Top 10 Rookie Seasons In Cowboys History
The Cowboys have certainly had some outstanding rookie seasons in franchise history, but never before have we seen two in the same year.
The 2016 campaign arguably gave us the two best rookies in the entire NFL as Dak Prescott edged out teammates Ezekiel Elliott for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.
But just where do they rank among all-time great rookie seasons in Cowboys history?
This week’s Top 10 list features the best individuals who shined as rookies. Some of the players who made the list went on to become the best players this franchise has ever seen, while others took a different path, despite the brilliant start to their respective careers.
The staff writers of DallasCowboys.com voted on the 10 best rookie campaigns in Dallas Cowboys history:
Julius Jones, 2004 – The fact he played eight games kept him off the list. The fact he rushed for 818 yards with three games of 150 yards or more in half-a-season is the reason he nearly made it.
DeMarcus Ware, 2005 – Had a strong finish to his rookie year with four sacks in the final two games to tie Greg Ellis for the team lead with eight.
Dexter Coakley, 1997 – Recorded 136 tackles, including a team-high 10 for loss with two turnovers and a fumble returned for a TD.
Don Perkins, 1961 – Had 815 rushing yards and four touchdowns to earn a Pro Bowl spot.
Jimmie Jones, 1990 – Although he was just a rotational player, he recorded 7.5 sacks.
Nick Folk, 2007 – Made the Pro Bowl among 12 other Cowboys, thanks to some clutch kicks, including a game-winner in Buffalo.
10. Emmitt Smith (1990) – There aren’t many lists in which Emmitt ranks 10th but his rookie campaign in 1990 was just a mild start to the consistent superstar he later became. He missed all of training camp to a contract holdout and only had eight carries for 13 yards after Week 2. But a 103-yard game against the Cardinals with four touchdowns helped earn Smith eventually reach 937 yards for the season with a spot in the Pro Bowl.
9. Calvin Hill (1969) – Taking over for Duane Thomas wasn’t the easiest task for the rookie from Yale. Not only did he rush for 942 yards and eight touchdowns, but Hill earned All-Pro honors. For the next 45 seasons, no other Cowboys rookie accomplished that feat.
8. Zack Martin (2014) – It was Martin who joined Calvin Hill as a Cowboys rookie to make the All-Pro squad. His arrival seemed to put the Dallas O-Line to another level as the offense cruised to a 12-4 season and he helped DeMarco Murray to a franchise-record 1,845 rushing yards.
7. Roy Williams (2002) – And to think this was the year before Williams made five straight Pro Bowls. But he a dynamic rookie on a struggling 5-11 team. Williams had 127 tackles – many of which were bone-jarring hits. He also tied all NFL rookies with five interceptions, including two for TDs against the Redskins.
6. Mel Renfro (1964) – Part of one of the best draft classes in NFL history that included other Hall-of-Famers Bob Hayes and Roger Staubach. Playing safety, Renfro not only had seven interceptions to earn Pro Bowl honors but he was one of the NFL’s best return specialists, even scoring on a punt return.
5. Bob Hayes (1964) – While Renfro’s play was somewhat expected, Hayes’ rookie season was rather surprising considering his limited football background. “The Bullet” proved his Olympic track speed could translate to the NFL as he caught 46 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 TDs.
4. Tony Dorsett (1977) – He also took a few games before getting into the starting lineup, but once he gained Tom Landry’s full trust, Dorsett helped lead an offense to an eventual Super Bowl title. His 1,007 yards and 12 TDs stood as Cowboys’ rookie records until this past season.
3. Ezekiel Elliott (2016) – Not only did Zeke surpass Dorsett’s franchise-rookie record, but he did so in his first carry of the 10th game. He not only won the rushing title with 1,631 yards, the fifth-most in Cowboys’ history, but finished with 1,994 all-purpose yards, the third-highest NFL total in league history.
2. Everson Walls (1981) – Imagine an undrafted rookie from Grambling making the team out of training camp and earning a starting spot in Week 1. That would be impressive enough but for Walls to go on and lead the NFL with 11 interceptions is the reason he ranks so high. Walls is the only player in the modern Super Bowl era to have more than 10 picks as a rookie.
1. Dak Prescott (2016) – A unanimous pick by the writers for the top spot, Prescott exceeded every expectation and then some. The simple fact that Tony Romo couldn’t get his job back when healthy is arguably the clearest example of what Dak was able to do. Throw in his records and milestones – an NFL record for QB rating (104.9) and completion percentage (67.8) for rookies, tied the NFL record for most wins by a rookie with 13 and he broke Tom Brady’s mark of consecutive passes to begin a career without a pick – and you’ve got one of the best rookie seasons by any player in the history of the game.