The Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line is widely considered the best offensive line in football, and perhaps the best overall unit of any position in the NFL. In 2014, the offensive line led the way for DeMarco Murray’s league leading 1,845 rushing yards, beating out the second rusher by 484 yards. Last season the line helped Darren McFadden record his best season in five years, as the veteran ran for 1,089 yards, fourth most in the league.
The Cowboys selected Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft mainly because they believe he will flourish with this offensive line in place. Elliott is one of 10 offensive starters to be drafted by the Cowboys, including the entire offensive line. Here is the blueprint of how Jerry Jones constructed the best offensive line in football.
Left Tackle Tyron Smith: 2011 Round 1 Pick 9
Jerry Jones selected the then 20-year old USC left tackle as the only offensive lineman he has ever drafted in the first round since buying the team in 1989. Smith, who will turn 26 this December, has developed into one of the best offensive lineman in the league. Smith has been named to three straight Pro Bowls, was named First-Team All-Pro in 2014 and Second-Team All-Pro in 2013 and 2015. The Cowboys signed Smith to an eight-year, $109 million contract extension in 2014, the highest total contract for an offensive lineman in league history.
Left Guard La’el Collins: Undrafted in 2015
Collins was considered a top ten prospect coming into the 2015 NFL draft, but drama soon surrounded the LSU left tackle. Police wanted to question Collins after the shooting of a pregnant woman he previously had relations with. Collins then claimed he would sit out the entire season and enter the 2016 draft if he was selected later than the third round. The Cowboys signed Collins to a three-year deal with a $21 million signing bonus after he went undrafted. Collins has shifted from tackle to left guard, where he has beaten out Ronald Leary and become an excellent run blocker
Center Travis Frederick: 2013 Round 1 Pick 31
The Cowboys traded down with the San Francisco 49ers from #18 to #31 and selected the center out of Wisconsin. Frederick has become one of the best centers in the league, only allowing one sack and two quarterback hurries in 2015. Frederick signed a 6-year, $56.4 million contract in 2016, making him the highest paid center in the league.
Right Guard Zack Martin: 2014 Round 1 Pick 16
The Cowboys made Martin the third offensive lineman drafted in the first round in four drafts when they selected him with the 16th pick out of Notre Dame. Martin was a decorated college player, starting all four years at Notre Dame, being named team captain twice, and being named the first offensive lineman since 1959 to win MVP of a bowl game. With Johnny Manziel still on the board, many thought Jerry Jones would draft the talented but controversial quarterback to backup and eventually replace Tony Romo. Manziel may have sold more Cowboys tickets, but as we look back, Cowboys nation should get nauseated at the thought of picking Manziel over MartinThe Cowboys went with the safe pick in Martin, who has made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons and was named First-Team All-Pro in his rookie season.
Right Tackle Doug Free: 2007 Round 4 Pick 122
Against all odds, Free has exceeded all expectations and has become one of the longest-tenured Cowboys on this team. Free may not be the most talented player on this line, but is their leader, as he brings more experience than almost all four of the others combined. The Cowboys rewarded Free with a three-year, $15 million contract extension in 2015.