Through the years of covering the Cowboys' drafts, there have always been players who were either helped or hurt by the next crop of talent. Today, I thought we'd take a look at some of the immediate winners and losers from the 2018 draft class.
I remember cornerback Mike Jenkins throwing a fit in 2012 after Dallas traded up to take Morris Claiborne. He wasn't wrong; Jenkins got buried on the depth chart that year before going into free agency.
On the other hand, new talent at some position can lift everyone around them. The Cowboys offensive line was good, but not considered truly elite, until Zach Martin arrived in 2014. Or how about the impact that Ezekiel Elliott had on the entire offense in 2016?
2018 will be no different as some players were positively and negatively impacted by what happened over the weekend. Here's a look at those winners and losers.
S Xavier Woods & Kavon Frazier
The Cowboys could have traded up in the first round to select Florida State's Derwin James. They could have traded a pick to get veteran Earl Thomas. They might have taken another safety in any of the later rounds.
But no, Dallas did none of those things. Instead, they appear ready to ride with young studs Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier as starters and key pieces in the defensive backfield.
Jeff Heath is still in the mix and may remain a starter. But Frazier and Woods have flashed potential and upside that new defensive backs coach (and DC in waiting) Kris Richard has already expressed excitement with.
Dallas' declined opportunity to go get a prospect like Derwin James says a lot on how they feel about their current talent. Despite being sixth-round picks entering just their second and third seasons, Woods and Frazier have quickly earned a lot of respect from their coaches.
There's still a lot of offseason left and Dallas may still make a move for Earl Thomas. But it's guys like Kavon and Xavier who've given them leverage, allowing the Cowboys to not feel desperate enough to meet Seattle's asking price.
No matter what happens there, Frazier and Woods will be competing with Heath for a starting role next year.
TE Geoff Swaim
The news of Jason Witten's potential retirement, which came between the first and second rounds on Friday, sent a shockwave through Cowboys Nation. Many thought it would lead to Dallas taking a tight end as soon as their very next pick.
But the Cowboys waited until the late in the fourth round, using one of their compensatory picks on Standford's Dalton Schultz. While the rookie will certainly compete for a big role in 2018, he may have a hard time against a fourth-year veteran like Geoff Swaim.
If Witten's truly gone, Swaim becomes the most tenured tight end on the roster. James Hanna's surprising retirement just two weeks ago leaves just Rico Gathers and Blake Jarwin, neither with any real NFL experience, as the remaining options.
Swaim's game fits what this Cowboys offense needs from its starting tight end. He's a proficient blocker with some solid receiving skills. Being stuck behind Witten, like any other Cowboys TE has experienced for the last 15 years, has limited his chances to shine.
Maybe Jason returns for one last season, but right now the door is wide open for Geoff Swaim to get a shot as the team's starter in the final year of his rookie contract.
DT Richard Ash & Brian Price
Before the draft, it appeared likely that Dallas would be targeting a run-stuffing defensive tackle for their base defensive scheme. Some that it could happen as early as the first round. But the Cowboys didn't draft a single DT, meaning returning players like Richard Ash and Brian Price may have a shot at competing for a starting role.
After Terrell McClain left a vacancy last year, the spot was filled by switching Maliek Collins over into the "1-technique" role and also utilizing young prospects. Brian Price was getting early work, and performing well, before a knee injury ended his season early. Richard Ash came on later in the year and was starting get noticed for his solid work by the final games.
While Dallas did pick up third-year DT Jihad Ward in a trade, he projects as more of a DT/DE hybrid like we have in David Irving or Tyrone Crawford. The Cowboys would likely also prefer to get Maliek Collins back in the 3-tech spot, where he was so much more effective as a rookie.
That opens the door for Ash, Price, or maybe some other dark horse to make a big climb up the depth chart.
WR Deonte Thompson
A free agent signing in March, the veteran Thompson may have already lost his roster spot after last weekend's activity. Dallas drafted Michael Gallup in the third round and then picked up the Rams' Tavon Austin via trade.
