It isn’t often that you look at a draft class and think, there isn’t a day one starter in the bunch. That isn’t a shot at the talent of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys draft class, it’s more of a reflection of the state of the Dallas Cowboys roster.
On defense 10 of the 11 starters from the Cowboys top 10 unit are currently slated to start and former All-Pro Robert Quinn figures to be the day one starter at right defensive end. On offense, the Dallas Cowboys will have two new starters from their playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Tight End Jason Witten and slot receiver Randall Cobb. Witten isn’t a new face, but after having a year off, he’s back and will likely retake his mantle at the top of the tight end depth chart.
As things stand right now, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for rookies to make a dent in the starting lineup, but there are a few who could work their way into serious playing time.
Under Head Coach Jason Garrett, rookies don’t often find themselves as week one starters unless you’re an offensive lineman or Ezekiel Elliott. Generally, rookies have had to wait their turn and earn their snaps, but there are several who could see significant playing time right away.
Trysten Hill, Defensive Tackle
Heading into training camp, Maliek Collins figures to be the first-team 3-technique defensive tackle. His injury history, however, suggests he may not make it through training camp unscathed. Collins has had problems with his feet and those problems have limited him during training camp in seasons past. Any setback to Collins could open the door for fellow 3-technique and second-round pick Trysten Hill.
Tyrone Crawford is another player who will get snaps at 3-technique a season he’s ha had a lot of success rushing from the interior.
Even with veterans in the 3-Tech rotation, the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will find a way to get Hill on the field. He has an incredible ability to get off the line of scrimmage so quickly that it disrupts the play beforehand it ever gets going.
Hill comes to the Cowboys with a lot of tools to rush the passer and be a penetrating force on the inside but needs to get better at working off of blocks.
Hill figures to be part of the 3-tech defensive tackle rotation from the get-go. with the opportunity to earn more snaps along the way. With Hill, COllins, and Crawford, that’s a scary rotation.
Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner
We all know who the starting running back is for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s the two-time rushing champion, Ezekiel Elliott. Barring any unforeseen suspension handed down for Elliott’s offseason “altercation,” he’ll be the starter again at running back.
Where fourth-round draft pick Tony Pollard has an opportunity to have an impact in 2019 is as the team’s kick returner and the primary gadget guy.
Pollard was a dynamic returner in college, returning seven kicks for touchdowns over three seasons. He’s an electric player with the ball in his hands and with Kellen Moore calling the shots for the offense, Pollard was the first skill position player the Cowboys drafted for him.
Pollard is a puzzle piece that Moore can deploy as a running back, wide receiver, jet sweep option, or even as a blocker for Elliott.
How Tony Pollard performs could not only have an impact on the running back depth chart but the wide receiver depth chart as well. He could very well supplant Tavon Austin as the team’s gadget player who takes the jet sweep snaps.
If he proves capable of handling backfield snaps during the preseason, he’ll be the back up running back behind Elliott because he’s able to play on offense in a variety of roles and on special teams.
He’ll be the primary kick returner week one, but he’ll also play on the coverage teams as well. He provides so much more as a back up running back than Rod Smith did or Darius Jackson can.
It’s unknown at this point how much he’ll see the field early on, but you can bet that if he has a good training camp, Kellen Moore will figure out ways to get him the football. He’s too dynamic of a player to sit on the bench.
Donovan Wilson, Safety
The strong safety position is the one area on the defense where there appears to be a question mark. Jeff Heath is the incumbent starter at safety, but the Cowboys front office brought in veteran George Iloka and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth round to add depth and competition to the position.
Donovan Wilson is a player to get excited about for the Cowboys secondary. He’s a playmaker.
At Texas A&M, he recorded eight interceptions over three seasons, including five his sophomore season. Injuries slowed him down through the last couple years of his collegiate career, but it appears that his playmaking skills are translating to the Cowboys practice field thus far.
The quickest way for Wilson to have Ann impact is on special teams. His speed and toughness should make him an excellent coverage player on kickoffs and the Cowboys could use him as a gunner inn punt coverage.
Though he may primarily be a special teams player from the start, he’s got the skills to make a significant impact a series a box safety for the Cowboys defense.
Wilson’s climb to the top of the strong safety depth chart isn’t very steep. Sure, there are two veterans in front of him, but Jeff Heath struggled to tackle in 2018 and George Iloka has bounced from Cincinnati to Minnesota and now to Dallas over the last couple of years.
The rookie safety is a good tackler and a player who can make plays on the football. If he’s able to pick up the defense and compete in training camp an the preseason, it’s not a stretch to think, he could be starting at some point during the regular season.
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Though training camp is still five weeks away, there are some very interesting storylines to follow as we inch toward the regular season. Each figures to have a role for the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and one of these three may find themselves in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Which of the rookies do you think will end up starting at some point during the regular season?