Ranking the Cowboys’ last 10 first-round draft picks

The Dallas Cowboys have had some strong picks in Round 1
Dallas Cowboys, CeeDee Lamb
Dallas Cowboys, CeeDee Lamb / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (2016)

Another pick that wasn't loved right away came in 2016 when Dallas used the fourth overall selection on Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. While he was a beast for the Buckeyes, the Cowboys had just proven any running back could have success behind their line.

DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing in 2014 with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. He then signed a multi-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles but managed just 702 yards — with 3.6 yards per attempt. Dallas replaced him with Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden. Randle wasn't terrible but then got himself released due to off-field issues.

McFadden was then the lead back for the final 10 games and he racked up 1,089 yards and averaged 4.6 per attempt.

While that proved they could make their offense work with any back, the belief was they could be special with Zeke. And they were.

Elliott led the NFL in rushing as a rookie with 1,631 yards. An injury to Tony Romo meant he and fellow rookie Dak Prescott had to lead the offense and they did exactly that. Dallas was 13-3 thanks in large part to the work Elliott did.

He again led the league in rushing in 2018 when he went for 1,434 yards. That led to a holdout and when Elliott signed a six-year extension worth $90 million, fans turned on him. If we're being honest, they should have turned on Jerry Jones who should have known better than to add so much time to a running back, but Elliott was seen as the greedy one.

It didn't help matters that he began to slow down just one year later, averaging just 4.0 yards per rush and gaining 979 yards in 2020. Elliott was released ahead of the 2023 campaign, which was the first year they could afford to move on financially.

As frustrating as the end of his tenure was, Elliott proved to be a great pick. He ran for 8,262 yards and 68 touchdowns while gaining 2,336 yards and scoring 12 times as a receiver. He was also an unselfish player who took pride in being able to block. It's unfortunate he's remembered for the foolish extension because he truly was special.