Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Post-Draft Edition

    I've been doing Cowboys roster projections for years now. It's a great exercise in deductive reasoning but also provides periodic snapshots of where you see the team throughout the and processes.

    I like to get that first snapshot right after the draft. My next projection will come before , reflecting all of the new information we've obtained from the May and June practices, any new activity, and any losses of players due to or suspensions.

    Keep in mind that I am projecting the Cowboys' Week One roster. That means and won't be on the list due to their suspensions. I'm also leaving , , and rookie off with the expectation that they will begin the year on the PUP list.

    Cowboys Headlines - 53-man roster 5
    Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    QB: Tony Romo, Kellen Moore, Dak Prescott (3)

    The only question mark here is Moore and it goes hand-in-hand with how the Cowboys see their ability to be competitive if Romo gets injured again. Is the veteran backup with no long-term future worth a roster spot?

    Believing that Moore gives you a better chance to win isn't the entire argument. It matters, but even a better chance to win can still be a likelihood of losing. If Moore isn't significantly better than Prescott then Dallas may feel they're better off just riding with two quarterbacks, letting their developmental guy get more practice reps.

    Despite his losing record and surplus of interceptions last year I think Moore is still valued in Dallas. After all, they stuck with him rather than chase some of the other veteran backup options in . It's important to remember that he was signed last year after final cuts and didn't get any offseason work with his teammates. With Dallas seeing themselves as a contender, they will want as much security as possible at .

    Cowboys Headlines - 53-man roster 4RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, (3)

    Seems pretty obvious, right? While this is the easy way to go it may be a bit superficial to assume Dallas will just hang on to McFadden after last year's events

    McFadden can be released for about $2 million in cap room and very small amount of dead money. With only so many carries to go around and Elliott expected to be a full-time workhorse, is there much sense in keeping two veterans?

    I think the Cowboys will show McFadden some loyalty after last year's performance and the obvious fondness that has for him. Will that stick once Lance Dunbar comess off of the PUP list, though?  Dallas could be faced with a tough choice if they have to make space for Dunbar. McFadden becomes a fairly easy and logical choice to .

    WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Lucky Whitehead (5)

    Even if Williams and Butler are fighting for a spot the loser should remain on for depth. It would take a big leap for to get back into this mix but even then I think he'd have to be better than Butler or Williams to find a job, I don't expect that.

    If Dallas keeps six receivers it will be for a young prospect. Williams and Butler are both on expiring contracts so there's good reason to hang on to someone you like for the future. Whitehead should stay on for his return duties if nothing else, but I liked the way they were using him toward the end of last year. Lucky may end up filling in for the role that Dunbar will serve once activated.

    Cowboys Headlines - 53-man roster 3TE: Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers (4)

    The top two are obvious. Hanna got paid a lot of money to stay as a backup and may even become the primary backfield blocker if Dallas doesn't add any fullbacks before camp. Swaim is still relatively unknown but it the only other reserve with some experience.

    Escobar's gives Dallas a nice opportunity to protect Gathers from the wire. They spent the sixth-rounder on him because they feared having to compete with other teams in undrafted free agency. That same logic would apply to not wanting to risk another team stealing him off waivers or even off your .

    When Escobar comes off PUP it will likely be Swaim who gets released, unless Gathers just hasn't shown the team enough to want to hang on. They also may be more comfortable at that point, in the middle of the season, try and sneak him to the practice squad.

    OT: Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Charles Brown (3)

    Dallas re-signed Brown as a swing option and don't seem to have much of an alternative. Maybe he gets cut by some other veteran addition around the end of the preseason but for now Brown's the guy. It would take a surprise leap from one of their young unknowns to supplant him.

    Cowboys Headlines - 53-man roster 2G: Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Ron Leary, Chaz Green (4)

    The only way that Leary isn't here next year is if Dallas finds a partner, which can easily happen if other teams start having injury issues during training camp or preseason. For now he's set to be our primary backup at .

    was drafted as a tackle but seems to have been moved to guard based on the resports I've seen. He got a slow start last year with injury but was a third-round pick and they'll try to work with him for at least another year or two to see what he has.

    C: Travis Frederick, Joe Looney (2)

    There is very little guaranteed money in Looney's deal so Dallas could part ways despite just him in March. Looney's best value is as a backup but he also plays guard. He may not be as good as but is experienced and fills the same role.

    ST: Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur (3)

    Dallas has arguably the best and in the league and Jones is emerging as one of the best punters. Not a bad place to be for coach Rich Bisaccia.

    ~ ~ ~

    That's 27 players between the and , leaving 26 for the . Click the following link for those projections:

    Click here for Part Two, which covers the defense.


    Jess Haynie
    Jess Haynie
    Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!


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    George Johnson

    Jess Haynie: You have heard from me before about Kellen Moore. You are just kidding yourself if you think Kellen Moore will not be a lot better than Prescott in 2016 and will likely earn the 2nd team QB position. Prescott is a rookie and a fourth round draft pick and will go through a significant learning curve. K Moore has 1) four years NFL experience and has improved each year as far as I can tell, 2) he has worked with S Linehan for two plus years and has S Linehan's confidence, 3) he knows the Dallas offense/playbook real well, 4) he now has some season game experience in the Dallas offense, 5) he actually played fairly well in 2015 if you factor in it was his first time playing against first team defenses and he had limited reps to get ready. A few better plays and he could have won one game and possibly even two. His physical limitations did not seem to be much of a factor in his play, which is a good sign for his ability to earn the 2nd team QB position in 2016. His deficiencies in 2015 (too many interceptions, too few touchdown throws and not enough accuracy) are areas he has excelled at in the past. In college he had 142 touchdown throws and 28 interceptions which was close to a new NCAA record. He is known for his accuracy. He had a 73% completion record his last two years in college, almost another new NCAA record. He seems to compensate for his lack of a real strong arm with his accuracy, anticipation, quick release and QB smarts/instincts. He seems to know his limitations and does not try to make throws his arm will not allow him to make. In college his lack of a strong arm did not cause interceptions because the 28 interceptions in a four year career was almost a new NCAA record. K Moore was one of the best pocket passers ever in college and was an All-American and Heisman finalist and came close to setting all kinds of new NCAA records for a QB and did in fact set two. (i.e. 50-3 record and highest completion percent for a freshman). Prescott was not near the pocket passer that K Moore was in college, in fact he was a dual purpose QB. K Moore wasn't drafted because of his serious physical limitations but has proven he should have been drafted. I wouldn't be surprised if K Moore played as well as T Romo or better in the preseason games. He should be riding high and confidently going into 2016. I think the coaches think he can step up also. If T Romo was to go down I believe K Moore could win some games and would have good QB stats. He still has very limited experience playing in season games or against first team defenses, so I would have expected Dallas to bring in a veteran QB rather than draft one. Now that they have drafted one, they may not bring in a veteran. If they do, someone is not going to make the 53 man roster. I don't think management is ready to have to cut K Moore. I don't believe K Moore is any longer eligible for the practice squad.