by Adam Fournier, Ourlads’ Intern
Following an 11-4 finish in 2009, the Cowboys were a simply average team over the next four seasons including three finishes in a row at 8-8. However the Cowboys broke through with a 12-win season in 2014. The Cowboys’ resurgence in 2014 had a lot to do with the contributions of young players drafted in the past five years.
While the Cowboys have drafted some big name playmakers in the last five years, it is only fair to start with their excellent selections on the offensive line. The Cowboys’ offensive line was arguably the best offensive line in the NFL last season thanks to some big play from three of their picks in the last five years. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin were all 1st round picks and have been huge for Dallas since coming into the league in their respective years. The trio has only missed one game combined since coming into the league and were all selected to the 2014 Pro Bowl with Smith also making the 2013 Pro Bowl. The Cowboys will be counting on these three to be huge for the 2015 season and many years to come.
Along with the linemen, the Cowboys have drafted some big name playmakers in the past five years. The most notable is wide receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant has been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL the past few years and has made the last two Pro Bowls. After locking up Bryant for five more years in 2015, the Cowboys will be relying on him to be their number one receiver for many years. Across the field from Bryant is another big contributor drafted in the last five years in 2013 3rd rounder Terrance Williams. Williams has been a big contributor as the number two receiver in the past two seasons. Bryant and Williams form one of the best receiving duos for the 2015 season. The Cowboys also found a gem in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft when they drafted DeMarco Murray. Murray was one of the top players in the league last season winning the AP and PFWA NFL Offensive Player of the Year Awards. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Murray moved on in the 2015 offseason to division rival Philadelphia. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys have drafted some impact players the past five years. The most impactful has been linebacker Sean Lee. Although he has struggled a bit with injuries, Lee has been a big time player for Dallas in the past five seasons. After missing the entire 2014 season, Lee is expected to be a starter in 2015 following his recovery.
The Cowboys have also had a few duds in the past five seasons. The last five first round picks of the Cowboys are Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Morris Claiborne, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. One of these names stick out like a sore thumb compared to the others and that is Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys traded up to draft Claiborne 6th overall, and he has failed to live up to that decision. Claiborne was a Thorpe Award winner at LSU but has not translated to the NFL so far. Claiborne will have to step his game up big time to avoid being a complete bust. Claiborne is not the only miss for the Cowboys in the past five years. Their 2010 4th round selection Akwasi Owusu-Ansah did not last long in Dallas and did not make an impact in his time there. One of the more unfortunate draft misses was 2013 6th rounder DeVonte Holloman. Holloman made minor contributions as a rookie but suffered a neck injury during a preseason game the following year. The injury forced Holloman to retire after only a year in the league.