Dallas Cowboys' Top 5 1st-Round Picks During Jerry Jones' Tenure

John OwningCorrespondent IMay 16, 2014

Dallas Cowboys' Top 5 1st-Round Picks During Jerry Jones' Tenure

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    When Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, they were putrid. Three straight losing seasons was a rare occurrence for the storied Cowboys franchise. 

    Since Jones has been the owner, the Cowboys have been lifted to new heights. Three Super Bowl victories to go along with 13 winning seasons is a pretty good resume. 

    However, Jones gets a lot of flak for his propensity to be in the spotlight and seemingly strange decisions. 

    Jones is often characterized as an owner that will do whatever it takes to get in the limelight. This is evidenced by the multitude of reports that Jones would pick Johnny Manziel if he were available in last week's draft. 

    However, Jones went with the "boring" pick in offensive guard, Zack Martin, in the first round. 

    For the flak that he receives, Jones has done quite well in the draft, specifically in the first round. 

    The criteria I used for this ranking was; the impact they had on the team and how good the team was during their tenure.

Honorable Mentions

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Russell Maryland

    Russell Maryland was the first overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft. Maryland was on the Cowboys until 1995 and he was one of their best defensive lineman. In 1993, he was selected to the Pro Bowl for his outstanding play. 

    Maryland was very stout against the run and gave great effort. Maryland was a good contributor during the Cowboys' three Super Bowl wins. 

    While Maryland had a lot of team success, he did not have as much individual success as some others on the list did. 

     

    Greg Ellis

    Greg Ellis was the eighth overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. Ellis was a very productive defensive end for the Cowboys until he left in 2009. 

    Ellis was not only an impressive pass-rusher but he was also very reliable against the run. In 2007, Ellis won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award because he was very productive after returning from a torn Achilles tendon. 

    Unfortunately, the Cowboys were not very successful while Ellis was there. The Cowboys did not win a single playoff game while Ellis was there. Because of this, Ellis did not make the top five. 

     

    Alvin Harper

    Alvin Harper was the 12th overall pick in the 1991 draft. Harper was drafted to mainly give the Cowboys another receiving threat to go with Michael Irvin. Harper was a very productive No. 2 receiver until he left in 1995.  

    Harper is best known for his 70-yard catch and run to get the Cowboys in field-goal range to win the NFC Championship game in 1992. Harper was a part of the Cowboys' Super Bowl-winning teams in 1992 and 1993. 

    While Harper was a productive No. 2, he was not as productive as some other players on the list. Harper was never the primary target for the Cowboys so his production suffered.  

5. Tyron Smith

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    Tyron Smith was the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Smith was initially plugged in at right tackle before making the switch to left tackle in 2012. 

    Smith has proven to be very valuable and worthy of the first-round selection. When Smith was at right tackle, he was an incredible run-blocker with the athleticism to block the elite pass-rushers. 

    While it took a short amount of time to transition to left tackle, Smith has proven to be a dominant young tackle. In 2013, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Smith at plus-28.3, which is truly remarkable because it was only his third season in the NFL. 

    Smith has the ability to make any type of block there is. He can perform a reach block, he can pull and he can get out in the screen game. He can do anything you ask of him and he can do it well. 

    While Smith has been extremely productive in his short time, he still has many years to go. Smith doesn't yet have as many productive and impactful years as someone like DeMarcus Ware has. 

4. Dez Bryant

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    Dez Bryant went into the 2010 NFL draft with a myriad of character concerns. While Bryant was initially considered a lock to go in the top 10, he fell to the Cowboys with the 24th overall pick.

    Bryant has had some off-field issues since joining the Cowboys, but he has proven to be one of Jones' best draft picks. He has proven to be one of the best young receivers in the NFL. 

    Bryant's physicality makes him a nightmare to tackle for opposing defensive backs. Oftentimes, it takes two or three defenders to bring down Bryant. 

    When Bryant came into the NFL, he was not a very good route-runner and was often taken out of games by the upper echelon cornerbacks. However, he has improved his route running every year and that has made him almost impossible to stop. 

    Bryant's physicality and great hands make him a huge force in the red zone. Bryant already has 40 touchdowns in just four years in the NFL, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.

