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Cowboys Expansion Draft: Protecting America’s Team’s Future

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Expansion Draft: Protecting America's Team's Future

Last night, the National Hockey League held their expansion draft to welcome their 31st franchise – the Vegas Golden Knights. With football always on my mind, I immediately started thinking of the Dallas Cowboys’ that are most important to this team’s future – as Vegas picked through every team’s roster to take players that were unprotected.

Rookies and second-year players did not need additional protection by their clubs, meaning that in a hypothetical NFL expansion draft following these same rules the Cowboys’ core would remain mostly intact.

Thanks to Will McClay and Dallas’ front office, franchise players like Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott won’t have to worry about removing the star from their helmet in this scenario. Instead, here is the list of protected Cowboys I came up with – again using the NHL rule of seven protected offensive players, three defenders, and a goalkeeper (which will be a specialist here).

NFL Expansion Draft: Cowboys Offense Protected List

Dallas Cowboys: Ranking Top 5 Most Indispensable Players 2

LT Tyron Smith Age: 26

Franchise left tackles are hard to come by, unless you’re the Dallas Cowboys. Tyron Smith is already by far the best in the game, especially important to the Cowboys considering he signaled the beginning of their process in building the league’s best offensive line.

(Spoiler alert: Measures will be taken to keep this offensive line together further down this list)

Aside from finding a franchise QB, hitting on a top pass rusher is the second hardest thing to do in building a NFL roster. Cowboys Nation knows all too well what this struggle is like, but fortunately their All-Pro left tackle makes mitigating any defensive end thrown his way much easier than it possibly should.

C Travis Frederick Age: 26

Remember when Travis Frederick was one of the worst picks of the 2013 NFL Draft, as the Cowboys’ 31st overall pick? Four years later, one of the smartest and toughest players in the league has represented America’s Team in three Pro Bowls and been named an All-Pro.

Protecting Frederick, like Smith, is simply a must in maintaining the Cowboys’ integrity – which starts with their star-studded offensive line, in this case at the center.

G Zack Martin Age: 26

The best guard in the NFL, Zack Martin is about to get paid what he deserves by the Cowboys. Putting him on this protected list ensures that he could remain with Dallas in an expansion draft situation, and is as necessary a move as any team with a player of Martin’s caliber should make.

RT La’el Collins Age: 24

The last of Dallas’ offensive linemen I chose to protect, La’el Collins obviously does not have the accolades or experience that Smith, Frederick, and Martin do – making up for it with more than enough upside to warrant protection.

With Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott ineligible to be on this list, it is imperative to protect as many of the blockers that make them successful as possible, making Collins a needed member of this list as he will be transitioning to right tackle in 2017.

Collins was a first round prospect as a tackle out of LSU, and has already flashed immense talent at guard with the Cowboys, making his long-term projection with Dallas critically important to sustain.

Why Dez Bryant is About to Have His Best Season Ever

WR Dez Bryant Age: 28

As if being this team’s top WR wasn’t enough to earn protection, Dez Bryant put up elite numbers down the stretch of his first season with Dak Prescott as his QB. The Cowboys’ running game, and offensive continuity as a whole, expects to be even better in 2017 – meaning Dez Bryant could see a return to his healthy 2014 form that resulted in 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Bryant is also regarded by plenty as the heart and soul to this team, and is understandably a fan-favorite player that shouldn’t be objected to having to leave the Cowboys in any expansion draft.

TE Jason Witten Age: 35

Protecting Witten may come as a surprise to some considering his age, but with the offensive line, quarterback, running back, and top receiver in place, it only makes sense to retain Jason Witten on his quest for that elusive Super Bowl with the Cowboys.

Any expansion team would love to add Witten’s veteran presence, making it more important to secure his future in Dallas.

Aside from Witten, the Cowboys’ depth chart at TE is full of uncertainty at the moment, and they certainly don’t have another player at the position worthy of expansion draft protection.

WR Cole Beasley Age: 28

While now-protected TE Jason Witten was a security blanket for Tony Romo throughout his career, Cole Beasley was that type of target for Dak in his rookie year. With a career high in receptions and yards, Beasley is an invaluable part of Scott Linehan’s offense predicated on creating mismatches across the field.

The Cowboys also drafted Ryan Switzer in the fourth round this year, an electrifying rookie that has received Beasley’s reps as a similar player through OTAs, meaning that protecting Beasley keeps the dream of pairing these two slot WRs together a reality.

