The Dallas Cowboys have located unique and special talents throughout recent National Football League draft classes. Dallas built up the best overall offensive line in the NFL today, and that line made life easier for young playmakers such as quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott during the 2016 campaign when the Cowboys won the NFC East and came to within a couple of games of playing in the Super Bowl. Don't forget about Dez Bryant, the dynamic wide receiver the Cowboys acquired in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Bryant has been a polarizing figure, at times, because of his antics during games, but there's no denying he is one of the best receivers in the NFL and one of Dallas' top draft selections of the decade.
Not every Dallas draft class is remembered fondly by diehard followers of “America's Team,” as franchise owner, president and general manager Jerry Jones has been guilty of numerous draft miscues over the years. Jones and the Cowboys whiffed attempting to land a franchise quarterback in the early 2000s, the club took fliers on multiple pass-rushers who proved to be disappointments and the franchise failed to adequately rebuild after winning titles in the 1990s. Looking back at the team's draft classes since the mid-90s, it's understandable Dallas hasn't played in a single Super Bowl contest since being the team of that decade. The future admittedly looks bright for the Cowboys heading into the summer of 2017, but Dallas could be only a couple of embarrassing draft picks away from falling back down the division standings.
15 Quincy Carter: Pick No. 53, 2001 NFL Draft
At the time the Cowboys selected QB Quincy Carter in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, plenty of analysts and fans out there criticized the club, specifically Jerry Jones, about reaching for a QB who probably wasn't going to replace all-time Dallas great Troy Aikman. Carter flashed some promise during his rookie season, and he ultimately led the Cowboys to a postseason appearance during his third year with the team.
Dallas parted ways with Carter before the start of the 2004 campaign, however, and it was later learned he had allegedly failed a league drug test before he was cut by the franchise. Carter also failed to make much an impact in the league after his stint with the Cowboys ended, as his last season in the NFL occurred in 2004. The Cowboys, meanwhile, eventually moved on to a QB named Tony Romo.
14 Anthony Fasano: Pick No. 53, 2006 NFL Draft
Maybe the Cowboys should think about moving on from pick number 53 whenever they land that selection in future drafts. Dallas already had All-Pro tight end Jason Witten when the club grabbed TE Anthony Fasano in 2006, and Fasano started only ten games in two seasons before the Cowboys moved on.
While Fasano has bounced around the NFL and is still in the league heading into the 2017 season, he remains a lackluster draft pick made by the Cowboys because the league is filled with stories of clubs finding talented tight ends late in drafts. This was not only a reach for a team that didn't need to use such a high-value pick on a TE. It's a move that did the Cowboys zero favors outside of the fourth-round pick the club acquired from the Miami Dolphins for his services.
13 Danny Noonan: Pick No. 12, 1987 NFL Draft
The Cowboys earned quite the reputation for landing draft busts during the 1980s, and defensive lineman Danny Noonan checks in as one from the second half of that decade. The hope, at the time, was that Noonan would become the cornerstone of a defensive line that needed to be rebuilt, and he made 71 appearances and accumulated 15 sacks across six seasons with the club.
Unfortunately for all involved, Noonan ended up being more hype and promise than finished product, and he never showed he was worthy of being selected with such a high draft pick. The Cowboys released him early into the 1992 regular season, and that year was his last in the NFL as an active player. Dallas began to make things right the following year, however, when the team used a first-round pick on Michael Irvin.
12 Randy Gregory: Pick No. 60, 2015 NFL Draft
The hope here is that defensive end Randy Gregory will conquer whatever demons are plaguing him as of the spring of 2017. Gregory had a decent, although somewhat quiet, rookie season with the Cowboys, but he was handed a four-game suspension in February 2016 after he reportedly violated the NFL's substance abuse policy.
