Ferraris, Rolex watches, and seven figure homes. Welcome to the lavish Lifestyle. This slogan should be plastered all around the NFL Draft. The amount of money that NFL organizations hand out to rookies fresh of the college gridiron is absurd. Many of these players are only 20 years old and the second they hear Roger Goodell call out their name on that brightly lit stage, they immediately know that they can soon bathe in sweet green cash, if they so wish. Do not get me wrong, I do not have an issue with players being compensated for working extremely hard, but it is just mind-blowing that such young, unproven players can be handed paychecks with such monumental values.
Even though I am a die hard Philadelphia Eagles fan, I am able to recognize when the arch-enemy has made a strategic move. For that reason, I have studied the Dallas Cowboys' last 20 moves made in the first-round of the NFL Draft. Even though as a fan I have no control over how the Eagles pick their players and how they decide to scout the Cowboys players, I still enjoy having the knowledge of who could turn out to be an Eagle killer, who I am, for sure, going to boo the loudest and the most, and who I am going to have to hide my eyes from every time they touch the pigskin.
Here are the Cowboys' first round picks of the past 20 years, ranked from worst to best.
20 Shante Carver - 23rd overall, 1994
Shante Carver was drafted 23rd overall in the 1994 NFL Draft. He was a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys who played college football at Arizona State University. While Carver won a Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXX), as a professional football player, he did not play a very large role in that championship season.
Over the course of his four year NFL career, Carver only participated in 52 games (26 starts). In those 52 games, he recorded 11.5 sacks and 1 fumble recovery. At the time of his drafting, Carver looked like a steal. He was a two-time All-American while at Arizona State and had the build to be a great player (6'5'', 253 pounds).
After failing as an NFL player, Carver moved onto a four-year career in Arena League Football.
19 David LaFleur - 22nd overall, 1997
David LaFleur was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys out of Louisiana State University in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft (22nd overall). A third-team All-American while in college, LaFleur was never quite able to translate his college successes to the pros.
In his 80 career games with the Dallas Cowboys (and in the NFL), LaFleur put up 85 receptions, 729 yards, and 12 touchdowns. The majority of those touchdowns came in 1999, when he recorded seven. It is even more surprising that LaFleur was unable to be more successful when you find out that Hall of Famer Troy Aikman was his quarterback.
While LaFleur was not very successful on the field, the Cowboys still had wanted to keep him when they cut him in 2001. Unfortunately for LaFleur, football had taken a major toll on his body and he developed very bad back issues. In training camp of the 2001 season, the Cowboys were forced to cut him from the roster when he failed the mandatory physical.
18 Bobby Carpenter - 18th overall, 2006
Bobby Carpenter was drafted 18th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. He played his college football at Ohio State University. In his eight seasons as an NFL Linebacker, Carpenter played in a total of 93 games, recording 167 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
While Carpenter enjoyed a long career, he was never worth a first-round pick. The Cowboys reached with this pick when they had a clear need at the linebacker position and it did not turn out well. It was surprising when the Cowboys selected him in the first-round given that he had only started 26 games in his four-year college football career, and he was coming off of a broken fibula. Carpenter only ended up playing four seasons for the Cowboys, none of which were useful.
17 Felix Jones - 22nd overall, 2008
Felix Jones was drafted 22nd overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. He played his college football at the University of Arkansas, where he saw great success. In his three seasons as a Razorback, Jones scored 27 touchdowns and had amassed a total of 5,081 scrimmage yards.
While in the NFL, Jones did not see nearly as much success. In his six NFL seasons, he only was able to amass 6,185 total yards from scrimmage. That is not even close to the same number on a per year basis as his time in college.
During his time in the NFL, Jones played for the Dallas Cowboys (five years) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (one year). In that span, he totaled the number of yards listed above and scored 15 total touchdowns. As a running back in the NFL, Jones was just not effective enough to warrant a spot on another team after he was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 2013 season.
16 Marcus Spears - 20th overall, 2005
Marcus Spears was drafted 20th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. After growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Spears decided stay very close to home and play his college football for the Louisiana State University Tigers. At LSU, Spears was a two-time SEC Champion, a one-time Consensus All-American, a two-time First-team All-SEC, and a member of the 2003 BCS National Champion, Nick Saban led, LSU Tigers.