Cowboys' Defense: Will Rod Marinelli Blitz More In 2017?

NFL Expansion Draft: Cowboys Defense Protected List

Fortunately, with only three spots to protect defensive players with, the Cowboys’ class of rookie defenders along with promising 2016 picks like Maliek Collins, Anthony Brown, and Jaylon Smith are already protected.

What makes this trio interesting still is that there aren’t many normal “veterans” to hold onto along with these young players on Rod Marinelli’s defense, instead enough potential in some developing stars to warrant building around for the future.

Byron Jones

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

S Byron Jones Age: 24

Byron Jones has just two full years of experience at a variety of positions in Dallas’ secondary, but suddenly finds himself as a necessary leader for this unit. Jones has made more and more plays on the ball with every game experience he gets, and means so much to the Cowboys’ defensive identity.

Byron Jones’ ceiling over the coming years in a new-look secondary for the Cowboys is best seen in the silver and blue, meaning he gets protected.

DL David Irving Age: 24

What does it say about the state of the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line that David Irving – facing a suspension for the first four games of 2017 – is the player that likely deserves protection the most.

With Taco Charlton already safe, Irving’s age paired with his upside as a steal from the Chiefs in 2015 have been on full display at both DT and DE with the Cowboys. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli prides himself on being able to develop any level of talent along his line, and David Irving is one of the few players in recent memory that has shown any form of quick development potential.

LB Sean Lee Age: 31

Linebacker Sean Lee has played in 14 and 15 games respectively over his last two seasons, shaking the “injury prone” label that may have caused the only sliver of doubt when it comes to protecting his future with the team.

Jaylon Smith’s future is unfortunately still an uncertainty at the LB position, leaving Lee as the only experienced, sure thing this unit has to lead by example and make big plays.

NFL Expansion Draft: Cowboys Specialists Protected List

In place of the goaltender spot for NHL teams in their expansion draft, I decided to let the Cowboys specifically protect one of their specialists. This three-man unit has been one of the best and most consistent as of late, with K Dan Bailey, P Chris Jones, and LS L.P. Ladouceur all consistently doing their job at a high level.

Dan Bailey Kicked With Herniated Disc Since Week 4

K Dan Bailey

When it comes down to it, Bailey is the only Dallas specialist that puts points on the board. An extension of the offense, Bailey is 21 of 29 from 50 or more yards in his career and is the team’s career leader in made field goals.

An undrafted success story, the Cowboys shuffled through some kickers before settling in with Bailey in 2011 – a process they do not have to go through again anytime soon.

✭✭✭✭✭

It is truly amazing how well off the Cowboys appear on paper when you go through the exercise of protecting their future like all NHL teams were asked to do recently. Tough decisions had to be made on both sides of the ball, but the 11 players retained above paired with the already protected first and second year guys keep the Cowboys near the top of contenders in the NFL.

Best of luck, expansion NFL teams. You’re going to have to get through Dallas.

Tell us what you think about “Cowboys Expansion Draft: Protecting America’s Team’s Future” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we’re not how you think we are. Host of “Upon Further Review” on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

Star Blog

A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can’t Be Taken For Granted

Mauricio Rodriguez

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A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can't Be Taken For Granted 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming from a bounce-back win versus the Washington Redskins in which they blew out their divisional rivals 38-14. The New York Giants are coming from a week in which Head Coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese were fired. The former is 6-6, and the latter is 2-10. You tell me which organization is getting the W this Sunday.

Easy, right? Well, no. Not really.

All week long, most of Cowboys Nation has been taking this win for granted. Understandably so, since New York is only a two-win team. However, this is certainly one of those games with a “trap game” feel to it.

It wouldn’t be the first time we see a football team being led by a new coach to a surprise victory. Hell, we saw a very similar situation when Jason Garrett debuted as the Cowboys interim head coach in 2010… against the Giants. 

 Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee, New York Giants QB Eli Manning  Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

On top of that, you have Eli Manning back at the wheel after he was benched for Geno Smith a week ago. Even though the guy who made that decision is out of the picture, you have to imagine the veteran quarterback will go out to play with a chip on his shoulder.

And if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, this Cowboys’ team still has a lot to prove. Let’s not forget the fact that they lost three consecutive weeks. That’s why we´re trying to find which NFC teams need to lose certain games. Because the Dallas Cowboys put themselves in this position.

