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Anthony Spencer, Felix Jones, Jenkins, Dez Bryant, and Tyron Smith, are the coveted members of the first round elite.
Beginning with the 2002 group, not one player is left from the Roy Williams class. Jason Witten is the only one remaining from 2003. Patrick Crayton, drafted in 2004, left the Cowboys, along with the rest of his comrades from that class. Ware, Spears, and Jay Ratliff, undeniably part of the best draft class ever, 2005, still wear the blue and silver. Former Cowboy potential legends, Marion Barber and Chris Canty, made up the rest of that 2005 group. Jason Hatcher is the only Cowboy from 2006. Spencer and Doug Free came from the 2007 era. Jones, Jenkins, and Scandrick are members of the 2008 class. The lone quarterback drafted, Stephen McGee, Victor Butler, and John Phillips call themselves the best of the 2009 period, which is the biggest class ever with 12 draftees. Bryant, Sean Lee, and Sean Lissemore from 2010, and last, but not least, 2011. Smith, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray, David Arkin, Dwayne Harris, Sean Chapas, and Bill Nagy make up the remaining 23.
Irrefutable evidence suggests that Witten, Bryant, and Ware are not only the best draft picks, in that 10 year period, but all should one day become members of the Ring of Honor. Witten and Ware are two of the most beloved Cowboys, and Bryant was a fan favorite from the start. The passion and emotion these three play with, each and every game, is part of the reason they are the select few. When you talk about the best, you must mention the worst, and the biggest draft busts would have to be Antonio Bryant (threw a jersey at Bill Parcell’s head), Bobby Carpenter, and Julius Jones. Each of these, in their own right, never panned out when it came time to put it all on the field. They could have been part of the select few, but for selfish reasons or possibly reasons beyond their control, they never became members of the inner circle.
A hundred things can happen for a player to end his dream career. New coaches come in and make significant changes that impact a player. Injuries, unfortunately, knock players out of playing time or end careers before their time. A decision to walk away from football might be another reason. As a fan, I hope that Jerry is putting every effort into pursuing the perfect men for this team. After all this fact gathering, it is certain that Jerry needs to improve his draft techniques, plus he needs to instill team loyalty in his organization, so his players won’t be enticed or want to leave. If all the pieces fall into place, they’ll be Cowboys for life.