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Pre-NFL Draft 53-Man Roster: Where are the Holes?

John Williams

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A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can't Be Taken For Granted 1
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is coming and there is still a lot of work the Dallas Cowboys need to do to fill out the roster ahead of the 2018 NFL season. Yes, I know it's a bit early, but I want to take a look at the 53-man roster and figure out where the holes on the depth chart are, which might give us an indication of where the Cowboys may go in the draft.

The Cowboys Perfectly Handled the Need for a WR

Dallas Cowboys WR Allen Hurns (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Offense (23)

Quarterback (2)

✭ Dak Prescott
✭ Cooper Rush

This should not be a surprise. The Dallas Cowboys felt confident enough in this tandem to release and move Kellen Moore to the practice squad last season. Dak Prescott is the QB1 on this team, of that there is no doubt. What is pretty impressive is the growth Cooper Rush has accomplished in such a short time. From a UDFA to QB3 to the primary backup in less than a year.

You don't hear a lot of rumblings about the Cowboys adding another quarterback. They didn't do it in free agency and you haven't heard much about drafting one during the process.

Now, they still have time before training camp to add a veteran name, if they want to, but it seems more likely they will add another UDFA or two from this year's rookie crop as camp arms and to compete with Rush.

Running Back (3)

✭ Ezekiel Elliott
✭ Rod Smith
✭ Jamize Olawale (FB)

There is room here for the Dallas Cowboys to draft a runner in the middle to late rounds, or to pick up a veteran or UDFA after the draft. They won't go into the season with just these three, and a name that I like in the middle rounds is Nyheim Hines out of NC State.

He's a smaller, quicker back who can catch the ball and serve as a "change of pace" option to Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith. Hines ran for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final season with the Wolfpack.

Wide Receiver (6)

✭ Allen Hurns
✭ Cole Beasley
✭ Terrance Williams
✭ Ryan Switzer
✭ Deonte Thompson
✭ Noah Brown

I really didn't think there was any way the Cowboys would release Dez Bryant. There's been a lot said on that, and I don't care to get too deep into it here, but Dallas could use a youthful addition to the WR depth chart. Wide receiver now becomes a priority for the Dallas Cowboys in the top 100 of the NFL draft.

Terrance Williams' contract and current injury situation doesn't allow for much movement there. Cole Beasley would have the easiest contract to move on from, but he is a Dak-friendly receiver, so I doubt they'd move on from him.

While these are the six guys they have right now, they'll add a top-100 pick and one or two of these guys will be off the roster -- and perhaps on the practice squad -- come week one.

Tight End (4)

✭ Jason Witten
✭ James Hanna
✭ Geoff Swaim
✭ Rico Gathers

To me, this is the make or break season for Rico Gathers. If he can't earn a roster spot in 2018, it's time to move on.

James Hanna is still a candidate to be cut if the team needs to free up some cap space. The team likes him for his blocking prowess, but they also like Swaim as well.

Blake Jarwin is a dark-horse candidate to compete for a roster spot, but if he wins one, it likely means Hanna is gone and that Gathers didn't make the roster again.

I'd really like to see them take a Dallas Goedert or Mark Andrews if they're available in the third round, but I get that with the current group of tight ends, they may feel they can be a bit more patient in finding the heir to Jason Witten's throne.

Offensive Line (8)

✭ Tyron Smith
✭ Travis Frederick
✭ Zack Martin
✭ La'el Collins
✭ Cameron Fleming
✭ Joe Looney
✭ Chaz Green
✭ Marcus Martin

The biggest question mark on the offense is at left guard on the offensive line. I would really like to see La'el Collins get another year at tackle to see if that could be his spot long-term before moving him back to guard again.

The Cowboys will tip their hand a bit during the draft as far as what they're going to do with La'el Collins. If they draft a guard in the first couple of rounds, then we know Collins is staying at tackle. If they don't, then it might mean a move for Collins back to guard.

Cameron Fleming was a really nice signing. He started the last five games of the season for the New England Patriots and their three playoff games. That definitely counts for something. If the team feels like he could be the full-time right tackle then we might see them move Collins back to guard this season. If they keep Collins at tackle, then Fleming provides a much better tackle insurance policy than Chaz Green.

Marcus Martin and Kadeem Edwards, while nice depth with potential, shouldn't be counted on as anything more than that.

The only name I'm not sure about being on the roster is Chaz Green. He needs a good camp to keep his job.

Oh the intrigue!!!

