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LB Francis Bernard has Best Shot at Making Roster of all Cowboys UDFAs

Undrafted have provided some of our favorite success stories in recent memory. From to to , some of the Cowboys' top players have come from among their ranks. But first they have to make the team, and in 2020 the undrafted rookie with the best chance at doing that is Francis Bernard.

Bernard enters the NFL after two seasons with the Utah Utes. He was named to the first team for All-Pac-12 honors and played in the Senior Bowl in 2019.

Prior to transferring to Utah, Francis spent a few years at BYU. A in high school, Bernard transitioned to linebacker after his freshman year. He had to sit out in 2017 after violating BYU's “honor code” with a DUI .

Despite this tumult in his college career, Bernard did enough that he was given 4th/5th-round grades by and other analysts heading into the . While he's on the smaller side at just 6'1″ and 230 pounds, Francis was a standout at Utah for his recognition and coverage skills.

Francis Bernard is easily one of the top rookie free agents that the Cowboys signed this year. What really gives him the best chance at making the roster, though, is the relative thinness at his position.

Dallas' linebacker group in 2020 is almost exactly the same as last season. , , and are your starters and is back as the primary reserve.

Filling out the top six should be veteran Justin March and 2nd-year prospect . Dallas re-signed March on a 1-year deal this and Gifford, who missed 10 games last season due to , was getting a lot of buzz in camp and prior to going down. He was kept in just a role once he came off .

NFL teams generally keep between 6-7 linebackers, so there's a chance that one more spot is available for the Cowboys 2020 roster. Bernard could very easily be the next man up to claim it.

Francis Bernard
LB Francis Bernard

Being the 7th man isn't the only road to the roster. There's no guarantee that Luke Gifford will generate the same hype this season, or that Dallas will have any great loyalty to Justin March. Those 5th and 6th slots on the are definitely open to competition.

There is one other undrafted linebacker along with Bernard in 2020; Azur Kamara out of Kansas. But they are very different players as Kamara is more of a DE/OLB or “EDGE” and Francis projects more as a traditional 4-3 linebacker playing in the middle or weak-side roles.

Another player that could factor here is 2nd-year DE , who some believe could make a move to linebacker. But he would be like Kamara, hoping to compete as a potential strong-side LB and occasional pass rusher.

Bernard has the inside track on backing up the MIKE and WILL positions. I don't expect Dallas to keep more than six linebackers this season, but all it takes is one injury for a prospect like Francis to suddenly be needed.

Given what we know if Sean Lee's medical , not to mention Leighton and Jaylon, planning for an injury isn't pessimism. It's just good sense.

This is clearly an easier road than other UDFAs have at their positions. Folks are high on JMU's at defensive end, but he's got drafted players like , , , and perhaps Jelks to beat out for a roster spot.

It's also tough sledding for undrafted receivers like Aaron Parker and Kendrick Rogers. They have to try and break through over , Cedrick Wilson, , and Ventell Bryant if they want to make the team.

Clearly, Francis has it a little easier at linebacker.

The key for him, like most players vying for the bottom of the roster, will be performing on special teams. Bernard could easily take a job away from an older veteran like Justin March if he impresses .

It's worth noting that Francis is no spring chicken himself. He's an old rookie at 25, thanks to his missed year at BYU and a two-year mission trip he did with the school. That could work against him if he's up against players 3-4 years younger for roster spots.

Still, Francis Bernard is in a good position to compete for the Cowboys' roster in 2020. He is at a relatively thin position compared to most others on the team and he looks like one of the best values among the undrafted rookies.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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