1991 Review: Cowboys Strike Gold by Wheeling and Dealing in the 1991 Draft

Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson made a dizzying number of trades before and during the 1991 draft, but the results were outstanding.

For years in the latter part of the Tom Landry era, the story of the draft was the same. Dallas needed to add young talent to replace its aging nucleus, but when the draft results were in, all the Cowboys had were some mediocre players who weren’t about to return the franchise to championship glory.

Heading into the 1991 draft, the Cowboys were already a team with a bunch of young talent. The draft added much more, including seven players who eventually became starters for the team at some point during their careers.

This draft featured Jimmy & Jerry’s wheeling and dealing at its best. Before the draft, the Cowboys had traded Landry holdovers Ron Francis and Eugene Lockhart, along with first- and second-round picks, to the Patriots for the first overall pick in the draft. There was some discussion of the Cowboys using the pick to take Notre Dame receiver Rocket Ismail, but Dallas settled for Miami defensive tackle Russell Maryland.

The Cowboys still had two first-r0und picks left, and the team grabbed the high-jumping receiver Alvin Harper from Tennessee.

With the #20 pick overall, the Cowboys selected defensive tackle Kelvin Pritchett, but the team traded him to Detroit for picks in the second, third, and fourth rounds. Dallas used the second-round pick to take linebacker Dixon Edwards.

A trade with San Diego allowed the Cowboys to pick up linebacker Godfrey Miles. A previous trade with New Orleans for QB Steve Walsh gave the team a third-round pick with which Dallas took tackle Erik Williams.

Another trade gave the Cowboys a seventh-round pick. The choice: DT Leon Lett. The Cowboys even managed, for goodness sake, to pick up the best deep-snapper in the league by trading a seventh-round pick to the Raiders for Dale Hellestrae.

Okay, so the Cowboys didn’t trade their twelfth-rounder. That was a good thing, given that the Cowboys found CB Larry Brown with the 320th overall selection.

Here is a complete summary:

1(1) Russell Maryland, DT, Miami
1(12) Alvin Harper, WR, Tennessee
1(20) Kelvin Pritchett, DT, Mississippi
2(37) Dixon Edwards, LB, Michigan State
3(62) Godfrey Myles, LB, Florida
3(64) James Richards, G, California
3(70) Erik Williams, T, Central State (Ohio)
4(97) Curvin Richards, RB, Pittsburgh
4(106) Bill Musgrave, QB, Oregon
4(108) Tony L. Hill, DE, Tennessee-Chattanooga
4(110) Kevin Harris, DE, Texas Southern
5(132) Darrick Brownlow, LB, Illinois
6(153) Mike Sullivan, G, Miami
7(173) Leon Lett, DE, Emporia State
9(235) Damon Mays, WR, Missouri
10(264) Sean Love, G, Penn State
11(291) Tony Boles, RB, Michigan
12(320) Larry Brown, DB, TCU

Of the others, Richards, Brownlow, and Hill had backup roles with the team.  Musgrave, Sullivan, and Mays caught on with other teams but never developed into starters. Pritchett became a starter with the Lions, but he was a disappointment overall and ended up playing in a backup role with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

  • Mike Little

    Best draft in Cowboys history? Winning three Superbowls in four years would seem to suggest it.The dirty dozen of ’75 comes close,but they were 1-2 in the “ultimate” game.I still miss Jimmy.Dallas would have had six trophies instead of five.

  • The ’64, ’75, and ’89 drafts are probably better known, but the ’91 draft is right up there. Seven starters on dynasty? Hard to beat.

  • Jason Neighbors

    Unbelievable draft! I’m just curious, do you know what happened to the 3rd rounder James Richards? Seems like a high pick to just have cut. Was there an injury involved?

  • @Jason: apparently Richards showed up to training camp out of shape and couldn’t handle it; he was cut, but re-signed twice to the practice squard. Apparently he couldn’t handle that either.

    I don’t have all the details, but there is a 10-10-91 FWST article that may be helpful (if you’re willing to pay for it):

    ‘Third-round pick Richards blames release on camp’