A year ago at this time, the Cowboys went into the 2016 NFL Draft resting comfortably with the No. 4 overall pick. They knew a player who could immediately impact the team was awaiting them.
In fact, Will McClay, the Cowboys' senior director of college and pro scouting, has said that they knew they were taking Ezekiel Elliott with their first pick days before the draft. And obviously they were proven right as Elliott went on to enjoy one of the greatest seasons by a rookie running back in league history.
Unfortunately (if you can call finishing 12-4 and winning the division unfortunate), Dallas didn't have that same luxury this time around. The Cowboys entered tonight's draft with the 28th selection, where finding impact talent – heck, finding talent at all – can be much more of a crapshoot.
For proof, just take a look at the team's overall history when drafting between the 26th and 32nd picks. Beginning in 1967, when the NFL and AFL first combined to draft together, the Cowboys found themselves in that position 11 previous times, although in three of those years, the pick actually fell at the start of the second round.
And, well, the results have been mixed with the misses likely outweighing the hits. More recently, however, the Cowboys have done quite well when drafting in the 26-to-32 range, and the hope is, of course, that Taco Charlton will continue the trend:
• 1970 (Pick No. 27) – OT Bob Asher: A second-round selection, he played only six games for the Cowboys. He then moved on to the Bears where he started the next three seasons before serving as a backup in 1975, his final year.
• 1972 (26) – RB Bill Thomas: With Duane Thomas gone, the Cowboys needed someone to pair up with Calvin Hill. Thomas wasn't it. He appeared in seven games for Dallas in 1972, primarily as a special teamer, spent one season each in Houston and Kansas City and was out of the league by 1975.
• 1976 (27) – CB Aaron Kyle: A member of the Doomsday Defense from 1976-79, Kyle started 76 of his 95 games with the team. He played in two Super Bowls, helping the Cowboys win the title in 1977 with an interception in Super Bowl XII. He finished his career with three more seasons in Denver.
• 1978 (28) – DE Larry Bethea: A tragic story, Bethea had all the talent in the world but personal problems and drug addictions led to his downfall. He spent six seasons with the Cowboys, but only started two games. After his football career came to an end, he fell apart, eventually running into trouble with the law before taking his own life.
• 1979 (27) – C Robert Shaw: A Tennessee product, Shaw could never crack the starting lineup behind the likes of John Fitzgerald and then Tom Rafferty. A knee injury brought his career to an early end after 33 games over three seasons.
• 1981 (26) – G Howard Richards: Similarly, Richards' career was derailed by injuries. He started eight games in his second season of 1982, but outside of that stretch, was largely in a backup role. Overall, he played in 67 games over six seasons with the Cowboys, but started just 16. He finished his career playing two games with Seattle's replacement players during the 1987 strike.
• 1989 (29) – G Steve Wisniewski: This was Jimmy Johnson's first draft and the wheeling and dealing was just beginning. A second-round pick, Wisniewski never played a game for the Cowboys. He was immediately traded to the Raiders, along with a sixth-round pick, for second-, third- and fifth-round choices. The good news? The second rounder just happened to turn into Daryl Johnston. The bad? Wisniewski went on to play 13 seasons with the Raiders, earning two First Team All-Pro honors and eight trips to the Pro Bowl.
• 1990 (26) – WR Alexander Wright: Technically another second-round pick, Wright was considered one of the fastest players in the league, but he never really developed into a deep threat. With most of his work coming on special teams, he finished third in average kick return yards (24.5) in 1991. He also still owns the longest kickoff return in Cowboys history, a 102-yarder against Atlanta on Dec. 22, 1991. But he was traded to the Raiders midway through the 1992 campaign where he stayed until 1994. After two more years with St. Louis, he retired due to a back injury after the 1996 season.
• 2007 (26) – LB Anthony Spencer: The Cowboys traded back up into the first round to get Spencer, who would go on to contribute eight solid seasons for the team, highlighted by a Pro Bowl selection in 2012. A knee injury limited him to just one game in 2013 and to backup duties the next season before a final attempt with the Saints in 2015 ended with another injury.
• 2013 (31) – C Travis Frederick: Panned for the pick at the time, this has turned into the cream of the crop. Dallas traded down in the draft, but was still able to land Frederick, who has since gone on to become one of the best centers in the NFL. The 2016 season saw him earn his third Pro Bowl invite and his first All-Pro honor.
• 2015 (27) – S Byron Jones: A versatile defensive back, Jones spent his first season with the team playing both cornerback and safety before moving to the latter position for 2016. While the jury is still out, he could be a Pro Bowler in the making, the only thing seemingly missing from his game perhaps being more turnovers.