With every new draft class comes winners and losers on the current roster, players whose job security is either help or hurt by the incoming talent. With the 2019 NFL Draft now over, which Dallas Cowboys were most affected by the next wave of rookies?
It's generally easy to see who loses; a new player with a four-year rookie deal is a nightmare for any veteran backups or developmental prospects with less desirable contracts. If the talent is anything comparable, that rookie is going to win out when roster spots are being decided.
Winners require a bit more abstract analysis. You can perceive a position receiving no picks as a vote of confidence in current talent, and a lot of times that's true. But it could also mean the right guy just didn't fall to one of Dallas' picks, and they're still looking for an upgrade.
Remember, free agency is far from over. There are many veteran players out there who are hoping someone didn't get they wanted in the draft and will come calling. Plus, come June 1st, another pool of available talent may open up with other roster cuts. Same thing at final cuts after preseason.
Circumstances will change, and player's who seem safe today may have a new reality in the months ahead. For now, though, we're going to focus specifically on how the 2019 Draft impacted our current roster.
2nd Round - DT Trysten Hill, Central Florida
3rd Round - OL Connor McGovern, Penn St.
WINNERS: TE Blake Jarwin & S Xavier Woods
Most believed that Dallas would spend their early picks at tight end and safety. At the very least, one of each was supposed to come by the end of the mid-round picks. But the Cowboys didn't use a single pick at TE and didn't take a safety until the 6th round. They appear ready to let their current young talent develop further as starters.
How Jarwin's role in 2019 with coincide with the returning Jason Witten is hard to project. Right now both Witten and the front office say he was have a reserve role only, but we'll only know for sure when we see the actual snap counts.
Had Dallas drafted a TE early, that player would've walked right into whatever role Jarwin was going to have. Now Blake, who was starting by the end of last year, should be back to having the majority of the snaps and getting more offseason work with Dak Prescott and the other starters. This will be huge for his development and chemistry with the offense.
At safety, drafting a coverage guy like Juan Thornhill could've hurt Xavier Woods' status. He's a hard hitter but a bit undersized for the strong safety role, playing closer to the line of scrimmage.
But now, Woods should return as the clear free safety while veterans Jeff Heath and George Iloka battle for the other spot. He has given Dallas plenty of reason for confidence with the potential he's already shown, and what Xavier could become in this third season is exciting.
LOSERS: OT La'el Collins & DT Maliek Collins
Two guys with expiring contracts in 2019, both Maliek an La'el had to feel the sting when they saw these early picks. The arrivals of Trysten Hill and Connor McGovern at their positions, relatively, are bad signs for the Collins' long-term future in Dallas.
On the offensive line, McGovern has the versatility to play any spot. Last year's second-round pick, Connor Williams, was a tackle in college before switching to guard as an NFL rookie last year. Either of those guys could wind up playing right tackle next year if Dallas allows La'el Collins to leave as a free agent.
The Cowboys had already bought a little insurance for that when they gave Cam Fleming a two-year deal to return this offseason. He has plenty of starting experience and would be serviceable at the starting RT in 2020 if needed. Now with the McGovern pick, Dallas appears to be covering their bases as if they have no intention of re-signing Collins.
It makes sense; Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Smith are already some of the most expensive players on the roster. With the bills coming due on Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and other star players, Dallas has to find ways to save some money. Utilizing affordable rookie deals, and allowing players like La'el Collins to leave, is a salary cap necessity.
As for Maliek Collins, his situation is as much about finance as it is trying to get better at the DT position. He's been a solid player but never a standout, and Trysten Hill offers more upside at this point on top of being cheaper to keep for the next four years.
Antwaun Woods still has two years as an Exclusive Rights and Restricted Free Agent ahead, which will make him easy to keep. Dallas is probably hoping the duo of Hill and Woods will anchor their defensive line for a while.
That mean Maliek Collins will likely be joining La'el in searching for new teams next year.
4th Round - RB Tony Pollard, Memphis
7th Round - RB Mike Weber, Ohio St.
