Sports: Column, NFL draft brings new hope

Apr. 26—The NFL draft comes around each Spring and each franchise looks at the ducks in the tub and hope their pick has a winning number on the bottom.

The Dallas Cowboys have hit on quite a few in their six-decade plus history. They've also reeled in a few duds. But draft time is always a time of new hope.

Hey. Look at these guys, with shiny college football pedigrees. They're going to come in, plug some holes and maybe even become shining stars for the franchise.

Looking back on Cowboys drafts they'll never top their first one. The Pokes took on the NFL in 1960 without the benefit of a draft choice that first year. Despite winning exactly 0 games in that historic season, Dallas picked 13th in the 61 draft, a choice they spent on TCU defensive tackle Bob Lilly. Lilly, was the best at his position for the next decade and earned the title Mr. Cowboy. Big and strong from loading hay in his hometown of Throckmorton, Bob was a solid piece of granite to build a franchise around.

The next bingo for the Pokes was Lee Roy Jordan in 63, the Alabama Linebacker who would be a major cog in Tom Landry's Flex Defense, that allowed the MLB to roam, unmolested and zoom in for the tackle.

The Cowboys struck gold in 64 with the second round choice of defensive back Mel Renfro. Some NFL publications listed him on their all-decade team for the 60s.

But slide down to the 10th round pick that year and you'll find a stroke of genius. Dallas took Navy Quarterback Roger Staubach, despite his commitment to spend time in military service before he could ever join the team. Jolly Roger was the 129th player taken that year. The Cowboys' eighth round choice was halfback Al Geverink of UCLA. Never heard of him? I guess not all the Cowboys picks were genius.

During those days, Clint Murchison was the owner. There's a library named after him somewhere. Tex Schamm was the president of the franchise and Gil Brandt was VP in charge of player personnel.

They kept coming up with a hatfull of talent for Tom Landry to mold into a winning team. He did that quite well, rolling out 20 straight winning seasons.

The 69 pick was another eye opener. Dallas picked a running back from Yale. You don't see many Ivy leaguers in the NFL, but Calvin Hill was a star running back until injuries took their toll, gaining more than 6,000 yars.

The Cowboys' second round choice that year was Tennessee receiver Richmond Flowers, who was no relation to this writer, which should have been evident to anyone who saw the speedster run.

One year later, the Cowboys' first choice went for Duane Thomas. Thomas was the Pokes bell-cow in their first Super Bowl win, 24-3, over the Miami Dolphins. Thomas like to play head games with coaches and reporters, but unfortunately despite all of his on the fiel promise checked out of the league with only 2,038 yards.

In 1974, for the first time, Dallas had the top pick in the whole draft, so naturally they picked a player who stood out above the rest. That's right — Ed "Too Tall" Jones. The defensive end was a stalwart for over a decade.

The Pokes still had a couple of terrific number one choices left in the 70s. The number two overall pick corralled Randy White in 1975. The "Manster" turned out to be another Hall of Famer from the Doomsday line.

Then in 1977 the Cowboys again had the second choice in the first round and tagged Tony Dorsett, who ran for 12,739 yards, 99 on one try.

That's where the magic seemed to run its course. For the next few years, back picks, bad luck with injuries and other factors caused Dallas to have mostly misses with their first round picks.

Dallas righted the ship in 88, the last draft for Tom Landry and crew, with the choice of wide receiver Michael Irvin.

By the 89 draft, Tom was out and Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones were in. They found someone to throw Irvin the ball. UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman could outgun a lazer and was the perfect pick for the struggling Pokes.

The next year, Dallas completed probably the best three-for-three first round picks in team history, maybe NFL history, when they chose Emmitt Smith. If you wonder where he ranks among NFL rushers take a quick look.

Since then, Jones and crew have fanned quite a few times. Some of the better choices were Dez Bryant in 2010 Ezekiel Elliott in 2016 and Cee Dee Lamb in 2020.

Current Quarterback Dak Prescott was a fourth round pick in 2016.

Incidently, the Cowboy's all-time leading passer, Tony Romo signed as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois in 2003. Not all of the Easter Eggs are hidden on top.