Throwback Thursday: Dallas’ lucky 2003 draft haul

As the old adage says, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Today’s Throwback Thursday reminds us that’s just what happened to the Cowboys in 2003.

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As the 2003 NFL Draft got underway, new head coach Bill Parcells had a chance to rebuild the Cowboys in the exact way he wanted, possessing one of the league’s prized top 5 picks.

Parcells had narrowed his preferences, in order, to Kentucky Defensive Tackle Dewanye Robertson, Kansas State Corner Terence Newman, and Oklahoma State Defensive Tackle Kevin Williams.

With Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, and Chicago picking ahead of Dallas, it seemed like Parcells would have all three of his choices when the Cowboys went on the clock at pick No. 5.

Then on Friday, the night before the draft, the New York Jets traded up to pick No. 4 for Robertson. Parcells was going to have to settle for either Newman or Williams.

The Cowboys eventually took Newman (who was dinged by analysts for being an old rookie at 25 years old) and it paid off. Newman is entering his 15th season, has made two Pro Bowls, and has started 197 games in his impressive career. 131 of those starts came for Dallas.

Robertson proved to be a bust, amassing just 16.0 sacks in his career before exiting the league after six seasons.

In the third round, Dallas managed to nab Tennessee Tight End Jason Witten. Thought by some analysts to be a second round pick, Witten had put up solid numbers for the Volunteers during his three years of collegiate football.

With his prototype size for the position, the Cowboys quickly snatched up the sliding Witten. Since that time Witten has played 223 games for the Cowboys, and is now likely to finish next season with the fourth most receptions in NFL history.

In the fourth round, the Cowboys managed to grab another slider. Some analysts were surprised when LSU Linebacker Bradie James fell to day two of the draft, but the Cowboys were more than happy to pick the natural leader at middle linebacker.

At 6’2, 240, James was the perfect size for Parcells’ renovation of the Cowboys’ small linebacker corps. James would play 157 games in his 10-year career, spending all but one of those seasons in a Cowboys uniform.

The most significant of all of Dallas’ rookie acquistions came after the draft was finished, when new quarterbacks coach Sean Payton convinced Parcells to take a chance on undrafted free agent Tony Romo out of Eastern Illinois.

Romo, as everyone now knows, holds numerous franchise records and started 127 games for the Cowboys between 2006-2015.

It sure was better to be lucky than good in April of 2003. Newman wasn’t their first choice at No. 5, Witten and James realistically shouldn’t have been available in the third and fourth rounds, and Payton had to fight Parcells to bring Romo into the fold.

In the end, Newman, Witten, James, and Romo would start 597 games (and counting) for the Cowboys. That’s the equivalent of almost 38 full seasons.

Yep. It sure is better to be lucky than good.

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