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Parcells Guys Editorial

Who was the best draft pick in Dallas Cowboy’s history?

The criteria are pretty simple here. I based the decision on which player I thought had the most impact on the Cowboys relative to where he was chosen in the draft. I looked over every draft in the history of the Cowboys and the answer to this question was pretty simple after my research was done.

Emmitt Smith was by far the best draft pick in Dallas Cowboys history. I guess the percentage is pretty high that most would say he is the best Dallas Cowboy player ever, but that’s what also makes him the best draft pick ever. There were others who were awesome draft day selections. There were others who were definitely worthy of making the final list. I just could not find anyone who did what Emmitt Smith did coming from where he was selected in the draft. I don’t really think anyone would even consider challenging me on this either.

Here are the top five draft picks I came up with before deciding that Emmitt was the winner by a large margin, they are listed in no particular order.

Bob Lilly – 13th player selected in the 1st round, 1961. How about the first official draft pick in the team’s history becoming one the best defensive lineman in NFL history. Not bad for a team pretty new in the art of drafting, we can thank Coach Landry for this pick. Now is he a better pick than Emmitt? No, because Lilly wasn’t the best defensive lineman of all time and the team only won 1 Super Bowl while he was a Cowboy.

Roger Staubach – 129th player selected in the 10th round, 1964. Rodger Dodger was such a great pick because there a chance he would never even play for the Cowboys. Staubuch attended the Naval Academy and after graduating he was committed to four years of service for the Navy. He became the starting QB in 1971 and led the Cowboys to four Super Bowls in the 70’s, while winning the big game in 1971 and 1977. Now is he a better pick than Emmitt? No, because while he was maybe the greatest Cowboy’s QB of all time (calm down Aikman fans) and he was a 10th round selection he wasn’t the NFL’s greatest QB of all time, plus he only has two rings to Emmitt’s three. Add in the fact that Emmitt has no SB losses, while Roger has two gives Emmitt the edge in my book.

Chad Hennings – 290th player selected in the 11th round, 1988. Hennings was another Military man, he attended The Air Force Academy, who was drafted late because of his military commitment. He was voted as the top Defensive Lineman in 1987 by winning the Outland Trophy Award. Henning would have been a first rounder had he not been committed to the fulfilling his military obligation. Now I know he wasn’t a Hall of Famer, but he makes the list because he was a member of three Super Bowl teams after being selected in the 11th round. Was he a better draft pick than Emmitt? No, I don’t care if he was taken in the 110th round he cannot compare to Emmitt as far as what he meant to the Cowboy’s Super Bowl teams.

Herschel Walker – 114th player selected in the 5th round, 1985. He was drafted while he was playing in the USFL. Again this was a similar situation to Staubach and Hennings in that there was a chance this guy may never play for the Cowboys. Luckily the USFL folded and the Cowboys owned the rights to sign him to a contract. Now while he may have had some success while playing in his short career for the Cowboys, the real reason he gets a vote from me is because of the block buster trade with the Vikings in 1989. If the Cowboys didn’t have him to trade they may never have even won one Super Bowl never mind winning three in four years. Now taking into consideration all the draft picks the Cowboys received back in that trade, one of which was used to select Emmitt Smith, and the few good years he had for the Cowboys ask the question. Was he a better draft pick than Emmitt Smith? No, because even though the Cowboys were able to get Emmitt and a host of other players with all those draft picks someone still had to make the choice to take Emmitt Smith with one those picks. So I guess to be fair I have to at least give the Herschel Walker draft pick the number two spot behind Emmitt Smith because in a round about way Herschel did bring us the greatest running back of all time.

Emmith Smith – 17th player selected in the 1st round, 1990. The NFL’s All-Time leading rusher! Three Super Bowl trophies in his possession, one Super Bowl MVP trophy, 1993 NFL MVP, Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1990, 4 NFL Rushing Titles, 11 straight 1000 yard seasons, NFL’s All-Time Rushing TD leader, 7 Pro Bowls, 6 time NFL All-Pro and here’s my favorite one – NFL All-Time rushing attempts leader.

Wow. How the heck did 16 teams pass on this guy in 1990? Even if you had the best running back in the league in 1989 you should have taken Smith. Some of you may be saying well he was a great pick, but he was a first rounder and he should have been this great. Sorry to burst your bubble, but let’s take a look at some guys drafted within the top ten picks in the year of their draft that should have been great running backs. Bo Jackson was the # 1 overall pick in 1986, Alonzo Highsmith was the # 3 overall pick in 1987, Tim Worley was the # 7 overall pick in 1989, Blair Thomas was the # 2 overall pick in 1990, Garrison Hearst was the # 3 overall pick in 1993, Ki-Jana Carter was the # 1 overall pick in 1995. That's six guys who were drafted around the same time as Emmitt who never even came close to accomplishing the things Emmitt accomplished.

No one could have said back in 1990 that Emmitt would wind up becoming the NFL’s All-time leading rusher while leading the Cowboys to three Super Bowls, but after watching him for all these years I can say that he was definitely the greatest draft pick in Dallas Cowboy’s history.


  • At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great article that I agree with completely. Just one thing, Chad Henning was in the Air Force. He flew the A-10 Thunderbolt during the first Iraqi War.

  • At 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I know he was more or less a nickle back but he was a super bowl mvp. Drafted in the 12th round in 2001 #320 Larry Brown.

  • At 10:42 AM, Blogger martyogelvie said…

    Larry Allen was a late pick (4th or 5th round). Mel Renfro was a 2nd round pick I believe in '64? Not a bad 2nd rounder.. also, when was Everson Walls drafted or was he a free agent out of Grambling... ?

    Some more notables that were not Draft Day ICONS.
    Darren Woodson
    Drew Pearson
    Cliff Harris
    Harvey Martin

    Dallas Cowboy football cards


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