The Cowboys got 11 years of solid play from Greg Ellis after making a safe pick in the 1998 draft.
top prospects the Cowboys will try to weed out. Auburn's Nick Fairley and Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers are both considered one-year wonders, and the word from Bowers' pro day is that some teams differ about the progress of his knee following meniscus surgery. Robert Quinn of North Carolina is coming off an NCAA suspension. USC's Tyron Smith is probably still a project, at just 20 years old.
What's left are some pretty good options, a lot of the same ones who have been tossed around since the Senior Bowl. Prince Amukamara spent four years at Nebraska, playing extremely well on the corner for the final two. Pass-rusher Von Miller posted 33 sacks in his four seasons at Texas A&M, with double-digit totals in both 2009 and 2010. Though he's coming out early, Marcell Dareus of Alabama backed up his standout '09 season with another very good campaign in 2010. And of the remaining highly-rated 3-4 end types, Wisconsin's J.J. Watt is a converted tight end, but Cal's Cameron Jordan was a starter for two-and-a-half years and played every position on the defensive line.
It's not to say the Cowboys wouldn't take a guy like Fairley if they had him rated extremely high and he fell to them, but one has to think the fact he didn't really emerge until 2010 will leave him lower on the board than a guy like Dareus.
Though the elite talent in this draft seems to thin out the closer it gets to the Cowboys' selection at No. 9, there's no reason to think they won't get a very solid-to-good player. Maybe he won't make multiple All-Pro teams, but it's very reasonable to expect a long-time starter, the kind of guy the team won't have to worry about.
That will be comforting enough.