NFL Draft: Ranking Jay Ratliff, 5 Best Dallas Cowboys Final Round Steals

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIMarch 1, 2012

NFL Draft: Ranking Jay Ratliff, 5 Best Dallas Cowboys Final Round Steals

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    Drafting in the seventh round of the NFL draft is tough. Often, the mix of talent is poor. Many of the players are fringe NFL talent. Generally, a good seventh-round pick is a good special teams guy or someone who just manages to start. Not many seventh-round picks become full-time starters. Jerry Jones has turned quite a few starters from seventh-round Dallas Cowboys picks.

    Jones has done a solid job picking players in the last round of the draft (going back to before it was just seven rounds). He's not only picked several players from the final round who became starters but has picked some who became starters for multiple years. Some, such as Jay Ratliff, have become strong talents despite being at the bottom of the barrel.

    Follow along to see how Ratliff ranks among the seventh-round steals Jones has pulled off for the Cowboys.

5. Jacques Reeves (Seventh Round, No. 223 Overall, 2004)

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    Many would knock Jacques Reeves for being a poor cover corner.

    Still, Reeves was pretty good for where the Cowboys drafted him. The Purdue product played four of his six NFL seasons with the Cowboys, appearing in 60 games for Dallas. Reeves collected 90 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception in a Cowboys uniform.

    His production was paltry for his first three years. He only started one game in that time. Then he picked it up in his fourth year, 2007, starting 13 of 16 games played and garnering 52 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Also, Reeves activated his mittens to deflect 12 passes.

    Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Reeves would put to shame those numbers while playing for the Houston Texans the next season, picking up four interceptions and 19 pass deflections.

    Nevertheless, that Reeves played four full seasons for the Cowboys and had one strong season as a starter that deserves merit.

4. Patrick Crayton (Seventh Round, No. 216 Overall, 2004)

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    Patrick Crayton, whom the Cowboys drafted seven places before Jacques Reeves, did a nice job while wearing the Cowboys silver and navy blue. He played 82 games for the Cowboys in six seasons. In that span, Crayton caught 196 passes for 2,888 yards and 23 touchdowns. Also, he was a nice punt return man, averaging 9.6 yards per return in Dallas.

    Crayton had a couple of particularly promising seasons. His best year for the Cowboys was 2007. In his only year as a starter, Crayton caught 50 passes for 697 yards and seven touchdowns.

    His 2009 campaign was pretty nice. He caught 37 passes for 622 yards—good for a 16.8 yards per catch rate, which was seventh best in the NFL—and five touchdowns. Also, he was one of the premier punt returners that year, placing fourth in punt return yards (437) and average (12.1) and first in punts returned for touchdowns (two).

    On November 22, 2009, Crayton hauled in the game-winning catch against the Washington Redskins.

    The Sporting News selected him to their All-Pro second team.

    His year was made bittersweet by his four fumbles.

    Crayton could have been better, but he filled his role well, stretching the field and making clutch plays.

3. Omar Stoutmire (Seventh Round, No. 224 Overall, 1997)

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    Omar Stoutmire definitely overplayed his draft position. He lasted 11 seasons in the NFL, playing his first two with the Cowboys. He played quite well for the Cowboys in his 32 games and 14 starts before moving on. He collected 38 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in 1997. In 1998, he had 36 tackles, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.

    He started 12 of his 16 games in 1998.

    While the Cowboys might have hoped to build something with Stoutmire, he moved on to bigger and better things elsewhere, signing with the New York Jets in the following offseason.

    Even though the Cowboys couldn't hang on to him, Stoutmire found a nice springboard for his career in Dallas.

2. Larry Brown (12th Round, No. 320 Overall, 1991)

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    Larry Brown was a terrific find in the 12th round of the 1991 draft. The Cowboys had him for six of his eight years. Brown gave them 83 games, 74 of them starts.

    Brown hit it off very well from the start in Dallas. He had a spectacular rookie year, totaling 68 tackles (which remained his career high), two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He collected more than 60 tackles in each of the next two years. In 1994, Brown gathered a nice total of four interceptions and 43 tackles.

    1995 was Brown's banner year. He broke out for six interceptions—two returned for touchdowns—and 43 tackles. He won the Super Bowl MVP Award, picking off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell twice.

    After two years with the Oakland Raiders, the TCU product returned to the Cowboys in 1998, playing four games before retiring.

    Brown gave the Cowboys a great amount of production for such a low pick.

1. Jay Ratliff (Seventh Round, No. 224 Overall, 2005)

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    Jay Ratliff has been the most consistent Cowboys starter coming out of the final round of a draft. Ratliff, who played 19 games in his first two years mostly as a backup defensive end, took a couple years to grow into a starter.

    After he grew, Ratliff didn't let go of his starting role as the Cowboys' defensive tackle. He's started 78 of the 79 games he's played in the last five years and has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last four years. Not many seventh round picks become four-time Pro Bowlers, let alone All-Pro players like Ratliff has.

    In 2008, Ratliff came up big, picking up 7.5 sacks, five pass deflections and 33 tackles.

    In his All-Pro 2009 campaign, Ratliff gathered six sacks, 29 tackles and four fumble recoveries (fifth in the NFL).

    Before this season, Ratliff received a five-year, $30 million extension. He responded with a Pro Bowl season, gaining 29 tackles, three pass deflections, two sacks and a fumble recovery. That's not great for the money, but Ratliff did his job.

    The former Auburn Tiger has done just that in his five years as a starter, even if he is out of position as a nose tackle.