The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, bringing 11 new drafted rookies and even more undrafted free agents to the Dallas Cowboys. With so many new names to account for, it seems a great time to update our 53-man roster projection for the 2021 season.
Yesterday the Cowboys released DT Antwaun Woods, G/C Adam Redmond, and four other players to meet the NFL's requirement for offseason roster size. Woods and Redmond were the only two from that group who were projected to make the team this year.
There could be more changes between now and training camp. As we saw last year, veteran free agents could still be added over the next few months. This is when Dallas added QB Andy Dalton and OT Cam Erving in 2020.
Also, we don't know for sure what roster sizes and practice squad rules will look like for 2021. The NFL hasn't confirmed if last year's modifications for COVID-19 will be carried over to this season, so we're going to use the traditional rules in this projection until we hear otherwise.
We'll definitely be coming back around with another projection before camp to account for any potential moves or policy changes. But for now, based on what's happened with the draft and its immediate aftermath, here's the latest 53-man roster projection for the 2021 Dallas Cowboys.
Offense Depth Chart (23)
- QB: Dak Prescott, Garrett Gilbert
- RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
- WR: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Noah Brown
- WR: Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Simi Fehoko
- TE: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Jeremy Sprinkle
- OT: Tyron Smith, Ty Nsekhe
- G: Connor WIlliams, Brandon Knight
- C: Tyler Biadasz
- G: Zack Martin, Connor McGovern
- OT: La'el Collins, Josh Ball
The hardest decision here was how many quarterbacks to keep. But when I looked at having to cut Noah Brown or Simi Fehoko, I ultimately decided that a third QB was less valuable now and down the road.
Going with Gilbert over DiNucci as backup QB is about more than just how they each played in their single games last season. That Dallas hasn't added any other QB talent through free agency or the draft thus far says they must feel okay about someone on the current roster. That can't be DiNucci based on what we know so far, so you've got to assume it's Gilbert.
With Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, and Noah Brown all becoming free agents in 2022 I think Dallas has to go long at WR to protect Fehoko. Even if the rookie has a great camp and preseason, Wilson and Brown still fill valuable special teams roles.
It wasn't hard to pick the top eight offensive linemen; five starters plus Nsekhe, McGovern, and the rookie Ball as backups. I am going with Brandon Knight as the ninth guy given his versatility as a tackle or guard. Plus, after last year, keeping an extra OT option around doesn't seem like a bad idea.
Of course, Dallas will probably keep Terence Steele for some inexplicable reason and just to make me look bad.
Defense Depth Chart (27)
- DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Tarell Basham, Bradlee Anae
- DT: Trysten Hill, Osa Odighizuwa, Carlos Watkins
- DT: Neville Gallimore, Brent Urban
- DE: Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong, Chauncey Golston
- OLB: Jaylon Smith, Micah Parsons
- MLB: Leighton Vander Esch, Francis Bernard
- OLB: Keanu Neal, Jabril Cox
- CB: Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, C.J. Goodwin
- CB: Jourdan Lewis, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright
- S: Damontae Kazee, Reggie Robinson
- S: Donovan Wilson, Israel Mukuamu
Antwaun Woods getting cut made this a little easier. But now the DT group feels fairly certain, provided 6th-round pick Quinton Bohanna doesn't shove his way into the mix. I could see him supplanting Carlos Watkins if Dallas feels like they need a true nose tackle and he's ready to contribute, but we need some evidence from July/August before I can take that leap.
I debated dumping on of the six defensive ends to make room for Bohanna or a seventh linebacker, but there's still a lot of uncertainty with this bunch. Dorance Armstrong may have already worn out his welcome but he's also one of the best candidates to play some EDGE in some of the proposed 3-4 packages.
Because Armstrong has some 3-4 OLB potential I felt like I could go with just six at linebacker. Francis Bernard gets the nods over Luke Gifford for the last spot as less experienced player (though surprisingly, he's actually a few months older).
As for the defensive backs, C.J. Goodwin is truly a specialist and really only here for his Pro Bowl-worthy work on special teams. That's why we're going a little long at cornerback.
Probably the boldest move on this projection is cutting veteran Jayron Kearse at safety. While he was just signed in free agency, Kearse felt more like a backup and special teams guy and only got a minimal contract with almost no guaranteed money. I think Dallas ends up parting with the 27-year-old to work with younger options.
Special Teams (3)
With nothing to debate at kicker and long snapper, the one decision to make here was between Niswander and Bryan Anger at punter. In what should be an interesting competition, I think the younger Niswander keeps building on last year's strong showing as the interim and fights off the 32-year-old veteran.