    While Bryant has had a very impressive career to this point, he does not have the body of work that a player like Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith have. Bryant also, doesn't have the team success that those players had. 

    However, if Bryant continues to improve and the Cowboys start having more success, you can expect for him to climb up this list when he retires. 

3. DeMarcus Ware

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    The big debate entering the 2005 NFL draft was whether DeMarcus Ware or Shawne Merriman was the best edge-rusher in the draft. When the Cowboys were on the clock at pick No. 11 both Ware and Merriman were still on the board. Jones and the Cowboys decided to go with Ware over Merriman and the rest is history.

    Ware has been a perennial Pro Bowler while Merriman has washed out of the league. In nine seasons, Ware has accumulated 117 sacks, according to NFL.com. Ware has been a First-Team All-Pro four times while being voted into the Pro Bowl seven times. 

    Ware got most of his accolades because of his incredible ability to rush the passer. However, a very underrated part of Ware's game is his ability to stop the run. Ware is great at setting the edge, using his hands and length to disengage and make the play.

    Ware has the rare ability to get to the quarterback using speed and power. Ware can use his amazing first-step to blow by the tackle or he can bull rush his way through a tackle. Ware is one of the few pass-rushers that was great in every aspect. 

    Ware has some of the best stats and achievements out of any Dallas Cowboys defender. However, Ware's dominance did not propel the Cowboys to much success. Because of this, Ware is not as good a first-round pick as a player like Troy Aikman was. 

2. Troy Aikman

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    Eric Draper/Associated Press

    One of Jones' best draft selections during his tenure with the Cowboys was Troy Aikman, who was the first overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft. 

    Aikman turned out to be a Hall of Fame selection and one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Aikman led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories in his 12 years with the Cowboys.

    Even though Aikman didn't have the gaudy stats we are used to quarterbacks having these days, Aikman did what matters most, he won.   

    From 1992 to 1995 the Cowboys had one of the best dynasties in the NFL. 

    Aikman was not only a great player on the field but he was also a good leader off of it. Aikman often led by example and was poised no matter what the situation was during his career. 

    On the field, he was deadly accurate with his passes and even though he was not known for his mobility, he was great at sliding in the pocket to create just enough time to throw the ball. 

    Aikman had the most wins out of any quarterback in the 1990s. Aikman has also held or tied 47 Cowboys passing records. 

    Aikman was given the prestigious honor of being inducted into the Cowboys' ring of honor in 2005. 

    The only reason that Aikman is not No. 1 on this list is because he was the first overall pick. Even though the Cowboys got a ton of value in picking Aikman, it was just barely below the amount of value the Cowboys got from Emmitt Smith. I know it is splitting hairs, but I had to find some reason to split the two. 

1. Emmitt Smith

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    LM OTERO/Associated Press

    The best first-round selection of Jones' tenure with the Cowboys was Emmitt Smith. Going into the 1990 NFL draft, some pundits felt that Smith was too small for the pros and he wouldn't be able to hold up in the NFL. Despite those opinions, Jones' Cowboys selected Smith with the 17th overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft. 

    The selection of Smith turned out to be one of the biggest steals in Cowboys history. 

    Smith put up numbers that are just unheard of in the NFL. Smith holds the record for most consecutive seasons with 1,000 rushing yards at 11. He was the regular season and Super Bowl MVP in 1993. Furthermore, he was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.

    Smith is also the record holder for the most rushing yards and touchdowns. 

    Smith was not the fastest, strongest or quickest running back, but he had great vision and knew how to cut through a defense. He had a nose for the end zone and he knew how to protect and take care of his body.

    Being the all-time leader in rushing yards is not only about being a great runner but also being able to stay healthy. Smith was the best embodiment of those two principles.  

    He was a part of three Super Bowl-winning Cowboys' teams and was the workhorse of the offense. Whenever the Cowboys needed to get their offense on track they just fed it to Smith. Smith was known for his toughness as evidenced by the myriad of injuries he played through. 

    Smith not only had a huge impact on a successful team but he was also one of the best values, which makes him the best first-round pick of Jones' tenure with the Cowboys.