Draft pedigree isn’t everything, but it certainly is something. When it comes to longevity in the NFL, the round a player was drafted is certainly a factor in being able to stick around for a long time. Firstly, despite drafting being an inexact science, the large majority of star players were rightfully identified as worthy of being taken early in the draft.
There’s a dark side, however, as teams often give highly-drafted players chance after chance to prove themselves in the league even when the talent isn’t necessarily there. With the Dallas Cowboys trading a fourth-round pick for former No. 3 overall selection Trey Lance, they are clearly hoping not to fall into the latter category of teams who were foolishly investing. Dallas adds Lance to a group of former first-round picks which will take up over 20% of the club’s 53-man roster next Tuesday. Here’s a roll call of those highly-regarded prospects who are rocking the star.
2023: Defensive lineman Mazi Smith
Smith may not start as DTs are notoriously slow starters in the league, but his power is immense and noteworthy.
2022: Offensive lineman Tyler Smith
Smith was a bit of a shocker, but the No. 24 overall pick started every game at left tackle as a rookie and fared pretty well.
2021: Quarterback Trey Lance
Lance was the No. 3 overall pick of San Francisco and now joins Dallas after just two seasons and falling down the depth chart.
2021: Linebacker Micah Parsons
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The 2021 class looks like it’s going to be one for the record books and Parsons is clearly the class’ top guy. Taken No. 12 overall, with a trade back hilariously, the Cowboys stole one here.
2020: Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb
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Lamb was a shocker to slide down to Dallas at No. 17, but Dallas is certainly glad he did. The third receiver taken in his class he appears to still be getting better entering his fourth season in the league.
2018: Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
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Vander Esch was the Cowboys’ own pick, selected No. 19 overall. He was a Pro Bowler initially and has bounced back after several injuries to be a core member of the defense.
2017: Safety Malik Hooker
Hooker was taken No. 15 overall by the Indianpolis Colts out of Ohio State and came over to Dallas as a free agent in 2021.
The Cowboys’ own first round pick was Taco Charlton, who didn’t last long in Dallas and is trying to resurrect his career this season with San Francisco.
2015: DE Dante Fowler
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Fowler was the No. 3 overall pick in 2015, going to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He joined Dallas in 2022 on a one-year deal and came back on another of the same for 2023.
Dallas’ first rounder that year was Byron Jones and the Cowboys also had No. 4 overall pick Amari Cooper on the team for several seasons.
2014: Offensive guard Zack Martin
(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
Martin was part of one of the best draft classes in recent memory with several players who will be considered for Hall of Fame induction. The No. 16 overall pick that class, Dallas famously “chose him over” QB Johnny Manziel.
Dallas also employed LB Anthony Barr in 2022 and he was the No. 9 selection.
2014: WR Brandin Cooks
Cooks came over to the Cowboys as a trade acquisition from Houston this past offseason. He was the No. 20 overall selection in this draft class and has been a 1,000-yard receiver on four different teams to this point.
One pick after Cooks went Ha-Ha Clinton Dix to Mike McCarthy’s Packers and he spent parts of 2020 with the Cowboys as well.
2012: CB Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore is another offseason trade acquisition. Originally selected No. 10 overall to the Buffalo Bills, Gilmore was the second CB drafted in that class. The first? Dallas traded up for Morris Claiborne at pick No. 6.
2011: Offensive tackle Tyron Smith
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Also in competition for best draft class of last decade alongside 2014, 2011 was a memorable one as well. Smith went No. 9 overall out of USC.