The Worst Dallas Cowboys Picks in Past 5 Drafts
The Dallas Cowboys are widely considered one of the NFL’s worst drafting teams, but it’s not like the team is totally inept. Over the past five years, the Cowboys have found value on players like Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Tyron Smith, and Sean Lee.
Although they aren’t among the worst drafting teams in the league, they certainly aren’t near the top, either. For every pick that works out, there has been another that makes you scratch your head. Sometimes, you can glean a lot of knowledge about a team’s aims by studying how and when it selects players.
In studying the Cowboys drafts, it’s very clear that they’ve placed little importance on the use of analytics. That might be changing, but as recently as last year, there were decisions by the Cowboys that a team playing the percentages simply wouldn't have made.
With that said, let’s take a look at the worst Dallas Cowboys choice from each of the last five drafts.
2009: Stephen McGee, QB, Texas A&M
The 2009 draft was perhaps the worst of all-time for Dallas. With 12 picks, but none in the first two rounds, the Cowboys managed to land Jason Williams, Robert Brewster, Stephen McGee, Victor Butler, Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Smith, Michael Hamlin, David Buehler, Stephen Hodge, John Phillips, Mike Mickens and Manuel Johnson. Wow.
It’s difficult to nominate the “worst of the worst” from this class, but my choice is McGee, the first player taken in the fourth round.
Coming out of Texas A&M, there was really nothing that suggested McGee could play at an NFL level. He was horribly inefficient in college, completing only 59.5 percent of his passes and averaging just 6.7 yards per attempt. When a quarterback can’t consistently complete passes at the collegiate level, that’s a big red flag.
When you look at McGee’s hand size (nine inches), you see why he was so inaccurate. Based on my past research, quarterbacks with small hands typically have trouble controlling the football, turning in worse completion rates than those with bigger hands. The league average hand size for passers is 9.6 inches, so McGee’s nine-inch hands are very small.
McGee could move around in the pocket, but that doesn’t do much good if you can’t accurately throw the football.
Honorable Mention: Jason Williams, LB, Western Illinois
2010: Jamar Wall, CB, Texas Tech
The Cowboys’ 2010 draft was a successful one. They landed Dez Bryant and Sean Lee in the first two rounds, while missing on Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Sam Young in the middle rounds. Those picks weren’t necessarily poor ones, though. Owusu-Ansah was a big cornerback who probably should have stayed at that position in the NFL, while Young was a successful college tackle who sported long, 34.5-inch arms.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys spent a sixth-round pick on cornerback Jamar Wall, who stood just 5’10”. Wall ended up with one career tackle and hasn’t played in a regular season game since his rookie year.
Honorable Mention: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB, Indiana (PA)
2011: Shaun Chapas, FB, Georgia
It’s certainly OK to miss on late-round picks since they rarely pan out, but the selection of a fullback really didn’t make much sense. For starters, they’re highly replaceable. You can pick up a fullback as an undrafted free agent, which Chapas might very well have been if Dallas didn’t take him in the seventh round.
The other main issue is that head coach Jason Garrett has had an identity crisis in regard to what kind of personnel he wants to use. One year he wants to use a fullback, the next, it's two and three tight ends. Another year later, it's four wide receivers. The selection of Chapas was a poor one because it seemed like it wasn’t thought out. Plus, when you consider how many plays a fullback will legitimately be on the field and the limited upside one can provide, it would have been better for Dallas to take a shot on a true tailback late in the draft.
Honorable Mention: David Arkin, G, Missouri State
2012: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Cornerback Morris Claiborne has been a severe disappointment to this point in his career, turning in just two interceptions combined in his first two seasons. Claiborne was a really interesting player coming out of LSU because, at 5’11”, 190 pounds and without elite speed, the numbers suggested he was going to struggle in the NFL, or at the very least return poor value. Nonetheless, Claiborne was rated as the consensus top defensive player in the draft, even though he appealed more to true scouts than stat geeks.
As of this moment, the stat geeks have won. The biggest problem for Dallas is that it gave up a second-round pick to move up in the draft to secure Claiborne. The move looked good at the time, as Dallas got someone considered to be the draft's best defensive player with the sixth overall pick.
In hindsight, it doesn’t look as smart to give up your first two draft picks for an undersized cornerback who can’t run well. Not that Dallas would have drafted the same player, but the prospect who was selected with the Cowboys’ dealt second-rounder was 2013 Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Honorable Mention: Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech
2013: Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
This is a no-brainer. In a draft that was otherwise solid, the Cowboys’ worst pick was running back Joseph Randle. Straight-line speed kills for running backs. If a back isn’t 4.55 or better, his chances of NFL success are small.
If a back doesn’t have blazing speed, though, he better be big. Listed anywhere between 198 and 204 pounds, Randle is a tall, lean, slow running back. Because backs are so reliant on their offensive lines, Randle still has a chance to produce a little bit in the NFL if he gets touches. But the probability of him putting up meaningful numbers is very low.
Even worse for Dallas, the Rams' emerging runner Zac Stacy—a much larger back with better speed—was still on the board when they took Randle.
Honorable Mention: B.W. Webb, CB, William & Mary