1978 Begins a String of Mediocre Dallas Drafts

thurman.jpg This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The Cowboys run of good fortune in the draft during the Landry/Schramm/Brandt era came to an end in 1978. Dallas picked up its best player in the 1978 draft in the 11th round, taking the namesake for Thurman’s Thieves. Here’s a look:


Round

Name

Pos.

College

Career
1 Larry Bethea DT Michigan State Dallas, 1978-1983
2 Todd Christensen TE BYU N.Y. Giants, 1979;
Oakland/L.A. Raiders, 1979-1988
3 Dave Hudgens DT Oklahoma n/a
4 Alois Blackwell RB Houston Dallas 1978-1979
5 Rich Rosen G Syracuse n/a
6 Harold Randolph LB East Carolina n/a
7 Tom Randall G Iowa State Dallas, 1978; Houston
Oilers, 1979
8 Homer Butler WR UCLA n/a
9 Russ Williams DB Tennessee n/a
10 Barry Tomasetti G Iowa n/a
11 Dennis Thurman DB USC Dallas, 1978-1985; St.
Louis Cardinals, 1986
12 Lee Washburn B Montana State n/a

Bethea played as a backup for six years in Dallas before moving on to the USFL. His took his own life in 1987 after being involved in two armed robberies.

Christensen became an all-pro tight end with the Raiders, but he never played a down with the Cowboys. Blackwell and Randall were backups during their short tenures in Dallas.

Thurman became a starter by 1980 and recorded 36 interception during his eight-year career with the Cowboys. Tom Landry’s decision to release Thurman after the 1985 season was one of several mistakes the team made during the mid-1980s.

My grade: C. The 1978 draft was not a great one, but there were a few players Dallas could have taken. Al “Bubba” Baker was available at #40 overall, where he was taken by Detroit. Another solid player available in the early rounds was receiver Mike Renfro (4th round, Houston), who eventually joined the Cowboys in 1984.

Picking last did not help the Cowboys, and the problem would not get better in the coming years.

  • Martin

    What was the story on Todd Christensen? I remember him looking pretty good at RB in camp. I think he broke a 30 yard run in his first preseason game and then traded.

  • I don’t recall the specifics, but I thought Christensen wanted to play RB but Landry wanted him to move to TE. He wouldn’t make the switch and was released. Of course, the Raiders made him a Pro Bowl TE!

  • Tim Truemper

    Christiansen got hurt in preseason and was on injured reserve. Over the off season he was still recovering and balked at a move to TE. He was cut and went to the Giants and eventually to the Raiders. It still took him three years before he became a dependable starter and eventual al pro.