That was only the beginning of what quickly became a sad story. Gregory is currently set to miss the entire 2017 NFL season for repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy, and there are concerns his career is going to end before it ever truly begins. Considering there were red flags over his draft status after he tested positive for marijuana at the 2015 scouting combine, those running the Cowboys probably should've known better.
11 Robert Brewster: Pick No. 75, 2009 NFL Draft
The Cowboys used no first- or second-round picks during the 2009 NFL Draft, but that doesn't mean the club's first selection from this year doesn't belong on a list of picks the team should be embarrassed about today.
Dallas took a flier on offensive tackle Robert Brewster in the third round, a valuation Brewster never came close to earning during his brief time with the Cowboys. Brewster's rookie campaign ended early when he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in July 2009, and he appeared in only one game for the Cowboys the following season before the club released him. All things considered, Dallas' entire 2009 draft class has to be viewed as one of the worst in the long history of the franchise, and it's a reminder first-round picks are often invaluable.
10 Sherman Williams: Pick No. 46, 1995 NFL Draft
The Cowboys should have been the class of the NFL and a team capable of dominating the league for the majority of the 1990s, but they dropped off quicker than expected, in part, because of poor drafting.
Dallas used a second-round pick on running back Sherman Williams in 1995 even though the club had Emmitt Smith in the backfield, and Williams, to the surprise of nobody, didn't take many carries away from the future Hall-of-Famer. Williams started in three games across five seasons with the Cowboys, during which he averaged a paltry 3.8 yards per carry and rushed for a total of 1,162 yards. Worst of all, Williams put the ball on the ground five times during the 1997 campaign. He's the face of an all-time terrible Dallas draft class.
9 Kavika Pittman: Pick No. 37, 1996 NFL Draft
We stay in the 1990s for an example of another pick that, more so, set the Cowboys back than helped the team pursue a title. Dallas traded out of the first round before selecting defensive end Kavika Pittman with pick number 37 of the 1996 NFL Draft, and the club hoped the pass-rusher would evolve into a solid value selection capable of getting to quarterbacks during games.
Pittman didn't register a single start his first two years with the club, but he did notch six sacks during the 1998 campaign. That was the peak of his Dallas career, however, as Pittman finished the next season with only three sacks before the Cowboys elected that keeping him past his rookie contract was not worth the investment. He remained in the NFL through the early portions of the 2003 season.
8 Julius Jones: Pick No. 43, 2004 NFL Draft
In need of a running back during the spring of 2004, the Cowboys could've selected Steven Jackson had they remained in the first round of that draft. Dallas instead traded down, and the club then settled on Julius Jones in the second round.
Jones, no disrespect intended, wasn't as good as Jackson, but he did rush for over 1,000 yards during his third season with the club. That proved to be a one-off, however, as he ran for only 588 yards and averaged 3.6 yards per carry the following season. Dallas moved on from Jones before the start of the 2008 campaign. The previously mentioned Jackson, on the other hand, became one of the best backs of his generation and a player who picked up over 11,000 rushing yards during a career that should land him in the Hall of Fame.
7 Morris Claiborne: Pick No. 6, 2012 NFL Draft
One could say Morris Claiborne is the top pick the Cowboys should still be embarrassed about because of when the team selected him. Claiborne was the sixth overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, and the cornerback is now one of the biggest draft busts in team history.
While his physical gifts weren't always a question throughout Claiborne's time with the Cowboys, injuries routinely kept him off the field and prevented him from ever coming close to being a top-ten talent. In total, he started 43 games across five seasons for the Cowboys before the club allowed him to leave via free agency following the 2016 campaign. Claiborne will be looking to prove Dallas and doubters wrong after putting pen to paper on a contract with the New York Jets. The 27-year-old could be an upgrade for the New York secondary if he's able to play.
6 Ebenezer Ekuban: Pick No. 20, 1999 NFL Draft
Sometimes a pick just doesn't work out for one reason or another, and that was the case for the Cowboys when the team selected pass-rusher Ebenezer Ekuban in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft.
