Breaking down one of the riskiest draft picks by the Dallas Cowboys over the past 25 years:
Round/overall selection: First, eighth
Did the risk pay off? The Cowboys' decision to pass on Randy Moss in the first round in 1998 has been rehashed numerous times. At the time Michael Irvin was going through legal issues that had the Cowboys concerned over their image. The head coach, Chan Gailey, was not in favor of selecting Moss, whose talent was unquestioned but whose off-field troubles had many teams concerned. The Cowboys were not the only ones to pass on Moss. Nineteen teams did so, and the Cincinnati Bengals passed on him twice. After meeting with Jerry Jones and Deion Sanders, Moss felt assured he would wear a star on his helmet. When the Cowboys passed on him, he carried the grudge with him the rest of his career. In his first game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in 1998, he caught only three passes but they went for touchdowns of 51, 56 and 56 yards. He also drew a 50-yard pass interference penalty. Moss never lost a game against the Cowboys (7-0) for the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots, catching 35 passes for 662 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 18.91 yards per catch and touchdown totals against Dallas are the most against non-division foes. Greg Ellis was picked over Moss and had a solid career, picking up 77 sacks in his 11 years with Dallas. He led the Cowboys in sacks from 2001-05 and made the Pro Bowl in 2007 after moving to outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme.
Was there a safer move? Jerry Jones is not someone known for playing it safe, but he did so by passing on Moss. It also speaks to the control the head coach has in developing a roster because Gailey was opposed to taking Moss. Two years later the Cowboys traded for Joey Galloway, giving up two No. 1 picks to the Seattle Seahawks. That move might be the most costly of the Jones era. Had the Cowboys selected Moss, they would have had an electric receiver and two first-round picks to help extend the final days of Troy Aikman. Instead, Aikman retired after the 2000 season and the Cowboys finished 5-11 from 2000-02. By no means should Ellis be viewed as a failure. He was a productive player and a team leader. But when you consider what Moss achieved in his career, with a spot reserved in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it pales in comparison.