With the NFL draft over with and most of the major free agents signed with their respective teams, I felt as if it was time to try my crack at predicting the Dallas Cowboys 53 man roster as the roster currently sits.
After being one of the most injury-plagued teams in the league last year, with notable players such as Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Leighton Vander Esch, Blake Jarwin, Chidobe Auwzie, Sean Lee, Anthony Brown, Trysten Hill, Tyler Biadasz, & Trevon Diggs all spending time on the IR, the Dallas Cowboys finished with a 6-10 record and had the tenth overall pick in the draft (before they traded down).
In the draft, the Cowboys spent their first six picks focusing on the defensive side of the ball, as they selected Micah Parsons (12), Kelvin Joseph (44), Osa Odighizuwa (75), Chauncey Golston (84), Nashon Wright (99), Jabril Cox (115), Josh Ball (138), Simi Fehoko (179), Quinton Bohanna (192), Israel Mukuamu (227) & Matt Farniok (238). That’s ELEVEN rookies, not including the undrafted free agent signings competing for a roster spot with the other players carried over on the Cowboys roster.
Besides signing Dak Prescott to a four-year 160 million dollar deal, the Cowboys also retained Jourdan Lewis & C.J. Goodwin and signed free agents Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse, Brent Urban, Carlos Watkins, Tarell Basham, Ty Nsekhe & Jake McQuaide.
Speaking of new faces, the team hired Dan Quinn, former Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons & Defensive Coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks (Won a Super Bowl with Seattle & made a Super Bowl appearance with Atlanta) to head the defense in Dallas.
With a Super Bowl-winning Head coach (Mike McCarthy), Defensive Coordinator (Dan Quinn) & one of the brightest offensive minds in all of Football in Kellen Moore, and a new crop of talent (and hopefully health) coming in, the Cowboys plan to win their division and make the playoffs this season.
Here’s my 53 man roster predictions:
- Dak Prescott
- Garrett Gilbert
- Ben Dincuuci
Dak Prescott threw for 371 yards per game in his five starts last year, on pace for 5’936 yards, which would’ve shattered Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477. With hopefully a fully healthy season, an extra game to be played, and throwing to one of the best collection of weapons in the league, Dak should pick up where he left off last season.
Now for the Backups, Garrett Gilbert didn’t have an AWFUL only start last season, unlike Dinucci who simply wasn’t ready for the speed of an NFL game.
The Cowboys will keep Dinucci however to take three QB’s into the season due to Dak’s injury history (They also took three last season).
Running back: (6)
- Ezekiel Elliot
- Tony Pollard
- Rico Dowdle
Zeke had a down season last year, as he averaged the lowest yards per touch (4.4) in his career, and also had as many fumbles (6) as he did rushing scores.
Now, before Cowboys fans crucify him, he STILL managed to finish 11th in the league in rushing yards with Travis Fredrick retiring before the season, Tyron Smith & La’el Collins missing basically the whole season due to injury, along with other key injuries all along the line (Tyler Biadasz, Cam Erving, Brandon Knight all we’re on the IR at some point last year). With Smith and Collins back, I expect Zeke to be back to being a top-five back.
I’m predicting the Cowboys to also carry over Tony Pollard & Rico Dowdle to their 53 man roster to create the same depth chart at RB as last year. Tony Pollard is a great pass catcher but has proved to be much more than that, as he is one of the best backup running backs in the league as the Cowboys will be in a good spot still if Zeke were to ever go down with an injury.
Wide Receiver: (12)
- Amari Cooper
- Ceedee Lamb
- Michael Gallup
- Cedrick Wilson
- Simi Fehoko
- Noah Brown
The Wide-Receiver position is the best of all position groups on the team, as the trio of Amari Cooper, Ceedee Lamb & Michael Gallup is arguably the BEST in the league at the WR position.
Michael Gallup is an unrestricted free agent next off-season and will probably be too expensive for the Cowboys to retain, but the depth behind him is still solid.
Cedrick Wilson was fourth amongst Cowboys receivers in receptions and yards last season & flashed some big-play ability against the Seattle Seahawks last season, as he had five receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cowboys selected Simi Fehoko in the fifth round who’s a very intriguing height-weight-speed prospect, standing in at 6’4” 227 pounds, while running a 4.44 40 yard dash.
Fehoko has a lot of mouth-watering intangibles and very well could develop into being the team’s WR3 if Gallup leaves.
I elected to stick with Noah Brown at the WR 6 spot due to his prowess on special teams, but keep an eye out for UDFA T.J. Vasher as he, like Fehoko, is a tantalizing prospect with his 6’6”, 215-pound frame.