Ekuban accumulated 6.5 sacks during his second season with the club, but he never truly managed to find any long-term form or starts with the franchise. Somewhat frustrating for Dallas and for those who follow the Cowboys is that Ekuban had the best season of his career after he joined up with the Cleveland Browns in 2004. The Cowboys probably would have been better off grabbing Patrick Kerney, who made two Pro Bowl squads during his career. Kerney fell to the Atlanta Falcons, and the Falcons happily drafted him late in the first round.
5 Felix Jones: Pick No. 22, 2008 NFL Draft
Enjoy watching Ezekiel Elliott while you can, Dallas fans, because the Cowboys haven't always landed top-tier running backs in drafts. Dallas selected Felix Jones in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft to pair him up with Marion Barber III, and Jones managed to average 5.9 yards per carry during his second season in the Dallas backfield.
It was not until Dallas hoped Jones could become a primary running back when the club realized he wasn't worth the price the franchise had paid for the player. Jones rushed for 575 yards in 2011, and he picked up only 402 yards on 111 rushes the following season. Dallas allowed Jones to leave via free agency in the spring of 2013, making him one of the club's worst first-round failures of the past 17 years.
4 David LaFleur: Pick No. 22, 1997 NFL Draft
You cannot have a piece about draft mistakes made by the Dallas Cowboys without mentioning David LaFleur. The tight end picked in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft turned out to be one of several regrettable selections during the second part of the decade, as he failed to flourish at a position once dominated by the great Jay Novacek.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, LaFleur was no Novacek, as he caught 85 passes and scored a total of 12 touchdowns across four seasons with the Cowboys. A history of back problems affected him during the second part of what ended up being a brief career, and the Cowboys cut him before the start of the 2001 regular season. He never played a down of regular-season NFL football again.
3 Dwayne Goodrich: Pick No. 49, 2000 NFL Draft
As explained in a SportsDayDFW.com piece, Dallas' entire 2000 NFL Draft class was a failure, as every player chosen by the club that year was no longer with the franchise by 2004.
Defensive back Dwayne Goodrich was Dallas' top draft pick that year, but injuries prevented him from becoming a member of the starting lineup minus one start he was given during the 2002 season. What was already a disappointing career came to an end in the winter of 2003 after he was involved in a hit-and-run incident that resulted in the deaths of two men who were attempting to save a motorist trapped in a burning vehicle. After being released from prison, Goodrich spent time speaking with college and pro teams, and he also graduated from the University of Tennessee.
2 Shante Carver: Pick No. 23, 1994 NFL Draft
Defensive end Shante Carver was on the Dallas roster that won Super Bowl XXX, but it's safe to assume the club probably would've preferred having Isaac Bruce or even Rodney Harrison ahead of Carver.
Carver was a pass-rusher who rarely got to quarterbacks during his first few seasons with the Cowboys, but he did finish the 1997 season with six sacks. That one quality season, during which Carver started all 16 games, wasn't enough for the Cowboys to keep him around, and he never found a home with any other NFL team. The saving grace of this Dallas draft class is that the club acquired offensive lineman Larry Allen in the second round. Allen, an all-time great lineman, was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
1 Bobby Carpenter: Pick No. 18, 2006 NFL Draft
Odds are the Cowboys are probably still a bit embarrassed about this draft mistake. Dallas selected linebacker Bobby Carpenter in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, and Carpenter did little other than disappoint the franchise until the team traded him to the St. Louis Rams in the spring of 2010.
His lasting legacy as a member of the Cowboys will be members of the Dallas team believing he was soft, and also one of his teammates giving him the nickname “Barbie Carpenter” during an edition of the television show Hard Knocks. Antonio Cromartie, Tamba Hali, Nick Mangold, D'Qwell Jackson and Devin Hester are only a handful of the many recognizable names drafted after Carpenter. Looking back, we don't blame the Cowboys for wanting a re-do on this one.