The Cowboys took four players in the sixth round of last April’s NFL Draft. Two of them were cornerback Anthony Brown and safety Kavon Frazier. Given that both guys play in the secondary, I thought we’d take a quick look at what role they could serve this year and how they may affect each other.
On Friday Dallas released defensive backs Terrance Mitchell and Brandon McGee. While the Cowboys may be adding other cornerbacks and safeties to fill those spots, the moves could signify that they like what they’ve seen from their rookie players in the secondary.
In an interview he gave shortly after the draft, Stephen Jones said that Dallas had fourth-round grades and both Brown and Frazier. Nice as that sounds, I always take these statements with a grain of salt. You can’t ignore that 31 other teams also let these guys fall to the sixth round.
That said, Dallas still spent picks to obtain these players and not let them fall to the free agent process. While sixth and seventh-round picks are never a lock to make your team, the use of those picks signifies a desire to develop these players and perhaps find a role for them right away.
Right now Dallas has a clear top three at cornerback; Orlando Scandrick, Brandon Carr, and Morris Claiborne. The fourth spot likely belong to D.J. Olatoye right now, a second-year player who was coming on strong to close 2015.
At safety Dallas has Byron Jones, Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, and Jeff Heath. With Jones having safety-corner flexibility the Cowboys may not need to keep as many defensive backs as usual. They may only need one more player for nine total defensive backs. Would it be a fifth cornerback or a fifth safety?
It may very well be that, though they play different positions, Brown and Frazier are competing with each other for that roster spot. Dallas could certainly keep 10 defensive backs and open up room for both. Injuries could also open the door for both rookies to make the team. But it’s very possible that only one player will stick around for Week One.
The bottom of the depth chart is often more about perceived potential than immediate value. There will likely be weeks that Brown and Frazier, if they make the team at all, are not even active. Their goal right now is to make the team feel too good about their upside to risk losing them from the practice squad.
Still, opportunities can arise. We know about the injury issues for Scandrick and Claiborne that could create playing time for Anthony Brown. Dallas may try to trade Church or Wilcox rather than keep them on the bench, or even cut one for cap savings. Frazier could wind up as the fourth safety by default.
However it shakes out, Brown or Frazier have no guarantees as sixth-round picks. Dallas has cut many late-round rookies after their first offseason, some even taken in the fourth or fifth round. They have only the slightest edge now over undrafted free agents and other players taken off the street, and that can evaporate in an instant.
Plus, as we just saw with the numbers, even their best might not be good enough. There may only be so many spots and not room for both.
Competition within your position and competition with the entire roster for those 53 spots; just another summer in the NFL.