Tight End: (16)
- Blake jarwin
- Dalton Schultz
- Jeremy Sprinkle
- Sean Mckeon
I’m expecting better production out of the Tight End position next year due to the return of Blake Jarwin, as he missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
After Jarwin went down, Dalton Schultz filled in admirably with 63 receptions, 615 yards & four touchdowns.
Jeremy Sprinkle will fill Blake Bell’s role as a run-blocking TE3 & Sean McKeon will get a roster spot again this year (Dallas took 4 last year) due to the Blake Jarwin injury last season.
Offensive Line: (25)
- Tyron Smith (LT)
- Connor Williams (LG)
- Tyler Biadasz (C)
- Zack Martin (RG)
- La’el Collins (RT)
- Josh Ball (OT)
- Brandon Knight (T/G)
- Connor McGovern (C/G)
- Ty Nsehke (RT)
The offensive line has some familiar faces, but will look much different with some key members of the unit healthy.
If healthy, a starting unit of Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin & La’el Collins is one of the top units in the league.
Rookie Josh Ball & veteran swing tackle Ty Nsehke are new additions to the second unit, as I have the Cowboys taking only nine offensive linemen (they took 10 last year). I like Brandon Knight’s flexibility at tackle and guard along with Connor McGovern’s ability to play both guard and center.
Defensive Line: (35)
- Demarcus Lawrence (DE)
- Neville Gallimore (DT)
- Osa Odighizuwa (DT)
- Randy Gregory (DE)
- Tarell Basham (DE)
- Brent Urban (DT)
- Quinton Bohanna (DT)
- Chauncey Golston (DE)
- Carlos Watkins (DT)
- Dorance Armstrong (DE)
The Cowboys will have to make some tough decisions roster-wise on the defensive side of the ball and these decisions start along the defensive line.
Tank Lawrence is the man still, and hopefully, he can get closer to his 2017 form (14.5 sacks). Neville Gallimore & Osa Odighizuwa offers good pass rush production from the middle, and Randy Gregory projects to play in the “Leo” pass rusher role that Dan Quinn likes to use on defense.
Newly signed additions such as Brent Urban, Tarell Basham & Carlos Watkins all have shown to be versatile players along the defensive line in their careers, with Basham being a hybrid OLB/DE, Urban playing all along the line & Carlos Watkins playing as a DE in the Texans 3-4 scheme last year.
Rookies Quinton Bohanna projects to be a run stuffing specialist & Chauncey Golston should develop into a high motor, early down rotational pass rusher.
The Cowboys gave up the second most rushing yards last season, & added two rookies in the draft & two free agents to improve in that department to make Trysten Hill expendable.
Hill, a former second-round pick flashed potential in college, as he had 10.5 tackles for loss & three sacks in his last season before entering the draft. However, in his rookie year, Hill had a lackluster performance, as he only managed to produce 5 tackles and one tackle for loss. In his second season, he started five games, but only managed to tally 11 tackles & one tackle for loss before tearing his ACL. I project him to be a “surprise cut” this offseason.
Another guy I don’t have made the 53 man roster is 5th round rookie last year, Bradlee Anae. After having three consecutive seasons in college with seven sacks, 7.5 sacks, and 13 sacks, I viewed Anae as a massive steal in the draft, but with all of the injuries this team encountered last season, the coaching staff never thrust him into action.
This caused me to think, maybe I, along with the media was wrong about his draft projection and that he really was a fifth-round prospect. Maybe he’s not ready for the NFL level of play?
The Cowboys trust Armstrong more than Anae right now. Hopefully, Anae develops into the player I thought he could be, and maybe he can slide into our practice squad if released, but I don’t see him making the 53 man roster sadly.
- Jaylon Smith (SLB)
- Micah Parsons (MLB)
- Leighton Vander Esch (WLB)
- Jabril Cox (MLB)
- Keanu Neal (WLB)
The futures of Jaylon Smith & Leighton Vander Esch on this team may seem a little murky, but there is some good news surrounding the position, however.
Rookies Micah Parsons & Jabril Cox were high-value rookies in the draft compared to where they were picked. Micah Parsons was considered by many to be the best defensive prospect in the draft, & Jabril Cox was viewed to be a player selected in the second round.
Newly signed Keanu Neal (Former 17th overall pick) followed his former head coach in Dan Quinn to the Cowboys and has decided to switch to the Linebacker position in what may ultimately be a terrific decision for the former Pro Bowler. His speed and hard-hitting nature of his game could lend to being a difference-maker at the position.
- Trevon Diggs
- Kelvin Joseph
- Jourdan Lewis
- Nashon Wright
- Reggie Robinson II
- C.J. Goodwin
Cornerback might be the weakest position group on the roster, but with my predicted release of Anthony Brown, this group is one of the youngest in the league with a lot of upsides.
