2011 – Ninth overall pick: Tyron Smith, LT – USC
Seven Pro Bowl appearances, two All-Pro selections in ten seasons (and counting) with Dallas
The choice of Tyron Smith is one of those obvious home runs. Smith filled a huge need at the time of the selection and has done nothing but build an unquestionable Hall of Fame resume from day one. Could the Cowboys have chosen J.J. Watt instead? Of course. Smith, however, is just as productive as Watt playing in the exact opposite role. It is almost impossible to come up with anything negative regarding this selection giving Dallas an A+ draft grade here.
2012 – Sixth overall pick: Morris Claiborne, CB – LSU
Four interceptions in just 47 games as a Dallas Cowboy
For everything glowingly written above about Tyron Smith, the opposite belongs to this choice. Not only was Claiborne a colossal flop, but the Cowboys also gave up the 45th overall pick to move up so they could draft him. Multiple other cornerbacks turned out to be far better than the “Mo Plane” while that second-round pick could have been seven-time Pro Bowl, six-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. This is an easy F for Dallas.
2016 – Fourth overall pick: Ezekiel Elliott, RB – Ohio State
Three Pro Bowl appearances, one All-Pro selection in five seasons (and counting) with Dallas
As we land this plane, we have the curious case of Ezekiel Elliott. On one hand, Elliott has been nothing short of amazing during his run in Dallas. With already 6,300+ yards, two rushing titles, and 56 total touchdowns, it’s hard to nitpick this choice.
On the other hand, a large group of humans will tell you that drafting a running back as high as fourth overall is blasphemy. They are backed by Elliott’s sub-par (for him) 2020 season and will tell you he is already losing a step.
The cherry on top appears in the form of shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey who was chosen with the very next pick and another dominant running back who would have been available in round two.
In my opinion, Elliott deserves some benefit of the doubt for last year, given the shambles the offense around him endured. As such, I’ll grade this choice as a B+ for the Cowboys as of this very moment.
All in all, to earn three A+ grades, an A-, a B+, and two B- grades is rather outstanding. The F and the incomplete certainly need to be discussed but they do get canceled out by the huge successes. Hopefully, that trend continues in 2021.