The NFL Draft is now in the rear view. Teams have also scoured the leftovers of the draft, and signed undrafted free agents to compete with draft picks and veterans in training camp.
This is the first article of a short series in which I will make a way too early prediction of the Cowboys 53 man roster to start the season.
Today I'll cover quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. Next up will be tight end and offensive line.
This is no surprise. Dak Prescott has led the offense since 2016 after the unexpected back injury suffered by Tony Romo in the preseason.
Going into his 8th season as the starter, Dak is under much scrutiny for not being able to advance to an NFC Championship game in four postseason trips.
Unless he completely forgets how to play quarterback, Prescott should get his fifth opportunity in 2023.
Fresh off of a new 2-year/$5 million contract, Cooper Rush is poised to continue his role as a solid backup to Dak Prescott.
Many speculated that he had priced himself out of the range the Cowboys would be willing to spend on a backup quarterback after posting a 4-1 record as a starter in relief of Prescott.
Any sight of him on the field in 2023 aside from taking a knee in a blowout is nothing Cowboys fans want to see.
However, a backup quarterback is like insurance. You never want to use it, but when you need it, you sure are glad to have it.
Just outside the bubble: Will Grier
running backs (3)
Tony Pollard is the clear RB1 headed into the 2023 season.
He had a breakout year in 2022, posting career highs in nearly every statistical category.
A stat line of 232 touches for 1,378 total scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns earned him his first Pro Bowl birth.
The Cowboys chose to use the franchise tag on Pollard as a placeholder until a long-term deal could be reached. What we don't know is if they are being true to their word, and a deal is actually in the works, or if it is just smoke.
The same words were used last season in regard to Dalton Schultz. A deal could not be reached, and Schultz is no longer a part of the team.
Do with that information what you will.
Needing depth prior to the draft after the release of Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas inked Ronald Jones to a 1-year/$1.2325 million deal.
Seeing as how running back was not addressed until late in the draft, it is safe to assume that the 5-year veteran's presence would be welcome in the running back stable to work in tandem with Tony Pollard.
I award the roster spot to Deuce Vaughn over Malik Davis based on one trait the Cowboys covet: Versatility.
Vaughn will be a contributor on special teams, focusing most of his energy on returning kicks.
I know, I know. KaVontae Turpin earned a Pro Bowl nod last season for his ability to return kicks and punts.
A closer eye would tell you that Turpin left meat on the bone on kick returns. None bigger than running into his own player in the NFC Divisional round against San Francisco.
Deuce has better vision and brings a playmaking element to the offense that was sorely lacking in 2022.
Just outside the bubble: Malik Davis
Wide Receivers (6)
Another offensive star coming off of a breakout year in 2022, CeeDee Lamb cemented himself as a true WR1 heading into the 2023 season.
His stat line of 107/1359/9TD earned him 2nd team All-Pro honors and his second straight Pro Bowl selection.
He is clearly Dak Prescott's number-one option headed into their 3rd full season together.
The Dallas Cowboys fleeced the Houston Texans in the trade for Brandin Cooks.
Not only did they convince Houston to send over their top offensive weapon for a measly 5th-round pick, but they also got the Texans to foot half of his 2023 salary.
Cooks brings a speed element to the Cowboys' wide receiver corps that was absent in 2022.
Dallas also hopes his presence takes some pressure off of Michael Gallup as he continues to work his way back from ACL surgery.
MG13 did not suit up for Dallas until Week 4 of the 2022 season, and never quite hit his stride.
His best game statistically was a Week 12 tilt vs the New York Giants, where he mustered up 5 receptions for 63 yards.
Not exactly the type of production expected from a WR2. Perhaps another offseason of recovery can get Gallup back to form.
The claims of “NFL readiness” that were so often used for Jalen Tolbert post-draft in 2022 never quite rang true.
In an offense bereft of playmakers, the 88th overall pick out of South Alabama only suited up for 8 games, mustering a paltry 2 receptions for 12 yards.
The hope is he can take a step forward in 2023 with another offseason of tutelage from Cowboys' WR Coach Robert Prince.
Simi Fehoko was a training camp star in the 2022 off-season after several highlight reel catches.
None of that luster translated into the regular season, however, disappointing Cowboys fans with only 3 receptions for 24 yards in just 5 games played.
With the departure of veteran Noah Brown, I expect Fehoko to step up more into that role of a big-bodied wide receiver who is willing to block downfield.
Even though I mentioned above that I expect rookie RB Deuce Vaughn to steal away kick return duties from Turpin, he should still be the first option on punt returns.
Aside from his obvious punt return value, I also expect Head Coach Mike McCarthy to draw up ways to get Turpin involved in the offense.
His speed and open-field elusiveness are too dynamic to be reserved solely for special teams.
Just outside the bubble: Dontario Drummond