After being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2005, Spears never really was able to translate his great success in college onto the field in the pros. While he was able to play nine seasons in the NFL, he was never truly able to become anything great. Spears never made it to the Pro-Bowl and or received any NFL honors.
While he was a solid defensive end, his 236 tackles, 10 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles for his entire career were not enough to bump him any higher than 16th on this list.
15 Ebenezer Ekuban - 20th overall, 1999
Ebenezer Ekuban was drafted 20th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft. Before playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Ekuban played at the University of North Carolina. At North Carolina, he began his career playing tight end. After struggling to make an impact at that position though, he converted to defensive end. Making the switch was obviously a great decision for Ekuban since it earned him league honors in the ACC and got him drafted in 1999.
While in the NFL, Ekuban never really made a huge impact. He was able to play in nine NFL seasons, but missed a fair amount of games due to various injuries. For his career, Ekuban was only able to amass a total of 275 tackles. He was, however, able to total 36.5 sacks for his career, which is a very respectable number. Along with those numbers, Ekuban also forced seven fumbles and recovered seven fumbles.
A fun fact about Ebenezer Ekuban is that he is distinguished as the first Ghanaian to ever play in the NFL.
14 Morris Claiborne - 6th overall, 2012
Morris Claiborne was drafted 6th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was selected out of Louisiana State University where he was an SEC Defensive Player of the Year, an SEC Champion, a winner of the Jim Thorpe Award, a First-team All-SEC selection, a Second-team All-SEC selection, and a Unanimous All-American.
While Claiborne had amazing success in college, he has yet to showcase that same talent in the NFL. Up until this past 2016 season, Claiborne was one of the lowest rated cornerbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately for him, while he was having a very good season in 2016, he missed more than half of it due to various injuries.
Over the course of his five-year NFL career, Claiborne has thus far totaled 151 total tackles, 27 passes defended, four interceptions, four fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and one touchdown. If Claiborne is able to stay healthy and show that he is capable of playing like he did in 2016, he will end up being a very successful player.
13 Robert Jones - 24th overall, 1992
Robert Jones was drafted 24th overall in the 1992 NFL Draft. Jones played his college football at East Carolina University where he was a Consensus All-American in 1991. Following his professional career, Jones was inducted into the East Carolina Hall of Fame for his time there.
As a pro, Jones played 10 seasons. Of those 10 seasons, Jones spent four of them in Dallas as a Cowboy, two in St. Louis as a Ram, three in Miami as a Dolphin, and one in Washington as a Redskin. As a pro, Jones found some fairly decent success. He was the NFC Rookie of the Year in 1992 and made it to the Pro Bowl in 1994. While he only ended up spending four seasons in Dallas, Jones was able to win three Super Bowls with the Cowboys in that short tenure.
For his career as a linebacker, Jones totaled 632 total tackles, eight sacks, three interceptions, 23 passes defended, and one touchdown.
12 Anthony Spencer - 26th overall, 2007
Anthony Spencer was drafted 26th overall in 2007. Spencer played his college football at Purdue University. In his senior season, he was named the Boilermakers' Most Valuable Player after having a monster season.
While in the pros though, Spencer never truly became anything great. He made it to the Pro Bowl in 2012 as an outside linebacker, but other than that, he never really had any very good seasons. While Spencer is still looking to play today, he has not been given a tryout since 2015 when the New Orleans Saints gave him one to prove himself in the preseason. Unfortunately for Spencer, while he was having a fairly productive preseason, he got injured and the Saints were forced to cut him before the season began.
11 Byron Jones - 27th overall, 2015
Byron Jones was drafted 27th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Jones was drafted out of the University of Connecticut where he finished his career with the Huskies totaling 223 tackles, eight interceptions, and two touchdowns.
As a pro, Jones has not done anything so far in his career that would point to him being a great player, but he is only going into his third NFL season. In 2016, he started all 16 games for the Cowboys at free safety. That is fairly impressive given the Cowboys' 13-3 record and 1st overall seed in the NFC.
So far, Jones has played well at the free safety position for the Cowboys. He has played in all 32 games, which is a good sign in terms of his durability and of those 32 games, he has started 27, which points to him becoming a very solid player for the Cowboys.