WINNER: RB Darius Jackson
It might seem odd to call Jackson a winner after two players were added to his spot. But neither guy is clearly the new backup RB, and Darius has three years of experience in the NFL plus familiarity with the Cowboys system.
This is a far more beatable field of players than if Dallas had spent one of their Friday picks on a RB, or had drafted a guy with more traditional skills than Pollard.
Tony Pollard will almost certainly make the roster in a specialist role returning kicks, but his ability to take significant carries is hard to project right now. He is more of a gadget player.
As for Weber, he doesn't have any of the explosive athleticism of Darius Jackson. He has some decent all-around ability but fell to the seventh round for a reason. Remember, Jackson was a sixth-round pick in 2016 and has been picked up by two other NFL teams at certain points over the last three years.
But again, it's been three years. Do the Cowboys still see upside in Darius, or has he maxed out? Is it time to move on to younger prospects? We'll find out soon enough, but at least Jackson should have a good chance to compete.
LOSER: WR Tavon Austin
What we just said about Tony Pollard being a gadget player and return specialist; that was Austin's projected role with the Cowboys in 2019. With Randall Cobb already coming in to take the slot receiver job, Pollard's arrival only further cuts into Tavon's value to the team.
Austin got a small contract for around just $1 million to return to Dallas this year. That makes him expendable at final cuts, and the Cowboys may have just drafted the guy who prevents Tavon from sticking around.
5th Round - CB Michael Jackson
WINNER: CB Jourdan Lewis
After a strong rookie season in 2017, Lewis slid down the depth chart last year following the arrival of Kris Richard as the new DB Coach. His lack of size doesn't fit the general mold of what Richard wants in corners, and discouragement also seemed to set in as Jourdan saw his playing time drop.
Dallas could've put perhaps the final nail in Lewis' coffin by drafting a CB earlier, but they waited until the fifth round. Michael Jackson has the big-bodied, strong playing style that Richard wants but he's also pretty raw. He will have a hard time pushing Lewis or anyone for playing time this year.
Dallas may still try to find a trade partner for Jourdan Lewis if they don't see him as a long-term fit. They still have Byron Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown for a solid top three. But at least for now, with this draft, Lewis' job doesn't appear to be threatened by any newly-added talent.
LOSER: CB Donovan Olumba
For a prospect like Olumba, who spent last year on the practice squad, seeing Jackson get drafted wasn't a happy money. Fifth-round picks don't always make the team but it's rare for teams to bail on those picks in one year. That will make it extremely difficult for an undrafted guy like Donovan to make it.
Olumba was a standout from the 2018 preseason and fits the Kris Richard physical blueprint. He was a guy that many thought could make his way onto the roster this year, but now Michael Jackson's arrival puts a big obstacle in his path. It is highly unlikely that Dallas will keep six cornerbacks in 2019, if they even keep five.
5th Round - DE Joe Jackson, Miami
7th Round - DE Jaren Jelks, Oregon
WINNER: DE Dorance Armstrong
Dallas didn't add any talent to trump last year's fourth-round pick Dorance Armstrong, helping him feel more secure as the current top developmental prospect among the defensive ends. He shouldn't have a hard time making the team this season.
Armstrong flashed pass-rushing prowess as a rookie last year, though he got little time in the regular season. With a year of development, he could step into the weak-side role left open by Randy Gregory's suspension. He is a more ideal speed rusher than any other current option.
Where you're drafted doesn't mean everything, but it's most relevant early in careers. Unless Jackson or Jelks do something surprising, they won't be pushing Armstrong for a roster spot in 2019.
LOSER: DE Taco Charlton
On paper, the Cowboys should be loaded with DE talent right now. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn already in place, having a former first-round pick like Taco Charlton in house should have them feeling highly secure about the position. They should be content with Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and whatever they may get from Randy Gregory for 2019.
But Dallas kept adding more options, using two of their Day 3 picks at defensive end. And while Jelks looks more like a developmental guy for the practice squad, Joe Jackson has enough ability to contend for a roster spot.
At some point, the music will stop and somebody won't have a chair. That guy is starting to feel like Taco Charlton.
