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Offseason | 2021

History Says 3 Third-Round Picks Leads To Success


There may not be a large sample size to choose from, but history is history.

And in the 61 seasons of Cowboys football, this occurrence might be rare, but when it happens, it leads to good things for the Cowboys.

So let's not overlook the fact they picked three players in the third round during the 2021 NFL Draft.

More than just a historical significance, the Cowboys landed three more Top 100 players to go along with Micah Parsons and Kelvin Joseph in the first two rounds, respectively.

Having five players in the first three rounds should lead to success, if anything, just based on the odds.

The chances that one of these three third-round picks: DT Osa Odighizuwa, DE Chauncey Golston and CB Nahshon Wright will develop into a great player seem rather good, especially judging off history.

Here's how the Cowboys fared the previous five times they had three picks in the third round.


Before this past draft, this was the last time the Cowboys had a trio of third-rounders. And while the last two didn't pan out, the first one was a huge success. Dexter Coakley (65th overall) developed into a three-time Pro Bowler at linebacker. Small in stature and playing at a small school at Appalachian State, Coakley had to prove his doubters wrong, and not just early in his career but even at the later stages when coaches such as Bill Parcells weren't always convinced he could handle the job. But it proved to be one of the better third-round picks in team history. After that, it made up for picking Steve Scifres, a guard from Wyoming with the 83rd pick and safety Kenny Wheaton (94th overall). They combined to play just 29 games.


This is one exception to the rule. Of the three picks, none from this class proved to be a difference maker. Center Clay Shiver (67th) started two years but there was a big drop-off from Mark Stepnoski and Ray Donaldson in the early-to-mid 90s. Receiver Stepfret Williams played three years but was just a role player and defensive tackle Mike Ulufale only played three games in his only season with the team.


Once again, the Cowboys hit on one of the three picks in this class. After taking linebacker Godfrey Myles with the 62nd pick and guard James Richards at No. 64, the Cowboys had a third third-rounder at 70. They went with a raw, project pick in Erik Williams, who proved to be one of the best tackles in team history. A four-time Pro Bowler, Williams could've possibly been the best in team history if not for a car accident that set his career back for nearly two seasons. Williams eventually returned and even made another Pro Bowl, but he wasn't the same dominant left tackle that anchored the offensive line in the early 90s. Still, it was another great pick in a trio of third-rounders.


The Cowboys arguably had the jewel of the draft in the first round when they took Tony Dorsett at No. 2 overall. But with three third-rounders, they stuck with skill positions. Wide receiver Duke Fergerson played four years in the NFL but none in Dallas and running back John Smith didn't make the team. But Butch Johnson was a 10-year veteran who served as a key member of the offense for a decade. His biggest play of his career occurred in Super Bowl XII when his diving catch at the goal line was rule a touchdown in a 27-10 win over the Broncos.


With the 66th overall pick, the Cowboys landed one of the greatest safeties in team history in Charlie Waters. Paired with free-agent Cliff Harris, Waters was half of a dynamic duo that paced the Cowboys' secondary for an entire decade. Waters made three Pro Bowlers and was a clutch performer in the playoffs with nine career postseason interceptions. Waters' pick was clearly the best of three in that round. Linebacker Steve Kiner played nine years in the league, but just one in Dallas. Denton Fox, a defensive back from Texas Tech, never made the Cowboys' roster.

Now, while one might suggest that picking three players in any round would likely lead to success. That's not exactly true for the Cowboys.

The same research was done on second-and fourth-round picks and the Cowboys didn't have much luck even with three picks in one year.

In 1995, the Cowboys had three second-round picks but RB Sherman Williams, guard Shane Hannah and tight end Kendall Watkins never developed into a starting role.

In 1972, a trio of second-rounders was highlighted by Robert Newhouse, who played 12 seasons in a variety of roles but wasn't considered a superstar. In that same round, the Cowboys took linebacker John Babinecz, who spent his career on other teams and wide receiver Charlie McKee didn't make a roster.

And the same goes for fourth-rounders.

In 2009, the Cowboys didn't get much from quarterback Stephen McGee, or pass-rushers Victor Butler and Brandon Williams. In 1997, a trio of Macey Brooks, Nicky Sualua and Antonio Anderson were all underwhelming on the field. In 1995, the Cowboys took Eric Bjornson, Linc Harden and Alundis Brice all in the fourth round. Four years earlier, the 1991 Draft saw quarterback Bill Musgrave, running back Curvin Richards, defensive end Tony Hill and defensive end Kevin Harris.

And in 1972, fresh off winning their first Super Bowl, the Cowboys had three fourth-rounders and took Tim Kearney, Robert West and Charlie Zapiec.

So maybe there's something to this third-round for the Cowboys. When they come in threes, history says at least one of them becomes a value pick, if not a star.

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