The 2005 NFL Draft was one to remember for the Dallas Cowboys. It will likely go down in history as the seventh time the Cowboys drafted a Hall-of-Famer with their first round pick (they did that in three consecutive years between 1988-90 with Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith) as they drafted DeMarcus Ware with the no. 11 pick in that draft.
Ware would go on to become one of the most prolific pass rushers in the game, recording 117 sacks in his Cowboys tenure that came to an end this past offseason. The ‘05 Draft also included the selection of Marcus Spears in the first round (no. 20 overall). He would be a serviceable defensive end over eight seasons, tallying 10 sacks over 119 games.
DeMarcus Ware would certainly be a tough standard of comparison for future first round picks. But let’s take a look at the Cowboys’ top draft choices in the years since that have, for the most part, fallen well short of Ware:
2006: The Cowboys’ follow-up act to the 2005 draft included the selection of Bobby Carpenter in the first round, no. 18 overall. Carpenter, a projected first-rounder out of Ohio State, played in 58 games over four years with Dallas, starting just three and recording 57 tackles. Dallas signed the former Buckeye to a five-year contract with over $7 million in guaranteed money for less than a tackle per game.
He played for Detroit, Miami and New England before not finding NFL work in 2013.
2007: Dallas made five trades in all in the ‘07 draft, including trading out of the first round and then back in to ultimately grab Anthony Spencer. Spencer would record three sacks in his rookie season before a down year in 2008. Playing opposite Ware, he compiled 28 sacks and 10 forced fumbles over the next four years before missing almost all of 2013 with an injury. Dallas just recently resigned Spencer to revitalize his Cowboy career.
The ‘Boys traded out of their first round selection, where Cleveland took Brady Quinn. In a draft that was doomed by the Raiders taking Jamarcus Russell no. 1 overall - ahead of Calvin Johnson - Spencer has to be considered a win.
2008: In another year in which the Cowboys had two first round selections, they landed Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins. Jenkins underachieved, save his five-interception season in 2009. He was bothered by injuries in his last two seasons in Dallas before becoming an Oakland Raider in 2013.
Jones never got the chance to be a featured back, playing alongside Marion Barber and later DeMarco Murray. Jones rushed for 800 yards in 2010 and boasted a 4.8 yards-per-cary average as a Cowboy. Jones played for the Steelers in 2013.
2009: The Cowboys didn’t have a first round selection in 2009. With their first pick (third round, no. 69 overall) they took Jason Williams, out of Western Illinois. Williams played 10 games in one-plus seasons with Dallas, recording one tackle. Dallas had 12 picks in the ‘09 draft, with the most notable selections being linebacker Victor Butler and kickoff specialist David Buehler.
2010: Dez Bryant was still on the board late in the first round after a tumultuous end to his Oklahoma State career. Jerry Jones decided to trade up three spots in the draft to take Bryant with the no. 24 pick in the first round. His 293 catches, 4,104 yards and 40 touchdowns in his first four seasons with Dallas are each better numbers than Calvin Johnson put up in his first four years. Although Bryant seems to find a way to be in the midst of off-the-field controversy or debates about his attitude, he is the team’s top receiver and biggest offensive weapon. He made the 2013 Pro Bowl.
2011: The Cowboys selected offensive lineman Tyron Smith out of USC. Smith has been effective at left tackle for the ‘Boys and made the 2013 Pro Bowl. In a year when Dallas needed an offensive lineman, it found a good one in Smith, who has anchored a much-improved O-line in his three-year tenure as a starter.
2012: Similar to 2014, Dallas was lacking depth on defense in 2012. Nonetheless, Jerry traded the first and second round picks to the Rams to move up to no. 6 in the first round and draft Morris Claiborne, the highest-rated corner in the draft who also boasted a 4 on the wonderlic test (for anyone who didn’t catch the sarcasm, a 4 is terrible). Claiborne has epically underachieved and has not been reliable as the top cornerback he was touted to be. He has recorded just two interceptions in his two NFL seasons, and started just seven games last year.
2013: This is a tough one, since Travis Frederick was a solid player in his first year as a Cowboy. Dallas traded down to the no. 31 pick in the first round and took the center out of Wisconsin, who had a second-round grade by most draft analyses. He was the 53rd-ranked played according to CBS Sports. While at the time it didn’t appear that Dallas maximized its opportunity with the trade and with its first round choice, Frederick has made the front office look good through one season. Either great scouting or a lucky selection gives Dallas a hall pass for not selecting defensive tackle Shariff Floyd with its original first round choice.
Cowboys first round choices have been a mixed bag. Theirs is a “war room” that gets caught up in the debate of drafting for need versus taking the best player available, and sometimes ends up taking neither. Dallas is in a decent spot at no. 16 to make upgrades to its defense in a deep draft. However, Jerry Jones has said that it’s hard to imagine trade opportunities not being there by the time Dallas’ pick comes up, too.