The Dallas Cowboys have gambled on a number of risky draft choices in recent years. Some have paid off. Some haven’t. Will they roll the dice again this year?
The Dallas Cowboys have been lauded for their success in the NFL draft over the last decade. And for good reason. They’ve picked Pro Bowl level players in quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, defense end DeMarcus Lawrence, cornerback Byron Jones, and most of their offensive line.
But it hasn’t always worked out. In recent years, the front office has made some big gambles with their draft picks, and there have been notable stumbles. Let’s review the list of problem picks and see what we can glean from it.
2015 – Randy Gregory, defensive end, drafted in the second round, despite failing the drug test for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Result: Gregory is probably the biggest bust on this list, having only played one complete season in 2018. Since being drafted in 2015, Gregory has missed most of the rest of his career, mostly from suspensions resulting from failed drug tests.
It’s too bad, because Gregory is undoubtedly very talented. He proved this in 2018, when he recorded six sacks and forced two fumbles in his only full season in the league. But then he failed another drug test, and missed the entire 2019 season.
Amazingly, it’s possible Gregory could still turn things around. Just a few days ago, he applied for reinstatement, announcing, “I’m hopeful of playing in 2020,” according to Mike Fisher at Sports Illustrated.
For the record, I’m hopeful too. If Gregory could somehow stay on the field, he’d be a valuable addition to the team. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. But for right now, picking him appears to have been a big mistake.
2016 – Jaylon Smith, linebacker, drafted in the second round, despite suffering a gruesome knee injury, tearing both his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
Result: Smith was projected as a sure-fire top ten pick before his injury, but no one was sure he’d ever play again after the ghastly injury. He basically red-shirted his rookie year, before surprising critics and playing his second season.
But he was still recovering in 2017 and looked like a liability on the field at times. Nevertheless, Smith still recorded 81 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a sack that year. In 2018, teamed up with rookie sensation Leighton Vander Esch, Smith looked fully recovered, and a heavy hitter. He made 121 tackles, forced two forced fumbles, and recovered two more loose balls. In the offseason, the Dallas front office rewarded him with a six-year, $68 million contract.
Last year, he didn’t look quite as good without Vander Esch. He missed some tackles and wasn’t very good in coverage. Observers noted he had trouble turning quickly, perhaps a holdover from his knee injury. Nevertheless, Smith was still deemed good enough to merit a Pro Bowl bid.
Because of these pros and cons, some critics have said the Smith contract was a mistake. But considering how’s he’s played the last two seasons, he can’t be labeled a bust. If the new coaching staff handles him right, Smith can continue to be a valuable defender.