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 Land CB in Matt Miller’s way-too-early 2020 NFL Mock Draft
What better way to kick off the 2019 NFL regular-season and the start of college football then a way-too-early 2020 mock draft? Well, you're in luck. Matt Miller, one of my favorite draft analysts, just released his latest 2020 NFL Mock Draft for Bleacherreport.com and you may be surprised as to who he selected for the Dallas Cowboys.
One of the reasons I enjoy Matt Miller's work above many other so-called "draft analysts" is because he has his ear to the ground and has a pretty good connection with scouts around the league. That kind of information is pretty invaluable, but he also has a solid understanding of team "needs". Add all of that up and you get a really solid guesstimate of who could be on a certain teams radar, in this case the Dallas Cowboys.
Let's take a look at who Matt Miller predicted the Dallas Cowboys could draft in the 2020 NFL Draft with their first-round selection. Miller set this particular mock draft according to current Super Bowl odds from Caesar's Palace.
25. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia
Matt Miller predicting the Dallas Cowboys select Cornerback Bryce Hall with there first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft definitely seems like a plausible possibility. He knows the Cowboys can't afford to pay everyone and he even said as much. With Byron Jones and Anthony Brown entering a contract year in 2019 and with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis having expiring contracts after 2020, Dallas' secondary could definitely need addressing.
The Cowboys know this as well which is why they probably attempted to add some developmental depth to the CB position through the 2019 NFL Draft when they took Mike Jackson in the fifth-round. Jackson has the attributes they look for in their corners, but in no way has he looked like he'd be ready for a starting role next season. That makes Miller's Bryce Hall selection a definite possibility.
According to Miller's 2020 mock draft Bryce Hall is the fourth secondary player to come off the board. There were three cornerbacks selected ahead of him and one safety. He does fit the mold Kris Richard prefers in his CBs (6'1", 200) and also has the physical playing style in press coverage Richard likes as well. All in all, this is a very solid prediction for the Dallas Cowboys.
Whether or not the Dallas Cowboys would choose to select a CB this early is unknown at this point. But, it certainly seems like a high possibility considering all the corners with expiring contracts in a year or two. I think the Cowboys could look into taking a tight end or a safety with their first-round pick as well, but again it's way too early to have any kind of clue as to how their draft board will look like when the 2020 NFL Draft rolls around.
I don't know about you, but I'll be keeping a closer eye on Bryce Hall this season just in case Matt Miller is correct. I'd like to get a head start to see just how well he would fit, or not, with the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you like the Bryce Hall selection for the Dallas Cowboys?
2020 RB Options for the Cowboys if Things Turn Ugly With Ezekiel Elliott
The Dallas Cowboys could have a Le'Veon Bell-type situation on their hands in regards to Ezekiel Elliott. It's been reported Zeke is contemplating a holdout until his financial demands are met by way of a contract extension. This could put the Cowboys between a rock and a hard place.
Ezekiel Elliott is technically still under contract for two more seasons because of the fifth-year option he carries as a former first-round draft pick. Threatening to hold out seems a little premature, but Zeke has the Cowboys by the short hairs right now, meaning the leverage is on his side.
This is a situation that could, unfortunately, turn ugly, and quickly.
Check out Ep. 6 of Cowboys Weekly - Segment 1 for more discussion from Inside The Star on Ezekiel Elliott's Hold-Out situation:
The Cowboys have several other mouths to feed and Zeke may not be at the top the list considering his continued immaturity issues off the field. His on-field production is undeniable, but so are the red flags that keep popping up. It may be time for Dallas to look for his successor and fortunately, the 2020 running back draft class is a pretty good place to start.
Let's take a look…
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Jonathan Taylor (5'11", 219) would probably be the ideal candidate to replace Ezekiel Elliott for the Dallas Cowboys. He is one of the more productive collegiate running backs expected to enter the 2020 NFL Draft and has the intangibles that are eerily similar to Zeke as far as size, speed, and power are concerned. Unfortunately, that likely makes him a top 10 selection, putting him out of reach of the Cowboys.
Taylor doesn't come without his warts though. As a true Junior, he's seen a lot of action in his three years as the starting RB for the Badgers. That wear-and-tear is a cause for concern because it could lead to durability issues once in the NFL. He also has struggled with his ball security. He's put the ball on the ground 12 times in the last two seasons, which will need to be cleaned up at the next level. But, there's no denying his talent.
