An NFL Draft is only as good as the impact they make on the field. And while we shouldn’t judge a draft class for three to four years, that first year in the NFL is huge. Teams that can get contributions out of rookies are a leg up on the competition because of their low cost relative to the salary cap.
The Dallas Cowboys have been pretty good at getting positive contributions from rookies in years past. Along the offensive line, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in 2016, or Leighton Vander Esch and Connor Williams in 2018, the Cowboys have received good to great contributions from their rookie classes in recent years. They need that kind of impact in 2021, and the Cowboys have several rookies who can help make them contenders in 2021.
1. Micah Parsons, Linebacker
The Dallas Cowboys have big plans for Micah Parsons. He may be learning MIKE linebacker at the moment, but it won’t be long before the Cowboys are deploying him as an edge rusher in Dan Quinn’s defense. Dan Quinn has talked about playing 3-4 base alignments, and this is where Parsons will have a chance to flourish on early downs as a pass rusher.
His speed and athleticism will allow the Cowboys to use him in various roles, even as a spy against some of the more mobile quarterbacks on the schedule like Jalen Hurts.
Despite returning starters at linebacker in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys will get Parsons on the field early and often in his rookie season. They want his dynamic ability to disrupt the run and rush the passer on the field. When given the opportunity, he’ll have a huge impact.
2. Kelvin Joseph, Cornerback
The rookie that steps into the most obvious role in his first year is the second-round pick at cornerback. Without an obvious starter opposite Trevon Diggs, Joseph likely slots in as the Cowboys’ other starter on the outside.
Joseph will suffer some growing pains at cornerback as most rookies do, but he has the confidence to be a difference-maker early on as well. His ability to play the ball in the air in a cover-3 system will help the Cowboys improve in the turnover department. While he will get beat at times in his rookie season, the turnovers, similar to what Diggs did in year one, will be what makes the difference.
3. Josh Ball, Offensive Tackle
The circumstances regarding Josh Ball’s fall to the fourth round are certainly troubling. At the same time, he’s part of the Dallas Cowboys now. By all accounts, he’s a pretty good player that should vie for the Cowboys swing tackle spot during training camp.
Given Tyron Smith’s penchant for missing games (3 a year from 2016 to 2019, and 14 games in 2020), the Cowboys need someone with starter’s potential to minimize the drop-off if Tyron Smith is forced to miss time again in 2021.
Given that Smith has missed so many games, it’s a near certainty that a backup offensive tackle will have to play some in 2021, and that’s where Josh Ball has a chance to make an impact. If he can be better than Brandon Knight or Terence Steele were in 2020, then it could keep the Cowboys’ offense from suffering any major setback in the game plan or their performance.
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