The Cowboys could go with six guys, but even still you're potentially losing a younger talent like sophomore Noah Brown or rookie sixth-round pick Cedrick Wilson. With plenty of experience in Hurns, Beasley, Williams, and Austin, Dallas might decide they don't need Thompson after all.
Despite being a newly signed player, Deonte's contract doesn't offer much protection. It's a one-year deal counting $1.8 million against the salary cap with $1 million guaranteed.
While he's only recently become a known entity in the NFL, Thompson is a 29-year-old late bloomer. He was brought in as cheap veteran insurance, and Dallas may now have enough now to cancel the policy.
QB Cooper Rush
Dallas drafted Mike White out of Western Kentucky in the fifth round, which brings some real competition to the backup position held by Cooper Rush most of last year. Can Rush, in just his second season, fight White off for the job?
Cooper already surprised us when he ousted Kellen Moore from the number-two spot and the roster itself last season. He had an outstanding preseason and, if he builds on the rookie success, has a great shot at keeping his place on the team.
But last season speaks to the danger for Rush; Dallas likes to keep just two quarterbacks if they can. With Dak Prescott's durability, the Cowboys can save a roster spot by just keeping one backup and then someone else on the practice squad.
Mike White has been considered a steal by many as a fifth-round pick, with some thinking he could've been drafted on Friday. He may be harder to get to the practice squad than Rush, who went undrafted in 2017.
Ideally for Cooper, he'll beat White for the backup job and force Dallas to keep three QBs this season. But his job security definitely took a hit with this new addition to the roster.
OL Cam Fleming, Joe Looney, Marcus Martin
The opening at left guard before the draft was a major topic. Dallas used their second-round pick to address it, taking Connor Williams out of Texas. That put a major kibosh on the idea of one of the team's veteran journeymen getting a chance at joining the starting five next season.
Dallas signed free agents Cam Fleming and Marcus Martin as backups at tackle and guard, respectively, last March. They also re-signed Joe Looney, whose been a reserve center and guard the last two seasons.
If a new talent hadn't been added in the draft, one of these players was likely going to start next year. Looney or Martin obviously had the inside track as experienced guards. But if Dallas could have also elected to move La'el Collins back to LG and start Fleming at right tackle, if that was the way to get the five best players on the field.
Of course, there's no guarantee that Connor Williams will be able to start as a rookie. He was considered a first-round talent by some, though, and a high value pick for where he was taken. One of the veterans may be used to at least start the season.
Still, the Cowboys have been all about the youth movement the last few years. Connor will get every opportunity to become the fifth starter, giving the veterans way more competition than they had before.
Could a Cowboys Win VS Seahawks Spark an Earl Thomas Trade?
As we enter week 3 of the 2018 regular season, we might be entering the next important date in the Earl Thomas conversation. It's been such a wild narrative ever since the Seattle Seahawks' safety asked Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett to "come get him" and the end of this talk is not close. The trade deadline won't come until October 30th. Only then will we be able to put this conversation aside until the 2019 Free Agency arrives.
After all that's happened, including the Cowboys offering a second round draft pick for Thomas, it may come off as optimistic to expect Thomas will wear the Star in 2018. However, when the Dallas Cowboys visit Seattle today, a victory on the road could spark the trade we've been discussing since December.
The #Cowboys and #Seahawks haven't spoken about Earl Thomas since before he return. Some in the Cowboys organization hope to restart talks today. Seattle would have to be blown away to even consider it. https://t.co/dhbSNPeiiF
Ian Rapoport reported today that trade talks ended between both teams after Thomas returned to the team just before the season began. The Cowboys, according to the NFL Network reporter, "hope to restart talks today."
It only makes sense, right?
The Seattle Seahawks are not re-signing the All-Pro safety. It's not happening. Thomas is clearly unhappy with the situation and hasn't been afraid to show it in social media. Shortly after returning to the Seahawks, he went as far as posting that "the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten."
