Skip to main content

Top 10: Hall-of-Famers Past & Future Highlight Club's Best First-Round Picks

The NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror and all eyes will be fixed on first-round pick Taco Charlton next week when the rookies arrive to The Star for the rookie minicamp.

Charlton might be one of the tallest first-rounders in Cowboys history, but he certainly has some work to do before he's considered one of the best.

The Cowboys have had plenty of great first-round picks over the years, making this one of the toughest lists to formulate for the writers of

But here's their list of the 10 best players drafted in the first round in Cowboys history.  

Honorable Mention:

Ed "Too Tall" Jones

Travis Frederick

Zack Martin

Calvin Hill

Ezekiel Elliott

10. Lee Roy Jordan (1963) – One of the mainstays of the Doomsday Defense, Jordan was worth the No. 6 overall selection. Playing behind Bob Lilly and in front of the likes of Mel Renfro, Jordan paired up with Chuck Howley to form one of the best linebacker groups in all of football. A five-time Pro Bowler, Jordan ranks seventh in club history with 32 interceptions, the most by any linebacker.

9. Dez Bryant (2010) –The Cowboys had a chance to draft Randy Moss back in 1998, but passed due to off-the-field and character concerns. While Jerry Jones has admittedly regretted that move, he made sure not to pass up on a similar talent 12 years later when Dez Bryant was sitting on the board. In fact, he traded up a couple of spots to make sure and land the most dynamic player in that draft. Since then, Bryant has been an amazing receiver for the Cowboys as he closes in on Bob Hayes' franchise record of 71 career TD catches. Bryant ranks second with 65, including an NFL-best 16 in 2014.  

8. Tyron Smith (2011) – This pick was not only a great one, considering Smith is widely considered one of the best left tackles in all of football, but it also set a trend that has helped create the identity of the franchise. Smith was the first offensive lineman drafted in the first round of the Jerry Jones era. But in three years after Smith's pick, the Cowboys now have two more first-round linemen in Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. Smith was the first, and arguably the most important pick, to the Cowboys having the best offensive line in the game.  

7. DeMarcus Ware (2005) – The Cowboys wanted to switch defenses to a 3-4 scheme and Ware proved to be the most important cog in that transition. From his rookie year, Ware was an impact player, proving to be a nightmare for opposing lineman. After tying for the team lead in sacks his rookie year, Ware had seven straight seasons of double-digit sacks, including an NFL-best 20 in 2008. He finished his Cowboys career as the team's all-time leader in sacks (117.0) before going to Denver, where he helped the Broncos win a Super Bowl ring. It's only a matter of time before Ware sees his name in the Ring of Honor at AT&T Stadium.  

[embeddedad0]6. Michael Irvin (1988) – The last No. 1 pick of the Tom Landry era, Irvin didn't exactly thrive until Aikman and Emmitt arrived on the scene. But the Playmaker was always on display, even scoring a touchdown in his rookie debut against future Hall of Famer Rod Woodson of the Steelers. But in the 90s, Irvin was the heartbeat of the team that won three Super Bowls. He scored two TDs just before halftime in Super Bowl XXVII that helped the Cowboys rout the Bills. He finished his career as the Cowboys' all-time leader in both catches (750) and receiving yards (11,904), which still stands as the franchise-best today.  

5. Tony Dorsett (1977) – The Cowboys traded up to get the No. 1 pick and Dorsett proved to be worth it in more ways than one. He not only helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl XII as a rookie, but he was the most dynamic back in all football for several years. His 99-yard touchdown in the 1982 season will never be broken and it was a play that showcased not only his quickness, but vision, strength and of course, straight-line speed. Dorsett finished his career with 12,739 yards, which was second in the NFL when he retired and still ranks ninth in league history.  

4. Randy White (1975) – Picked No. 2 overall in the draft that produced the "Dirty Dozen," White was initially drafted to play linebacker in Landry's defense but it wasn't too long when everyone realized his dominating ability at the line of scrimmage. The "Manster" was a ferocious pass-rusher who helped turn Doomsday Defense into one of the best units in all of football. White put his dominance on display in Super Bowl XII, where he teamed with Harvey Martin as Co-MVPs. In 14 seasons, White earned nine Pro Bowl selections and seven All-Pro honors.

3. Troy Aikman (1989) – As great as the 1989 draft proved out to be, this was really a no-brainer pick for the Cowboys, who were going through new ownership and coaching changes. Whether it was Jimmy Johnson or Tom Landry, the Cowboys were going to pick Aikman No. 1 overall.  He won more games in the 1990's decade than any other player in any decade to that point. A three-time Super Bowl winner, Aikman was the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII and is still considered one of the best postseason quarterbacks in NFL history.

2. Bob Lilly (1961)  – There aren't many lists you'll find Mr. Cowboy sitting in the second spot. He was the first draft pick of the team and proved to be one of the best of all-time. He was a dominant player on the line, with the ability to rush the passer and stop the run. Not only that, but was a model of consistency, playing in 196 consecutive games. He was the best representative the Cowboys had both on the field and off. The Cowboys absolutely couldn't have made a better pick with their first one in 1961.

1. Emmitt Smith (1990) – While he might not have been the exact player Jimmy Johnson was eyeing in the middle of that draft, Smith not only fell into the Cowboys' lap with the 17th pick, but into the history books as well. The NFL's all-time leading rusher had quite a ride with the Cowboys, rushing for 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons that included three rushing titles. In 1993, Smith missed the first two games of the year due to a contract holdout, but returned in time to lead the Cowboys back to a Super Bowl victory. He earned league MVP and Super Bowl MVP honors that year. In 2002, he surpassed Walter Payton as the league's leading rusher and pushed the record up to 18,355 yards. Smith's 164 rushing TDs is also the most in NFL history.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content