Dak Prescott is the future for this franchise, and despite having some tough games this year, I still believe he’s the guy. However, as Staff Writer Kevin Brady recently wrote here at Inside The Star, Dak Prescott must overcome his struggles when facing the Giants:

“Prescott played his worst game of that spectacular rookie season when he traveled to East Rutherford, New Jersey as the Cowboys prolific offense was only able to score 7 points during their key loss.”

Although they have a 2-10 record, the Giants’ defense shouldn’t be underestimated. They still have personnel that can give the Cowboys’ offense a bit of trouble, especially without Ezekiel Elliott running the ball.

Sean Lee should be ready to go this week, and while many discuss whether or not the coaching staff should give him an extra week of rest, the truth is that’s something the Cowboys can’t risk to do. At the end of the day, lose one game and forget about playing in January.

You need 50 on the field. If at some point in the second half they manage to get a big-lead, securing a win, then let’s hope they take him off the field and let the guy rest. But until then, Sean Lee should be playing.

Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys Defense?

Dallas Cowboys’ Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Dallas is expected to start three rookies at cornerback. Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Wood could be the guys who line up to start the game in New York. Naturally, this is the case because they’ve proven to be solid players.

But it’s inevitable to be a bit scared of this situation when you’re facing Eli Manning. Say what you want about him, but you never know what might happen when a player like that is on the other side of the field.

I’m picking the Cowboys to win this football games for at least a touchdown. But let’s not think of this game as if it were the Browns. If this ends up being a trap game and the Cowboys manage to get their seventh loss of the year, it’s over.

We’re 14 weeks into the season and it feels like we don’t know what this team is capable of doing with Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott starting at the same time. But this week will prove a lot of things about the Cowboys and their quest for the Playoffs.

Tell me what you think about “A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can’t Be Taken For Granted” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Week 14 Playoff Projection: Cowboys Still In Striking Distance

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Dak Prescott #14 Según los Jugadores, ¿Realmente Lo Es? 1

The Cowboys are one of three 6-6 teams still hoping to find a way into the NFC playoffs. Even if they win out and get to 10-6, they will need help based on tiebreakers and the superior records of the teams ahead of them.

Last night, Dallas’ hopes took a kick in the teeth when the Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta not only moved to 8-5 but also holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys, making them a major threat in the Wild Card race. The Falcons need to start losing, fast, for Dallas to have a shot at overtaking them.

Atlanta’s not the only team that Dallas should be concerned about, though. Here are the current NFC playoff standings, including last night’s result:

  1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
  4. New Orleans Saints (9-4)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
  6. Carolina Panthers (8-4)
    ————————————–
  7. Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
  8. Detroit Lions (6-6)
  9. Green Bay Packers (6-6)
  10. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Vikings are ahead of the Eagles thanks to the common game tiebreaker, since they are both 8-1 against NFC opponents.
  • Seattle (6-3) is ahead of Carolina (4-4) thanks to a better record in NFC games.
  • Detroit has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Packers and a common games tiebreaker over the Cowboys.
  • Green Bay has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys.

With the Falcons’ win over New Orleans already in the books, here are the other playoff-relevant games for the NFC in Week 14.

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants

This is the easiest game let on Dallas’ schedule (assuming Philly doesn’t rest starters in Week 17). The Giants will have a new coach and have changed back to Eli Manning as the starting QB. Will they be galvanized by these changes or only in even greater disarray? We certainly hope for the latter.

Green Bay Packers @ Cleveland Browns

At 6-6 and with Aaron Rodgers potentially returning next week, the Packers are looming as a real threat. They have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas from a win earlier this year. The hapless Browns winning this one is certainly faint hope, but it’s still Brett Hundley out there at QB instead of one of the league’s MVPs.

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The other team in the 6-6 tie, Detroit needs to go away. The Bucs are 4-8 and a non-factor now, so we can root for the pirate people without hesitation.

Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are another key target for us in the Wild Card race. Minnesota should run away with the NFC North, so they’re a non-factor for Dallas’ concerns. A Carolina loss is clearly better for Dallas, dropping the Panthers to 8-5 and within reasonable range with three weeks left to go.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams

Last week, Dallas fans were put in the unfortunate position of having to root for the Eagles against the Seahawks to help our playoff chances. We’re back in that same boat this week as a Rams’s loss would be more damaging for the Cowboys than Philly losing.

Because L.A. has a head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas, our best bet is for them to win the NFC West and stay out of our way. We have a much better shot at catching the Seahawks, especially since we get to play them in Week 16 when Ezekiel Elliott returns.