If the Seahawks lose today against the Dallas Cowboys, they'd be 0-3 in a division where the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers are the favorites. It'd be really difficult to bounce back into the playoffs if they open their year with three straight losses. Even more with a very bad offensive line.
If their season comes to a point where all seems lost, why keep Earl Thomas? Why would they wait until free agency next year to let him go instead of getting compensation now? The Dallas Cowboys have already offered them a second round pick earlier this month, according to reports from ESPN's Adam Schefter. It'd be very hard to understand if they open their season with three losses and still refuse to trade him for a second rounder, considering they don't want to give Thomas an extension.
The Cowboys and the Seahawks' front offices will be in the same building today, making this even more intriguing. The Seahawks will have the Cowboys out of their way, meaning they wouldn't face their All-Pro safety if they trade him after today's game. This is without a doubt a very important chapter in the Earl Thomas' trade discussion.
So far, the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked legit, ranking as the NFL's third best in points allowed. However, the team is familiar with losing in key moments against elite quarterbacks. Thomas could take this unit to the next level, and put the defense in a very good position to lead the Cowboys to the playoffs and beyond.
For now, Thomas will wear a Seahawks uniform and play against the team in which he might eventually end up. As if the game that's going to be played on the field wasn't enough action, Cowboys Nation will be wondering what's being talked about by both front offices inside CenturyLink Field.
Cowboys, Seahawks Week 3 Injury Report
Believe it or not, Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas isn't the only guy whose playing status is in question for today's game. Other key players for Seattle and the Dallas Cowboys appear on the teams' Week 3 injury reports.
The Cowboys are looking to move to 2-1 and maintain a slim lead in the NFC East. The Seahawks are still looking for their first win of 2018, and the drama around Thomas isn't helping the fear of a locker room implosion.
What players may not be out there to help their teams to victory?
- C Travis Frederick (illness) - OUT
- DT Maliek Collins (knee) - OUT
- WR Cole Beasley (ankle) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
- S Xavier Woods (hamstring) - Questionable
Frederick remains out as he deals with his neurological disease. Dallas decided to keep him on the 53-man roster, rather than place him on injured reserve, with the hope that he could return before Week 9. There are still several weeks before we'll know if that was a good move.
Maliek Collins will be out today after a minor knee injury suffered last week against the Giants. Taking his spot will be Datone Jones, who returns from his own knee issue after missing the first two games.
You don't like seeing your quarterback's favorite receiver and your defensive leader on the same injury report. Thankfully, though, it appears both Cole Beasley and Sean Lee will be available today.
For the #Cowboys, WR Cole Beasley (ankle) is expected to play, and LB Sean Lee (hamstring) should be good to go, as well, based on how he moved around in practice on Friday, sources say.
Finally, we come to the ever-intriguing Xavier Woods. While limited in practice all week, Woods is expected to make his season debut in Seattle. We will see if Xavier gets the start at free safety, or if Dallas will ease him back in and keep Kavon Frazier starting for now.
With all of the hype around Dallas' possible acquisition of Earl Thomas, one has to hope that Xavier won't overdo it and make matters worse with his hamstring. Between the enthusiasm just to play and the threat to his starting job, the second-year stud should be pretty amped up.
- WR Doug Baldwin (knee) - OUT
- C/G Ethan Pocic (ankle) - OUT
- LB K.J. Wright (knee) - OUT
- C Justin Britt (shoulder) - Questionable
- LB Mychal Kendricks (ankle) - Questionable
- S Earl Thomas (???) - ???
Seattle remains without Baldwin, their leading receiver from 2014-2017, and it shows in their offensive play. QB Russell Wilson is currently at career lows in completion percentage and passer rating, plus has already thrown three interceptions in just two games.
The Seahawks have issues up front as well. Starting left guard Ethan Pocic will also miss today's game. With right guard D.J. Fluker returning this week after missing the first two, that will allow backup J.R. Sweezy to flip over to the other side.