10 Greg Ellis - 8th overall, 1998
Greg Ellis was drafted 8th overall in the 1998 NFL Draft. He was drafted out of the University of North Carolina, where he enjoyed an extremely decorated career. At North Carolina, Ellis was a 3-time First-team All-ACC selection, a Consensus All-American in 1997, and left North Carolina as their all-time sack leader.
In the NFL, Ellis was not the greatest all-around defensive end, but he was great at getting after the quarterback like he had been known to do in college. Over his 12-year NFL career, Ellis amassed 84 sacks. That is a very good number considering he did not see the field very often as a rookie and that he was only able to participate in nine games in the 2006 season due to an Achilles injury. The year following his devastating Achilles injury, Ellis was named the Comeback Player of the Year and named to his sole Pro Bowl.
Over the course of his career, Ellis totaled 525 total tackles, 84 sacks, 23 forced fumbles, and recovered 10 fumbles.
9 Mike Jenkins - 25th overall, 2008
Mike Jenkins was drafted 25th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. He played his college football at the University of South Florida. While at South Florida, Jenkins recorded a school-record 47 passes defended. He also was able to amass 133 tackles, six interceptions, and five forced fumbles.
As a pro, Jenkins has been a bit unlucky. He was able to make it to the Pro Bowl in 2009 as a cornerback, but since then, he has been cursed with the injury bug. Jenkins was actually signed to a contract last season with the Arizona Cardinals and was in the running to start as the cornerback opposite of Patrick Peterson, but tore his ACL in a preseason game against the Houston Texans.
Over the course of his eight-year NFL career, Jenkins totaled 244 total tackles, 54 passes defended, 10 interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one touchdown. It is unfortunate that Jenkins is at number 11 on this list because if it was not for injuries, he could be a lot higher.
8 Terence Newman - 5th overall, 2003
Terence Newman was drafted 5th overall in the 2003 NFL Draft. He was selected out of Kansas State University where he was an All-American for football and for track, an All-Big 12 selection, a Second-team All-Big 12 selection, the Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and a winner of the Jim Thorpe award.
In the pros, Terence Newman has been one of the most durable players to ever play the position of cornerback. He and Deion Sanders are the only two NFL players to have ever had two interceptions in the same game after the age of 37 years old. Newman has played in 14 NFL seasons and has signed on with the Vikings to continue playing in 2017. He has been to two Pro Bowls and has 41 career interceptions. Some of his other statistics that stand out are his 841 total tackles and his 167 passes defended.
Terence Newman has been a great cornerback throughout his career and the fact that he is still playing at the age of 38 is amazing.
7 Roy Williams - 8th overall, 2002
Roy Williams was selected 8th overall in the 2002 NFL Draft. He was selected out of the University of Oklahoma where he has a building named after him, where he won the Jack Tatum Trophy, the Jim Thorpe Award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and where he was named a two-time First-team All-Big 12 selection and a Unanimous All-American.
As a professional football player, Williams pretty much left off right where he started in college. As a rookie, Williams played in all 16 games and recorded 99 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, five interceptions, eight passes defended, and two touchdowns. Those numbers are good for a player in their prime, but for a rookie, that is very impressive. From his sophomore season to 2007 (five years), Williams never missed a Pro Bowl.
In total, Roy Williams amassed 593 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, 20 interceptions, 58 passes defended, and 3 touchdowns. These statistics were totaled over nine NFL seasons.
6 Dez Bryant - 24th overall, 2010
Dez Bryant was selected 24th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was drafted out of Oklahoma State University where he was a First-team All-Big 12 selection and a Consensus All-American.
In the NFL, Dez Bryant immediately had an impact. In his rookie season, Bryant caught 6 touchdown passes. Since that 2010 season, he has caught 61 more touchdowns. While Bryant has only had three seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards, he is always considered one of the best wide receivers in the league. Since coming into the league, Bryant has been to three Pro Bowls, has been named a First-team All-Pro once, and has led the NFL in touchdown receptions once (16 in 2014).