Dallas signed Hyder based on his strong play a few years ago, before an injury cost him 2017 and Detroit's switch to the 3-4 last year had him playing in the wrong scheme. They are hoping to get the Kerry Hyder that put up eight sacks for the Lions when he was used as a 4-3 end in 2016.
We already talked about what makes Dorance Armstrong valuable. That leaves Taco, who fell out of favor with coaches last year, in precarious spot. He is not being treated like a first-round pick entering his third season, and more like a guy that the team has already lost faith in.
The fact that Dallas added even more DE options in the draft only exacerbates the situation.
6th Round - Donovan Wilson, Texas A&M
WINNER: S Jeff Heath
If Dallas had added a big name safety then it could've meant the end for Jeff Heath. The Cowboys already signed veteran George Iloka, who can play either safety position, and might've decided to part ways with Heath and save a little cap space.
But now it appears that Heath and Iloka will compete for a starting job, with the loser remaining as a versatile backup. Donovan Wilson doesn't have the range or experience to play free safety, and neither does Kavon Frazier. That protects Heath and Iloka.
LOSER: S Kavon Frazier
On the other hand, Donovan Wilson's arrival could be bad news for Frazier. They are both strong safeties and now Wilson comes in with a fresh rookie contract, while Frazier is entering the final year of his deal.
Wilson was once seen as having higher talent than a late-round pick but has been bothered by injuries in college. If he has a strong camp and preseason, Dallas could drop Kavon and go with the younger guy if they see some upside.
Frazier has been a quality reserve and an outstanding human being off the field, but there are only so many roster spots to go around. He may get squeezed out by the numbers game.
Cowboys Draft: Reviewing Kansas DT Daniel Wise
Throughout the post draft media process, the Cowboys' decision makers have been adamant that they found multiple draft-able players in undrafted free agency this year. Each of which, of course, will have an opportunity to compete for a roster or practice squad spot this summer.
One of those players who almost certainly had a draft-able grade despite fall through all seven rounds, is Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise.
At 6'3" and 290 pounds, Wise projects as a 3-technique in the NFL, and should compete for that very role on the Cowboys defense. Wise is not an overly bendy or athletic player, but he has a good initial quickness which allows him to penetrate gaps well. Wise plays with excellent effort, having the type of motor that I'm sure Rod Marinelli valued highly during the pre-draft evaluations.
A strong and powerful interior presence, Wise can offer some upside as a pass rusher as well. He has quick, active, and heavy hands. When combining his hands with his get-off, Wise is a real threat as a pass rusher. Maybe his most impressive pass rushing quality, however, is the effort which he plays with. Never giving up on a play, you'll have to block Wise until the final whistle or he will threaten for effort sacks.
In college, Wise was often asked to be a two-gap defender from the 5-technique, but that's just not where he'll be at his best. Rather, he should be used in the role the Cowboys likely envision for him, allowing him to play with power at the point of attack and disrupt the running game.
But what are Daniel Wise's chances of even making the team?
The Cowboys made a concerted effort to improve their defensive line this offseason, specifically on the interior. By adding free agents like Kerry Hyder and drafting Trysten Hill 58th overall, Dallas has improved what was considered a weakness during the postseason a year ago.
Not all of these talented defensive tackles will make the team, though, it's simply a numbers a game. And cutting an undrafted free agent will certainly be easier to do than cutting someone who will be owed real money, or was acquired through premium draft capital.
Regardless, Daniel Wise will have the chance to prove his worth during training camp and the preseason. And based on how he projects through his college tape and physical attributes, he'll likely make those final decisions very difficult on the Cowboys' staff.
Pre-Draft Visitors Highlight Dallas Cowboys 2019 Rookie Class
The Dallas Cowboys are "officially" adding 21 rookies to their roster, eight of which they drafted and the remaining 13 are undrafted free agents. The number of rookies the Cowboys are bringing in isn't all that surprising, but what did surprise me was how many of them were pre-draft visitors.
You may or may not know, but the NFL allows 30 allotted pre-draft visits for each team around the league. Teams don't have to use all 30 visits of course, but the majority of them take advantage of the opportunity and generally use up all 30 visits. It's a chance to introduce these rookies into the atmosphere they could be playing in and work them out in more of a one-on-one basis.