If that wasn't enough, starting center Justin Britt missed the entire week of practice with a shoulder issue. He has not been ruled out, though. Regardless, those are a lot of red flags on your offensive line with the Cowboys' emerging defense coming to town.
Also out today will be Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright. That means we could see Mychal Kendricks, who was just recently booted from Cleveland after being charged with insider trading, playing a major role today. Kendricks knows the Cowboys well, having played with the Eagles from 2012-2017.
And lastly, Earl Thomas.
No health or injury-related reason has been given for why Thomas missed practices on Wednesday and Friday. "Personal reasons" is all you're getting from Seattle, fueling rampant speculation that a trade is in the works. Whether or not that trade is with the Dallas Cowboys is pure conjecture at this point.
What we do know is that Seattle is 0-2 and trending down this year. Holding onto Thomas and his expiring contract, only to lose him for nothing next year in free agency, would be foolish.
We'll see if Earl plays at all today. If he doesn't, the trade talk is going to explode.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks
It's week 3 of the 2018 NFL season and this match-up already feels like one of the most important ones the Dallas Cowboys will play in the season. The reason why is they need to prove they're good enough to win consistently and that they won't have another year that feels like a roller coaster of wins and losses like 2017 did. As they travel to Seattle to face the 0-2 Seahawks, the 1-1 Cowboys can't miss a perfect opportunity versus one of the weakest units in football: the Seahawks' offensive line.
As every gameday, here is my Cowboys Wishlist for this week's action. As always, I encourage you to share your wishes with me in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Brett Maher Kicks a 50+ yard FG.
Dan Bailey recently signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Cowboys Nation will experience a very odd feeling when they see their former kicker wear purple. If there's something that can make fans feel better is watching the guy who replaced Bailey nail a long field goal in Seattle.
Brett Maher showed he could kick a 47-yard FG in preseason, but we want to see him pull it off in a kick that will actually go down in the books. The decision to release Dan Bailey won't leave our minds until we see Maher do his job.
Wish #2: Rico Gathers Scores His First Career TD.
It felt like forever, but tight end Rico Gathers was activated for the first time in his career last Sunday. Rico didn't get his first catch even though he was targeted twice by Dak Prescott. The most notable moment was when Gathers seemed to be open in the endzone but Dak missed him.
Although Prescott's pass could've been better, Gathers did stumble a little bit and wasn't where he should've been to catch that touchdown. No worries, Rico's career is only beginning. I wish his first touchdown ever finally comes this week.
Wish #3: Defense Gets Its First Interception of the Year.
Through two weeks of NFL action, the Dallas Cowboys defense has been one of the most impressive units. Ranking as the third best in total points in the league, the Cowboys' defense might begin being the team's best side of the ball. At least, it has been for the first two weeks.
Last week, they limited Odell Beckham Jr. to only 51 yards. Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie have played pretty well so far, but I wish they're able to get their first interception of the year. Dallas has one takeaway from week 1 versus the Panthers, but it came in form of a fumble.
Let's get that interception from Russell Wilson, who will be pressured most of the day by a very productive Cowboys' front seven.
Wish #4: 20+ Point Performance
Despite a very exciting first drive versus the Giants last week, the Cowboys' offense still needs to prove it can be successful enough to win games. Scott Linehan's unit had some good drives but it also failed to maintain a consistent attack all game. That may seem okay, but the Cowboys will have to win against some pretty tough defenses.
Seahawks will present the team with a very interesting challenge and one that I wish they pass. As good as the defense is playing, the offense needs to show up in order to win later games.
Wish #5: Contain Russell Wilson
Wilson is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. His agility might be the best among every other signal caller in the game, becoming a very tough guy to defend. He can hurt you with his arms and legs and can throw on the run pretty well. All week we've been talking about how sacking the Seahawks' QB is a key to the victory, but it's more than that.
Wilson is good in the pocket, but when he starts scrambling or running out of the pocket only to throw the ball once the defense is out of position, he becomes a pretty painful headache. The Cowboys need to put him on the ground, but they also need to contain him all day long. He's basically his team's entire offense.
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