D'Andre Swift, Georgia
D'Andre Swift (5'9", 215) is one of my favorite RB options in the 2020 draft class to replace Ezekiel Elliott if things turn ugly with the Dallas Cowboys. He doesn't have the same kind of production as Jonathan Taylor and is still somewhat under the radar because he's been stuck in a committee with the Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Elijah Holyfield the last two years. But mark my words, he will be the next great RB to enter the NFL out of Georgia. Swift could be as ideal of a candidate to replace Zeke as there is.
Dallas likes an inside runner with zone vision as well as someone who can be a threat in the passing game, and D'Andre fits the bill. Despite being a little smaller in size than Zeke, he still possesses the power to run inside. Then throw in his receiving ability, 32 catches for 297 yards and three touchdowns last season, and you have someone who is more than capable of replacing #21's offensive production. He's projected to be a late first-round pick, which could put him within striking distance of the Cowboys.
J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
J.K. Dobbins (5'10", 214) could be someone who is already on the Dallas Cowboys' radar as a potential Ezekiel Elliott replacement. They seem to have a liking for Ohio State running backs (Zeke, Rod Smith, Mike Weber) and could turn to another Buckeye to carry the rock. Dobbins, an all-purpose back and native Texan (Houston, TX) checks all of the boxes the Cowboys typically look for in their featured back.
Dobbins has the size, speed, and vision to be a featured back in the NFL. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards his last two seasons while splitting time with Mike Weber and has averaged about 200 receiving yards during that time span as well. He's not the most physical back, but he keeps moving his feet upon contact. He also needs to improve in pass protection in order to become a true three-down RB in the NFL. But his vision, shorter area quickness, elusiveness, and patience as a runner are all top-notch.
Travis Etienne, Clemson
The breakout season of Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, unfortunately, overshadowed the Heisman-worthy year Travis Etienna (5'10", 200) had in 2018. In his first year as a starter, he rushed for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns, all the while averaging an impressive 8.1 yards per carry. If he can follow that up in 2019 he could become the most coveted back in the 2020 draft class and become a really intriguing option for the Dallas Cowboys.
Etienne will probably need to add a little bit more "good weight" and muscle to his frame if he wants to be considered a featured back in the NFL. If he can accomplish that and not lose any of his elusiveness or speed he should climb up draft boards. If not, he may not be of much interest to the Cowboys because they already have a similar RB in Tony Pollard. He does possess plug-and-play talent though, making him a potential Ezekiel Elliott replacement.
Najee Harris, Alabama
Najee Harris (6'2", 230) is yet another big, physical running back who has had to remain patient and wait his turn at Alabama, but 2019 could be his breakout season. With Bo Scarbrough, Josh Jacobs, and Damien Harris ahead of him on the depth chart the last two years, Najee saw limited playing time. But, when he did receive the opportunity to showcase his skill set he didn't disappoint. His physical talent could make him a top-5 running back come draft time.
Despite his limited playing time last the two seasons, he averaged over 6 yards a carry. He rushed for a career-high 783 yards and four touchdowns on just 117 carries in 2018 and should easily surpass those totals this season. In doing so he should become one of the more sought after RBs in the 2020 draft class. With the Cowboys, as Zeke's potential replacement, his physicality would pair nicely with Tony Pollard's slashing style. A Harris/Pollard duo could be just as productive as the Cowboys running game has been in the past.
The above five running backs are all potential Ezekiel Elliott replacements who I really like and will likely receive the most national attention due to the programs in which they play. But, they are only a few in what looks like a really strong 2020 RB draft class. Here a few honorable mentions you should also keep a close eye on as well.
- Cam Akers, Florida State
- Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
- Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
- Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
- Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
I believe any of these running backs mentioned above at any point in the article could be in play for the Dallas Cowboys if they choose to play hardball with Ezekiel Elliott over his want for a contract extension. The 2020 running back draft class has a plethora of potential starters and this could be in the back of the Cowboys mind when they're determining where they want to spend their money. Paying top dollar for an RB might not fit in their budget, even for one as talented as Zeke.
Do you like any of these potential RBs as replacements for Ezekiel Elliott?
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.
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