The Dallas Cowboys of course are known as a team who take their 30 pre-draft visits very seriously. Over the past several years they've drafted several players who were brought in for pre-draft visits, and 2019 was no exception.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, paying attention to the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visits is a good idea because the odds of them drafting one or more of them is pretty high. That's why I decided to run a pre-draft tracker this year, and because of it I was able to confirm 27 of the possible 30 pre-draft visitors for the Cowboys.
Here are 2019 pre-draft visitors currently on the Cowboys roster:
- DT, Trysten Hill
- RB, Tony Pollard
- RB, Mike Weber
- WR, Jon'Vea Johnson
- CB, Chris Westry
If you're doing the math, 5 out of 30 equates to 17% of the players the Dallas Cowboys brought in as pre-draft visitors. But, if Dallas only brought in 27 that percentage rises to 19%. To say that the Cowboys value these pre-draft visits would be an understatement, at least as far as 2019 is concerned.
The first three of Trysten Hill, Tony Pollard, and Mike Weber were of course all draft picks and have the best chance to stick around on the final 53-man roster, but I wouldn't rule out Jon'Vea Johnson and Chris Westry. Both were draftable players, but somehow fell through the cracks right into the lap of the Cowboys as UFAs.
I don't really know if it's a good idea the Dallas Cowboys are so transparent with how valuable the treat these 30 pre-draft visits. We've seen teams time and time again trade up right in front of them to draft a player the Cowboys could've possibly been eyeing, and this year was no exception.
After drafting Running Back/Wide Receiver Tony Pollard with the first of their fourth-round draft picks, it looked like the Dallas Cowboys had their sights set on small school Defensive End/Defensive Tackle John Cominsky out of Charleston with their second pick in the fourth. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Falcons traded up a spot ahead of them to draft Cominsky.
This of course isn't the first time the Falcons have done this, which begs the question as to how they knew the Cowboys could have possibly been targeting Cominsky. We can throw a conspiracy theory out there that Atlanta might have been inside source, but that's highly unlikely. More plausible theory is they were paying attention to Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors as well.
It may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to deploy a little more smoke and mirrors when it comes to who they bring in for pre-draft visits in the future. But regardless, there's no denying the Cowboys pre-draft visitors highlight their 2019 rookie class.
Are you surprised the Dallas Cowboys added so many pre-draft visitors to the roster?
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Grades
Another year, another draft come and gone. The difference was that this year the Dallas Cowboys were without a first-round pick thanks to their trade for Amari Cooper with Oakland. Their de facto first-round pick would obviously earn an A+ from how well he meshed with Dak Prescott and gave this Cowboys offense another dimension.
Given how well the Cowboys have done in the first round in recent history -- all but two of their first round picks since 2011 have been in the Pro Bowl, a trend that continued with last year’s pick, Leighton Vander Esch. This season, the Cowboys only had picks from round two and on. So this year was all about finding value and hoping it would fall into their laps.
Obviously time will tell if any of these players work out or not. For the time being, we can grade the picks based on what we do know. Some picks were worth it, while others raised questions, as well as eyebrows.
58 Overall: DT, Trysten Hill
In what has been considered the best defensive line draft in decades, the Cowboys took a bit of a risk with their first “official” pick. Trysten Hill is a first round talent out of UCF, but reports questioning his love for the game had some give him a third round grade.
Dallas has already had an off-season dealing with talented defensive linemen with questions around their passion for the game (i.e. David Irving) and so obviously people didn’t love this pick.
It’s a high risk, high reward move that we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.
90 Overall: G, Connor McGovern
As far as value goes, McGovern was probably the team’s best pick. In my pre-draft rankings, Connor McGovern was my fourth overall interior lineman; a player who you can play anywhere in the interior and start immediately.
However, guard didn’t really seem like a need. This was obviously a “best player available” pick. What this pick has done instead is raise a bunch of questions.
Who’s job could be on the line?
Does this imply the team won’t re-sign La’el Collins?