Seattle Seahawks @ Jacksonville Jaguars

So yeah, as just said, the Seahawks are one of the teams we have the best chance of beating out for a playoff spot. Last week’s win over Philly hurt, but a road loss against the 8-4 Jaguars is certainly possible and would go a long way to helping our cause.

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Cowboys en Español: Optimismo, Pesimismo y Realismo para los Dallas Cowboys

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys 2017 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2

La verdad es que, los Dallas Cowboys se pusieron en una posición en la que no deberían de estar. Y a pesar de que podemos pasar días discutiendo quien merece la culpa, ahora la preocupación en la mente de todos los aficionados es la misma. ¿Veremos a los Cowboys jugar en enero?

Primero que nada, los Cowboys necesitan ganar los últimos cuatro juegos de su temporada, lo cuál no será un trabajo nada fácil. Aún si ganan los próximos dos juegos sin Ezekiel Elliott, los últimos dos partidos de la temporada son bastante complicados.

Sólo para darnos una idea, así se ve lo que resta del calendario para Dallas:

  • @ NY Giants
  • @ OAK Raiders 
  • VS SEA Seahawks (Regreso de Zeke)
  • @ PHI Eagles

Nada fácil para un equipo que ha tenido bastantes problemas. Porque, a pesar de extrañar a jugadores como Ezekiel Elliott, Sean Lee y Tyron Smith, perder seis juegos nunca debió de suceder.

Sin embargo, aquí estamos. A un par de días de ver a los Cowboys tomar el campo en New York para enfrentarse a un equipo de Giants, mientras esperamos con ansias ver como este equipo gana sus últimos cuatro juegos para entrar a playoffs.

Pero, hay un detalle. Pues todos sabemos que aún con Dallas cerrando su temporada 10-6, necesitamos ayuda exterior. Y es aquí donde entra una preocupación enorme en la mente de todos los aficionados empedernidos de los Cowboys.

Ayer por la noche, los Falcons vencieron a los Saints en el Thursday Night Football de la semana. Y sin darnos cuenta, pudieron haber terminado la temporada de nuestro equipo favorito. Actualmente, los Cowboys se encuentran en la posición #10 de la tabla de la NFC.

Por encima, peleando por los puestos de comodines están los Seahawks, Panthers, Falcons, Lions y Packers. Como aficionados a la Estrella Solitaria, no será suficiente apoyar a nuestro equipo mientras busca sus victorias. Sino a unas cuantas cosas más.

Cowboys' TE Position Hurting Offensive Production?

¿Qué combinaciones necesitan nuestros Cowboys?

  • Terminar la temporada con un récord de 10-6.
  • Dos derrotas de Seahawks, incluyendo una contra los Cowboys.
  • Dos derrotas de Falcons o…
  • Dos derrotas de Panthers MÁS una derrota de los Packers y una de los Lions. 

Es agotador, lo sé. Después de una temporada en la que dominaron la conferencia nacional, no esperábamos esto. Hace un año, hacíamos cálculos para analizar cómo podían asegurar el sembrado número 1 de la conferencia. Ahora, para poder tener una oportunidad de brillar en pos- temporada.

Y al final de cuentas, no sabremos que sucederá. Ni siquiera en cuanto a la temporada de los Cowboys. Suponiendo que ganen los siguientes dos, y tengan un equipo listo al 100% para cerrar contra Seattle y Philadelphia… no conocemos el nivel de este equipo.

Ha pasado mucho tiempo desde que vimos a este equipo con todas sus piezas claves en el campo, y no lo hemos visto ganar contra un equipo con récord ganador en todo el año. Duele admitirlo y es fácil olvidarlo cuando venimos de una semana en la que vencieron a Washington 38-14, pero este equipo no ha sido lo que queríamos.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) 

El problema este año, es que ni siquiera se trata exclusivamente de si este equipo puede o no lograrlo. Sino que se trata de que pasará con otras franquicias. Y aún si llegan a playoffs, ¿se lo merecen?

Como fan a morir de mi equipo, estaré apoyando con todo mi ser a todos los escenarios necesarios para ver a Dak Prescott y compañía en enero. Pero con tantos requisitos, es difícil mantener las esperanzas tan arriba como quisiéramos.

Tell me what you think about “Cowboys en Español: Optimismo, Pesimismo y Realismo para los Dallas Cowboys” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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