Anthony Brown, the former 6th round pick has played well for Dallas, earning a new three-year, 15 million dollar deal with the team in 2020. However, this team is under some pressure as far as the salary cap goes, as they could save 4.25 million dollars if he’s a June 1st cut. That’s pretty good savings for a player who appeared on only 48% of his team’s snaps last season.
Outside of Brown, Trevon Diggs had an up and down rookie season, but flashed some really good upside at times and will be the team’s number one corner. He, along with rookie corner Kelvin Joseph will line up on the outside for this defense. Kelvin Joseph’s off-field concerns and lack of starts made him fall to the second round, but he has the overall talent to be a first-round corner (four interceptions his Sophomore season), as he can be a real boom or bust player.
Jourdan Lewis will be the team’s slot corner & young corners such as Reggie Robinson II & Nashon Wright will be developmental corners behind him. Robinson spent time at Free Safety last year, but will apparently get an opportunity to switch back to corner this season. Robinson led all cornerbacks in his draft class with an 89 overall draft score according to NFL Next Gen Stats & has a lot of upside at the corner position. Nashon Wright, brother of Last Chance U star cornerback, Rejzhon Wright is a toolsy 6’4” inches tall for Dan Quinn to play with.
Goodwin makes the roster for his Special teams play.
- Damontae Kazee (FS)
- Donovan Wilson (SS)
- Israel Mukuamu (FS)
- Jayron Kearse (SS)
Instead of saying Corner is this team’s biggest weakness, we should just go ahead and say the secondary as a whole is, as the Safety position isn’t the most ideal either.
Damontae Kazee, like Keanu Neal, followed Dan Quinn to Dallas. In 2018, he tied the league lead in interceptions and although his Achilles injury is fully healed, one has to wonder at what level he will return.
Donovan Wilson broke out in his second season and appears to have a chance to be a difference-maker at the Strong Safety position, as the hard-hitting Safety had two interceptions, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, along with two fumble recoveries. And that’s in just ten starts. I’m expecting big things in a much larger sample size.
The backups at the Safety positions include Israel Mukuamu & Jayron Kearse. Mukuamu, the sixth-round pick this year, like Nashon Wright, is another toolsy 6’4”, 205-pound athlete. He spent the majority of his college career at South Carolina at Cornerback opposite of Dallas’s first-round target, Jaycee Horn. Mukuamu had seven interceptions in his college career and although he’s raw, has some upside at the Free Safety position.
Jayron Kearse, former Special Teams Captain for the Vikings, will play a pivotal role in that department while filling in if Donovan Wilson goes down.
Special Teams: (53)
- Greg Zuerlein (K)
- Bryan Anger (P)
- Jake McQuaide (LS)
The Cowboys hired former Rams Special teams coordinator John Fassell to be the Special team’s coach after they hired Mike McCarthy & brought in a kicker he was familiar with last season in Greg Zuerlein.
This offseason, the Cowboys moved on from long-time Long Snapper J.P. Ladouceur & signed another familiar face for Fassell in Jake McQuade.
At the Punter position, I have Anger taking the position from Niswander, as the Cowboys brought in the former third-round pick & paid him more money for a reason.
Cowboys needs going into the season:
A backup Quarterback:
After Dak Prescott went down last season, Cowboys fans could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they had a former Pro Bowl backup QB in Andy Dalton.
With him gone to Chicago, the Cowboys has Garrett Gilbert & Ben Dinucci as the team’s backup options. The Cowboys could look to add a veteran free agent like Robert Griffin III to be the team’s backup just in case Dak goes down again, as he’d be more reliable than Gilbert & Dinucci.
An upgrade at Tackle:
I understand the team Drafted Josh Ball, but I think he projects to be more of a Right Tackle at the next level & won’t be ready if Tyron Smith, who hasn’t played a full season in five years, were to go down. (Brandon Knight will probably fill in at LT if that happens).
In my opinion, the Cowboys should take a cheap gamble on free agent Isaiah Wilson to develop and be ready to step in once Tyron Smith’s time with the team is over.
A backup “LEO” pass rusher:
I stated earlier that Randy Gregory would be perfect as a “Leo” pass rusher in Dan Quinn’s system. However, I don’t think the Cowboys has a realistic backup at that position.
Former first-round pass rusher Vic Beasley has familiarity with Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and could be the team’s backup Leo pass rusher for cheap.
In my opinion, this team needs a veteran difference maker at the position to help out this young cornerback group.
Richard Sherman is the perfect veteran Cornerback to sign, as he’s had Super Bowl-winning success in Dan Quinn’s system before. The longer he’s a free agent, the cheaper he could get, as he could eventually be had for a discount similar to Logan Ryan last offseason, as he signed a one-year 7.5 million dollar deal with the Giants.
It’s early in the offseason and there will probably be more moves to be made, but this is my early 53 man roster prediction for the Cowboys.