While Dez Bryant has not been a great person or an amazing player, he certainly has the ability to be a great receiver one, if he wants to be, and two, if he has the right quarterback throwing him the ball. When Tony Romo was healthy, he was definitely the right quarterback, but unfortunately for Dez, Dak Prescott has taken the reigns. This past season was certainly not Bryant's best season, but we will see how the two grow together.
5 Zack Martin - 16th overall, 2014
Zack Martin was selected 16th in the 2014 NFL Draft. Martin played his college football at the University of Notre Dame. Martin has made an immediate impact for the Dallas Cowboys. He has yet to miss a Pro Bowl is his young career and is already a two-time First-team All-Pro and a 1-time Second-team All-Pro.
Martin has been one of the reasons why the Dallas Cowboys have made the playoffs two out of the last three years. He, along with the other four offensive linemen in Dallas (Doug Free just retired) have become a real force in the NFL. They are known as one of, if not the, best offensive lines in the league. This offensive line has helped DeMarco Murray lead the league in rushing and helped rookie sensation, Ezekiel Elliot, have a great rookie rushing campaign.
4 Tyron Smith - 9th overall, 2011
Tyron Smith was drafted 9th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. He played his college football at the University of Southern California where he earned First-team All-Pac 10 honors and where he won the Morris Trophy.
Much of what was just said about Zack Martin can be said again about Tyron Smith. Smith has had an excellent career thus far. He has been to the Pro Bowl four times, is a two-time First-team All-Pro, and is a two-time Second-team All-Pro. For all of his hard work and proven abilities, Smith became the highest paid offensive lineman in the league prior to the 2014 season when Jerry Jones signed him to an eight-year $109 million contract extension. Smith was also apart of the offensive line that helped DeMarco Murray lead the NFL in rushing and allowed both Elliott and Prescott have amazing rookie seasons in 2016, with Prescott winning rookie of the year.
3 Travis Frederick - 31st overall, 2013
Travis Frederick was drafted 31st overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. He was selected out of the University of Wisconsin where he was a two-time Big Ten champion and a First-team All-American. While Frederick now plays center for the Dallas Cowboys, up until his junior year of college, he played offensive tackle.
As a professional football player, Frederick has already been to three Pro Bowls and has been named twice as a Second-team All-Pro and once as a First-team All-Pro. Frederick has played a huge role in the success of the Dallas Cowboys. He leads their league-best offensive line that has helped both DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliot lead the league in rushing. Frederick has also been a big help to the emerging Dak Prescott who had a great rookie campaign in 2016.
2 Ezekiel Elliott - 4th overall, 2016
Ezekiel Elliott was selected 4th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. He was drafted out of the Ohio State University. At Ohio State, Zeke won a College Football Playoff National Championship, a Big Ten Championship, the James E. Sullivan award, the Big Ten Most Valuable Player award, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award, was a First-team All-Big Ten selection, and was a second-team All-American.
As a professional football player, Elliott has wasted no time becoming a great running back. In his rookie season, Elliott was the NFL's leading rusher, named to the Pro Bowl, and a First-Team All-Pro selection. In 2016, he caught 32 passes for 363 yards and one touchdown, to go along with his 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing.
1 DeMarcus Ware - 11th overall, 2005
The recently retired DeMarcus Ware was drafted 11th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. He had an extremely decorated career in college where he was a two-time All-Sun Belt selection and the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. Ware has also since been named to the Sun-Belt Conference All-Decade Team, has been inducted into the Troy University Sports Hall of Fame, and has been inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame.
In the pros, Ware did not slow down. He is 8th on the all-time sacks (138.5) list and is 1st in all-time sacks (117) and forced fumbles (32) for the Dallas Cowboys. Along with those numbers, Ware has also totaled 654 tackles, three interceptions, and three touchdowns as a defensive end and outside linebacker. Ware has been named to nine Pro Bowls, has been selected three times as a First-team All-Pro, three times as a Second-team All-Pro, has twice been the NFL's sack leader, once won the NFC Defensive Player of the Year award, has won two Butkus awards, and has been named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. Ware has also won a Super Bowl as a member of the Denver Broncos.
In terms of Cowboys players, DeMarcus Ware is right up there with the Emmitt Smith's and Deion Sanders. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as one of the Dallas Cowboys' all-time greats and one of the NFL's all-time great defensive players.