Is Connor Williams going to play tackle like he did in college?
Is one of them going to get traded?
Is Travis Frederick really ready to go?
So many questions surround this pick, but there’s no questioning the player. Connor McGovern is likely a future starter on the line and Cowboys fans should be excited about that.
128 Overall: RB, Tony Pollard
If you follow me on Twitter, you know my feelings about Tony Pollard already.
Tony Pollard might be my favorite #Cowboys pick. Has experience at both the RB and WR position, plus had 7 career kick return TDs in college. He addresses all 3 needs in 1. #NFLDraft
Returner has been a need for a year now. I never liked the team trading away Ryan Switzer because it created a huge hole on special teams, as well as the receiving core.
The team also needed a backup running back to take the load off Ezekiel Elliott a bit. With Tony Pollard, they get all three positions filled in the form of a player who's 6'0" 210 pounds, ran a 4.52 40 and compiled 25 total touchdowns. Terrific value in the fourth round.
158 Overall: CB, Michael Jackson
This is the type of corner Kris Richard loves; big and tall. At 6'1" 200 pounds, Michael Jackson fits the profile.
His 2017 tape was actually better than his 2018 tape, and all four of his career interceptions came in '17. However, the team is obviously betting on his potential, especially with corner being a serious need.
With the Cowboys' four primary corners coming into contract years the next three seasons, odds are that at least one will be gone. MJ doesn’t fill in day one as a difference maker but, given some time under Kris Richard, he could be a nice player.
165 Overall: DE, Joe Jackson
Take Joe Jackson, new Cowboy, as well as Michael and Darius Jackson, and the team is just two short of a Jackson 5 reunion.
The team has been very busy trying to rebuild the depth at edge and Joe Jackson is icing on an already stacked cake. In an off-season that saw the retirement of David Irving and another suspension for Randy Gregory, the team was able to extend DeMarcus Lawrence and trade for Robert Quinn.
The edge room was already full but you can never have too many.
Joe Jackson is a fun, productive player from The U, who was teammates with the previous pick, Michael Jackson. In his career, he totaled 24 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss all in three seasons. He’s not the fastest edge rusher in the world but has plenty of power to make up for it. With the team only for sure having DeMarcus Lawrence guaranteed beyond 2019, it’s good to have as much talent as possible.
213 Overall: S, Donovan Wilson
The team really needed a safety and it enraged most people that they didn’t pick one earlier. Especially with Taylor Rapp, Juan Thornhill and Amani Hooker all available at different times.
Donovan Wilson is an interesting pick. His career has been a rollercoaster while at Texas A&M, with a highly productive 2015 season, a dip in 2016, a fractured foot in the 2017 opener, and a rebound 2018 season.
Had his career not been derailed by his injury, he’s likely gone way before the sixth round and the Cowboys are obviously betting on his potential. Meets a need, but not a plug-in right away type of pick.
218 Overall: RB, Mike Weber
Tony Pollard is going to get first crack at the backup running back spot. However, given that he’s also the team’s likely return man as well, it makes sense that they’d want to deepen the running back room to give the team a true RB2.
Mike Weber was Ezekiel Elliott’s teammate at Ohio State, but didn’t come close to the impact Elliott had. Only topping 1,000 yards once in college, Weber is likely in competition with Darius Jackson for the backup spot.
He’s not as flashy as Zeke but can pick up the slack when asked to and is a solid receiver out of the backfield. If Weber can’t beat Jackson for the backup spot, then Weber is a likely candidate for the practice squad.
241 Overall: DE, Jalen Jelks
Jalen Jelks falls into a similar boat that both Hurricanes players are in. Like Joe Jackson, he’s a good solid edge piece (fifth round draft grade), but like Michael Jackson, his prior season's tape was better than his final season.
It's interesting that the Cowboys would pick a player who seems to be better suited to play in a 3-4 as a OLB, but has plenty of starter potential. Otherwise he’s a player that’s likely headed to the practice squad that the Cowboys wanted to make sure they get first crack at. Still, a good value in terms of where he was picked.
Dallas Cowboys Overall 2019 Draft Grade: B
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