The 15 greatest first-round picks in Dallas Cowboys history

Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys, Michael Irvin (L) and Troy Aikman (R) DecePHOTO/Paul BUCK (Photo by PAUL BUCK / AFP) (Photo by PAUL BUCK/AFP via Getty Images)
Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys, Michael Irvin (L) and Troy Aikman (R) DecePHOTO/Paul BUCK (Photo by PAUL BUCK / AFP) (Photo by PAUL BUCK/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Dallas Cowboys
Sep 17, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) before the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

11. Dez Bryant, WR, 2010

Even before entering the NFL, Dez Bryant had a connection with the Cowboys, although it wasn’t favorable for him. In 2009, he was ruled ineligible after just three games due to a failure to disclose an interaction with former Dallas cornerback Deion Sanders.

His suspension, paired with concerns about his maturity hurt his draft stock and despite being labeled a top-10 talent, Bryant was there when the New England Patriots were on the clock at No. 24. Dallas, however, decided they were ready to make a move as they jumped from No. 27, giving up a third and fourth-round pick, in order to land Bryant.

It didn’t take long to see they made a wise move as he scored six touchdowns as a wide receiver and two as a punt returner. By 2011, he became the starter and allowed the team to move on from Roy Williams, who was a bust at receiver after being added in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

Bryant continued to excel in this role and by 2012, he was being called one of the best wideouts in the game. He and Tony Romo had a special connection as the Cowboys’ gun-slinging quarterback knew he could throw it to No. 88 even if he was covered, and there was a good chance the ball would be caught.

There was a three-year stretch where these two dominated and Bryant had 273 receptions for 3,035 yards, and 41 touchdowns — including a league-leading 16 in 2014. That stretch catapulted him up the team’s all-time list as he sits first overall with 73 career touchdown receptions as a Cowboy.

Unfortunately, Bryant is often remembered for the play that resulted in the end of their magical run in 2014. Facing a fourth-down-and-two from the Green Bay Packers’ 32-yard line, Romo heaved up a pass to Bryant, who made a great contested pass.

He then took two steps, switched the ball to his dominant left hand, and dove toward the end zone. Somehow, the refs watched this on replay and said when the ball moved on his way to the ground it was incomplete — and that he had yet to make a “football move.”

Had the league made the correct call, Bryant and the Cowboys might have been headed to the NFC Championship Game. Instead, it was a huge missed opportunity, but it shouldn’t take away from how insanely dominant he was during his prime in Big D.