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DNM: All-time best and worst Dallas Cowboys draft picks by position: Linebackers

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  • DNM: All-time best and worst Dallas Cowboys draft picks by position: Linebackers

    All-time best and worst Dallas Cowboys draft picks by position: Linebackers


    Bob Breunig, Arizona State
    1975, third round (No. 70 overall)
    Breunig came out of the "Dirty Dozen'' draft class that roused the Cowboys with its rookie exuberance. A year after going 8-6, the kid-fueled Cowboys reached the Super Bowl. Breunig became the starter on the strong side in 1976 and moved to the middle a year later, replacing Lee Roy Jordan to become only the third starter at the position in club history. Breunig led the Cowboys in tackles four times during a five-year span that began in 1979.
    Breunig appeared in three Pro Bowls. Before Breunig, Jordan was the Cowboys only drafted Pro Bowl linebacker.

    D.D. Lewis, Mississippi State
    1968, sixth round (No. 159 overall)
    Lewis' size - 6 feet 1 and 225 pounds - worked against him in the draft, but his speed and quickness made him a good fit in Tom Landry's "Flex" defense. In 1973, Lewis replaced Chuck Howley as the weak-side starter. Lewis went on to start 20 postseason games and appear in five Super Bowls with the Cowboys. Lewis had 135 consecutive starts, tying him with Bob Lilly for third on the club's all-time list.
    Lewis' career performance came in the 1975 NFC title game against the Los Angeles Rams, when he had two interceptions in the 37-7 win. Interceptions were not Lewis' strength. He had only eight interceptions in 186 career regular-season games.

    DeMarcus Ware, Troy (drafted as a DE)
    2005, first round (No. 11 overall)
    Ware's progress indicates he will climb to the top of this list well before the end of his career. Ware has been named to seven Pro Bowls, most for a linebacker in franchise history. Ware, who plays the weak side, specializes in making life miserable for quarterbacks. He had a league-high 20 sacks in 2008, third-highest total in club history, and a league-high 15.5 in 2010. (Harvey Martin set the record with 23 sacks in the 14-game season of 1977.) Ware has 111 sacks in eight seasons. Martin is the leader with 114 in 11 seasons.

    Ware has also been a constant for the defense, missing only one start. The missed start came in the 2009 upset win at New Orleans, and Ware played a vital role by coming off the bench to get two sacks less than a week after being carted off the field because of a neck injury. This season, he will move to defensive end as the Cowboys have readopted the 4-3 defense.

    Ken Norton Jr., UCLA
    1988, second round (No. 41 overall)
    Norton played both the strong side and the middle and served as the emotional leader of Super Bowl-winning defenses in 1992-93. His last season with the Cowboys, 1993, was his best. Norton was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time that year despite playing most of the season with a torn right biceps tendon. The Cowboys would not have another Pro Bowl linebacker until 1999.
    Norton also had a memorable performance in Super Bowl XXVIII after the 1992 season. His 10-tackle game in the 52-17 win against Buffalo included a goal-line stop of running back Thurman Thomas and a hard but clean hit that knocked Bills quarterback Jim Kelly out of the game.

    Dexter Coakley, Appalachian State
    1997, third round (No. 65 overall)
    The best sub-6-foot linebacker in club history. Coakley overcame less-than-ideal size and the background of playing at an out-of-the-way college to become a three-time Pro Bowler with the Cowboys.
    Coakley, who replaced Darrin Smith on the weak side as a rookie, survived with speed, intelligence and toughness. Coakley missed only one start in six seasons with the club. Coakley's best performance came in 2002, when he had a team-high 173 tackles. Being stuck on a 5-11 team likely kept Coakley from the Pro Bowl in that season.

    HONORABLE MENTION: Thomas Henderson (first round, 1975). Randall Godfrey (second round, 1996).


    Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State
    2006, first round (No. 18 overall)
    The Cowboys saw something in Carpenter that few, if any, other NFL teams did and believed he could play inside in a 3-4 defense. Carpenter's game was based more upon speed and pass coverages than point-of-attack strength, and he was ill-equipped for the role. The blame falls upon the Cowboys' scouting department, not Carpenter.
    Coach Wade Phillips found a role for Carpenter in 2009. Used primarily in pass-coverage situations, Carpenter had two sacks and participated in 46 tackles. In his first three seasons combined, Carpenter had only 1 sacks while participating in 50 tackles. He was traded to the Rams in 2010.

    Markus Steele, USC
    2001, fourth round (No. 122 overall)
    Cool name. Lousy player. Steele started 10 games on the strong side as a rookie. That team went 5-11 but had a top-10 defense in terms of yards and points-per-game allowed.
    Steele apparently had a small role in the defense's success. The Cowboys brought in gimpy veteran Kevin Hardy to replace him in 2002. Steele lasted only two more seasons, getting just two starts in that time.

    John Babinecz, Villanova
    1972, second round (No. 39 overall)
    Babinecz spent two seasons with the Cowboys without getting a start. After missing the 1974 season because of an injury, he was sent to Chicago. In one season with the Bears, Babinecz made his only career start.
    Football does not give the full measure of Babinecz. He went on to become a pediatrician in the Philadelphia area.

    DISHONORABLE MENTION: Jeff Rohrer (second round, 1982). Mike Walter (second round, 1983). Steve Kiner (third round, 1970).
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  • #2
    No way does Steele need to be mentioned. A 4th round pick didn't pan out, oh well. That's not Bobby Carpenter territory.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Deuce View Post
      No way does Steele need to be mentioned. A 4th round pick didn't pan out, oh well. That's not Bobby Carpenter territory.
      Yeah, I think Jason Williams needs to be there before Steele.


      • #4
        I'm still butthurt over Norton defecting to the 49ers...although his goalline stop in SB 27 was Kenneth Davis, not Thurman.


        • #5
          Originally posted by BipolarFan View Post
          Yeah, I think Jason Williams needs to be there before Steele.
          Agreed. At least Steele saw the field regularly. Even though he sucked while on it, he was still able to get on it. Jason Williams? Not so much.
          No Pat McQuistan = No Super Bowl. It's that simple.


          • #6
            That Carpenter pick does burn. Seemed like a reach where they took him but I didn't expect that he'd end up being a wasted pick altogether. Turns out he pretty much was.

            Agree that Jason Williams should be on that list. Another misevaluation of talent, fit, whatever. Didn't work out at all.


            • #7
              I bet we could still get a third round pick for Coakley. Make it happen, Jer.