This past week, the Dallas Cowboys were awarded three additional seventh round draft choices. In the upcoming draft, Dallas will have six picks in the seventh round, the most in franchise history. Here’s a list at the top seven Dallas Cowboys taken in the seventh round.
#7 PATRICK CRAYTON
Though his college was Northwest Oklahoma State, Crayton was a native of DeSoto, one of Dallas’ southern suburbs. In his rookie season, Crayton only caught 12 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. That lone touchdown was a game-winner against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.
Crayton improved significantly the following season, such to the point that he beat out veteran wide receiver Quincy Morgan for the number three spot behind Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson. He had a career year in 2007 when he was thrust into the number two spot in 2007 when Terry Glenn missed almost the entire season. In thirteen starts, Crayton had 50 catches for 697 yards and 7 touchdowns. In 2009, he posted similar numbers, but also had two punt return touchdowns thanks to the improved special teams coordination of coach Joe DeCamillis.
Despite playing all of the 2010 preseason with Dallas, the Cowboys cut Crayton after preseason Week 4. He finished with 196 catches for 2,888 yards and 23 touchdowns. Crayton spent two more seasons in San Diego before retiring back to the Metroplex to occasionally opine on his former club.
#6 BROCK MARION
The alumnus from Nevada-Reno was the penultimate pick of the Jimmy Johnson era, and only started one game in his first 29. In 1993, as a rookie, his lone interception came against the Miami Dolphins in the notorious 1993 Thanksgiving game. Marion finally saw significant playing time in 1995 when he started all sixteen games at free safety opposite Darren Woodson en route to helping Dallas win their third Super Bowl in four seasons. Marion picked off six passes and added one return for a touchdown that year, earning his second Super Bowl ring. In 1996-97, Marion started 26 games, but didn’t record a single interception, hitting a dry spell in his NFL career.
Marion was a three-time Pro Bowler, though not with the Dallas Cowboys. In 1998, Marion joined the Miami Dolphins and earned Pro Bowl bids in 2000, 2002, and 2003. Marion played his twelfth and final season with the Detroit Lions.
#5 JAY RATLIFF
In Week 1 of 2007, nose tackle Jason Ferguson went down with a torn biceps and was lost for the entire season. The prevailing question at the time was who would step in to fill that void. Jay Ratliff, who had spent the previous three seasons of his career at defensive end, moved to the middle and became one of the league’s best 3-4 nose tackles. The amazing part of it was Ratliff was considered undersized at 6’4”, 293 pounds.
Over the course of his six seasons as nose tackle, Ratliff earned four Pro Bowl berths and an All Pro selection. In 2008, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 7.5 times, a feat that was in the realm of guys like Jon Randle. His pressure up the middle helped DeMarcus Ware approach the 20-sack mark in 2008 and 2011.
Ultimately, the Cowboys and Ratliff had an acrimonious parting last season when the nose tackle strangely couldn’t recover from a hernia surgery performed that January, giving him nine months to heal and rehabilitate. Mark Slough, Ratliff’s agent, stated his client actually had a serious pelvic injury and wouldn’t play at all that season. On October 16, the Cowboys released Ratliff. The very next week, Ratliff was cleared medically to work out for other NFL teams. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys are looking to get a refund on their latest contract extension given to Jay Ratliff.
#4 MIKE HEGMAN
This original member of the 1975 draft’s “Dirty Dozen” didn’t see the field until 1976, and didn’t see full starting duty until the 1980 season. Nonetheless, in his first five seasons in the NFL, Hegman helped the Cowboys win a Super Bowl in 1977 and vie for another the following season. During this stretch, Hegman only picked off one pass and recovered four fumbles. It was Hegman who literally stole the ball away from Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl XIII that helped put the Cowboys up 14-7 in the second quarter.
When Hegman saw starting duty beginning in 1980, he picked off two more passes and recovered two more fumbles, one of which went for a touchdown. Hegman’s final six seasons saw the strongside linebacker rack up 15.5 sacks and help the Cowboys earn three playoff berths in 1982, 1983, and 1985. The Cowboys released Hegman preceding the 1988 season.
#3 LEON LETT
When people think of Leon Lett, what comes to mind are his blunders in Super Bowl XXVII and the aforementioned 1993 Thanksgiving game. However, “Big Cat” was a very integral part of that rotating defensive line of Butch Davis’ that helped the Cowboys sustain pressure on opposing offenses. During his ten seasons with the Cowboys, Lett earned two Pro Bowls and helped Dallas win three Super Bowls.
Lett faced constant double teams at defensive tackle, yet he was still able to get off the ball to pressure the passer and stuff the run. The ironic part about all of his blunders is he was a player who got immensely nervous in the limelight. Not only did he not care for it, but he didn’t want it whatsoever.
Though finishing his final season in 2001 out with the Denver Broncos, Lett returned to the Dallas Cowboys club in 2011 to help coach the defensive line under Brian Baker. Lett stayed with the team after the Rob Ryan regime left for New Orleans and has been an integral part in helping current defensive line coach Rod Marinelli install Tampa 2 principles.
#2 RAYFIELD WRIGHT
Originally taken out of Fort Valley State in Georgia to play tight end, Wright put on an extra thirty pounds and found utility at right tackle with a playing weight of 255 pounds. Wright preceded Leon Lett with the nickname “Big Cat” and also played some defensive tackle in his first three seasons with the Cowboys.
When tackle Ralph Neely was injured in 1969, Wright started three games. The next season, Wright started all 14 games at right tackle en route to a berth in Super Bowl V. From 1971-76, Wright earned six Pro Bowl berths and three All Pro selections. Wright is also one of the few Dallas Cowboys from the Tom Landry era to have been a part of all five of the teams that went to the Super Bowl.
Twenty-five years after his final professional game, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor both inducted him. In 2006, the Pro Football Hall of Fame recognized the ’70s All Decade team member and added him to the hallowed halls in Canton.
#1 BOB HAYES
Between Bob Hayes and Rayfield Wright, this was a tough selection to make. Both Hall of Famers, Wright is worthy of the top spot because of his tenure that included playing on five Super Bowl teams. However, I went with Hayes because he helped revolutionize the game.
Dallas selected Hayes in the 1964 NFL Draft when Hayes was still at Florida A&M. The interesting thing is the Cowboys selected him before the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics when Hayes won a gold medal in both the 100 meter and 4×100 meters relay. Hayes’ rookie season with Dallas was 1965, and he burst onto the scene with 46 receptions for 1,003 yards with 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Don Meredith loved Hayes, and routinely found the slot end on deep balls. Teams couldn’t play man coverage against Hayes and had to develop bump and run and zone coverages to defend Hayes.
From 1965-68, Hayes made three Pro Bowls and two All Pro selections. Some of this was due to his spectacular punt return skills. In 1968, he returned two punts for touchdowns and averaged 20.8 yards per return. Hayes played in the Cowboys’ first two NFL Championship game losses and also helped the team go back to league championship games in 1970 and 1971. In 1972, Hayes’ statistics dropped significantly. By 1975, the Cowboys released Hayes and he finished his final professional year with the San Francisco 49ers under former Cowboys assistant coach Dick Nolan.
For years, Bob Hayes couldn’t get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Hayes died from complications of prostate cancer in 2002. Bob Hayes’ 2004 snub incensed longtime voter Paul Zimmerman from Sports Illustrated to resign from the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. In 2009, Hayes finally got into Canton with his son, Bob Jr., and Roger Staubach unveiling the bust that is forever enshrined in the Hall of Fame.