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Ranking the 10 Most Productive NFL Players to Play under Mike Gundy



Mike Gundy just watched four of his former pupils get selected during the 2018 NFL Draft. That’s the most since 2010 and ties for most during his tenure. The NFL sagas of Rudolph, Washington, Flowers and Ateman are yet to be written. Who knows, maybe one of them will be the best to ever make the transition under their head coach.

But for now, let’s take a look at the previous Cowboys under the Mullet Man who have moved on to play on Sundays. I’ll rank my top 10 by their success in the pros.

“Success” is relative, but I’m looking at overall numbers as well as longevity and even team success both in the regular season and in the playoffs. There are a number of youngsters who have potential to take a few of these spots down the road like Chris Carson and Vincent Taylor. Maybe, we’ll have a new list in a couple of years. For now, here’s who I’ve got.

Honorable Mention: Billy Bajema 2005-13
Career Stats Rec. Yards TDs Catch Rate Playoff Record
Billy Bajema 416 2 58.8% 4-0

Technically, Bajema did not play under Mike Gundy the head coach, but he was drafted after the Cowboy offensive coordinator was promoted to replace Les Miles. Bajema definitely took instruction from Gundy as an OC. Bajema had a nine-season run in the NFL, seeing his most success from a numbers standpoint in St. Louis and ended his career after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens.

10. Emmanuel Ogbah|2016-current
Career Stats Tackles Assists Sacks Playoff Record
Emmanuel Ogbah 46 36 9.5 0-0

Ogbah has had a productive couple of years as part of an attempted rebuild of Cleveland’s defense. He led the team in sacks (5.5) his rookie year and came in tied for second (4.0) last season behind rookie Myles Garrett. Ogbah figures to remain a key pillar of the Browns’ defense moving forward.

9. Lane Taylor | 2013-current
Career Stats Games Played Starts Playoff Record
Lane Taylor 61 33 4-3

The three-star prospect out of Arlington, Texas received two Big 12 offers, Oklahoma State and Kansas. He would end up being starting 47 games on some of the better offensive line groups to ever come through Stillwater.

Taylor went undrafted but quickly worked into backup role to mainstay on the Green Bay Packers’ front five, starting every game the last two seasons. As the Packers look to retool in the trenches, Taylor is now one of the few mainstays and a veteran leader.

8. Brandon Weeden | 2012-current
Career Stats Passing Yards TDs/INT Passer Rating Record in Starts Playoff Record
Brandon Weeden 6,462 31/30 76.0 6-19 0-0

Brandon Weeden has not gone on to the NFL success that I envisioned after watching him calmly dismantle what was, at the time, a perceived tough Big 12 conference.

Blame it on Cleveland or blame it on Dez being hurt when he got a shot in Dallas, but a QB’s performance review is based upon W-L results and his haven’t been good enough. Weeden is back in Houston to serve his NFL role, a quality backup to Deshaun Watson.

7. Kendall Hunter | 2011-15
Career Stats Rushing Yards TDs Yards Per Carry Receiving Yards Receiving TDs Playoff Record
Kendall Hunter 1,204 7 4.6 268 0 3-2

What could have been…

Hunter saw quality reps and impressed early in his career with the San Francisco 49ers behind Frank Gore. As a rookie he rushed for 473 yards and 2 touchdowns and racked up another 195 yards in the air. But an Achilles injury in Year 2 followed by a torn ACL in Year 4 cut his career short.

6. Perrish Cox | 2010-16
Career Stats Tackles Assists INTs Passes Defended TDs Playoff Record
Perrish Cox 186 16 10 54 0 4-2

Cox had a tough road to start his NFL career. The fifth-round pick was released by the Denver Broncos after one season. He then signed with the 49ers before being cut, signing with the Seattle Seahawks, got cut again and then re-signed by San Francisco in the span of a year.

But Cox stuck with the 49ers the second time and had a career year, grabbing five interceptions and 49 tackles. He also returned punts and kickoffs. He parlayed that big season into a three-year contract with the Tennessee Titans. Cox signed once more with Seattle in 2017 but did not appear in a game before being cut.

5. Brandon Pettigrew | 2009-15
Career Stats Receiving Yards TDs Catch Rate Playoff Record
Brandon Pettigrew 2,965 17 61.9% 0-2

Pettigrew is one of Mike Gundy’s favorite former players to bring up. The first round pick spent all seven years of this career in a Detroit Lions uniform, starting 85 games during that span. He was an All-Rookie selection and ended up having a solid career as a starting NFL tight end. He hasn’t played since the Lions released him following his second season-ending knee injury after the 2015 season.

4. Dan Bailey | 2011-current
Career Stats Field Goal Percentage Points Scored Playoff Record
Dan Bailey 88.2% 834 1-2

Bailey has been pretty much automatic since his All-American days in Stillwater. He’s put up some of the best seasons in NFL history between the uprights, including a 93.8-percent field goal success rate in 2015, which tied for best in the league.

This past season saw Bailey miss the first games of his seven-year career when he was sidelined with a groin injury for four games. At one time Bailey held the best career field goal percentage in NFL history. He currently sits at No. 2 at 88.2 percent. He’s on a career path to go down as one of the best kickers ever.

3. Charlie Johnson | 2006-14
Career Stats Games Played Starts Playoff Record
Charlie Johnson 134 115 6-5

It’s hard to quantify success based on numbers for offensive linemen. But team success, specifically on offense and starts are a pretty good indicator of how good a lineman is.

Johnson started 115 of 134 career games — five seasons with Indianapolis and four with Minnesota. He went 6-5 in the playoffs between both teams, including a Super Bowl with the Colts.

2. Russell Okung | 2010-current
Career Stats Games Played Starts Playoff Record
Russell Okung 103 103 8-4

Okung may be the most accomplished player on this list. He has started all 103 of his career games at left tackle, including six years headlining what was a pretty impressive OL in Seattle.

After a dysfunctional year in Denver, Okung made his way to Los Angeles and helped keep Philip Rivers as clean as any QB in the NFL. Rivers went from No. 17 in sack percentage to No. 1 with Okung’s move to the Chargers.

He’s a two-time Pro Bowler with his own Super Bowl ring. I give Okung the nod over Johnson based on his position at left tackle, which is the more “important” in most eyes, as well as his two Pro Bowl selections.

1. Dez Bryant 2010-current
Career Stats Receiving Yards TDs Catch Rate Playoff Record
Dez Bryant 7,459 73 58.4% 1-2

Dez gets the nod here from a personal success standpoint. He was, at times, the best player on a premier franchise, but injuries and then an inability to gel with Tony Romo’s successor, Dak Prescott, saw his numbers drop off.

Dez is currently without an NFL home and there’s no indication of who will sign him. He’s likely to make it onto some NFL roster before the start of the season, hopefully he finds a good fit and can breathe new life into his career.

Think I missed someone? Have an issue with me ranking two offensive linemen in the top 3? Leave yours below in the comment section.

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