Cowboys en Español: El Futuro de David Irving y DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Defense (17)

Defensive Line (5)

✭ DeMarcus Lawrence
✭ David Irving
✭ Maliek Collins
✭ Tyrone Crawford
✭ Taco Charlton

There are other guys currently on the roster who could make the team out of training camp, but the only guys I'm sure of are these five.

Richard Ash, Kony Ealy, Datone Jones, and a few others will be competing for roster spots, but they aren't names that'll prevent the Dallas Cowboys front office from investing draft picks to upgrade the position.

As we know by now, 1T defensive tackle is a huge need for this team. They struggled against the run for much of the season and, while Maliek Collins was serviceable, he was playing out of position for much of the year.

Vita Vea is the hot commodity, but this team hasn't placed a premium on a 1T in as long as I can remember. He would plug in immediately on early downs for the Dallas D. If they didn't spend a first on him, there are options deeper in the draft to make a move.

I don't see them going after a top-100 3T because they already have three of those on the roster in David Irving, Collins, and Tyrone Crawford. Anything is possible, but I don't see them investing a premium pick where they already have three guys who could take meaningful snaps at the position.

Defensive end is still a place where they could upgrade their weakside rusher. At the moment, all their ends are what I like to call "long and strong" guys. Taco Charlton, while still developing, hasn't shown the burst and bend that is needed to be a formidable EDGE rusher. Tyrone Crawford is solid in his role, but could also be a cap casualty at the end of training camp.

Linebacker (4)

✭ Sean Lee
✭ Jaylon Smith
✭ Damien Wilson
✭ Joe Thomas

There are a couple of guys on the 90-man roster who could break camp with the team, but if I were Will McClay and the front office, I wouldn't feel great about my primary backups being Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard, or Tre'Von Johnson.

Thomas would be fine for a spell but not someone who should be counted on long-term.

The Dallas Cowboys need to attack this position with a couple picks and preferably in the first four rounds. They need guys who could step into a rotational role right away. Barring an unforeseen drop by Roquan Smith to pick 19, they should be targeting guys in rounds two through four.

NaVorro Bowman is still unsigned and would be an excellent addition to this linebacker group. If they haven't made inquiries yet, they should look into it after the draft. He would be solid insurance at MIKE linebacker if Jaylon Smith still isn't ready to play.

Cornerback (5)

✭ Byron Jones
✭ Chidobe Awuzie
✭ Jourdan Lewis
✭ Anthony Brown
✭ Marquez White

Dallas could certainly make a late-round selection to add some competition for Marquez White and Duke Thomas -- who could push for a roster spot -- but the top four guys are set and they aren't adding a top-100 cornerback.

This group, along with the safeties, is the unit I'm most excited to see in training camp with the addition of former Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Back Guru, Kris Richard.

He gets the best out of his DBs and was instrumental in the rise of the Seattle Seahawks defense.

Safety (3)

✭ Jeff Heath
✭ Kavon Frazier
✭ Xavier Woods

If there's a place I could see them spending a top-100 pick for the secondary, it's at safety.

The talent here is solid, but aside from Heath, we still don't know what we have in Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier. Even if they don't go safety early on, they'll probably draft one at some point.

I really like Xavier Woods' promise as the ball-hawking free safety we've been looking for since Monte Kiffin installed the Tampa-2 scheme. The fact remains, though, that Woods is a second year player from small-school Louisiana Tech and still has some growing to do. He and Heath should rotate the FS snaps during the preseason and season.

Kavon Frazier really came on strong at the end of the season and provided an edge to the secondary that had been missing. He was a physical tackler and supported against the run very well. He will likely get a chance to earn the "box safety" role on early downs with Woods spelling him on passing downs.

Cowboys Headlines - Martin's 5: K Dan Bailey Might Be Cause For Conservative Cowboys Coaching

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Special Teams (3)

✭ Dan Bailey
✭ Chris Jones
✭ L.P. Ladouceur

Same story, different year. Other than bringing in a camp leg to spell Dan Bailey during the preseason, the special teams specialists remain the same, and that's a good thing.

The kicking operation with L.P. Ladouceur snapping, Chris Jones holding, and Bailey kicking keeps a great and solid operation together for another year.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

By my count, that's 43 roster spots accounted for, though a lot could change, and with the draft looming a lot of the names I listed could be pushed off the roster.

From my depth chart analysis, I'd argue the most pressing needs on the team right now are wide receiver, left guard, linebacker, 1T defensive tackle, safety and EDGE rusher. If they came away with players at each of these positions, then I will call it a successful draft, even if they don't draft my guys.

Where do you think they need to make additions to the roster?


I didn't start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I've now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America's Team.

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7 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    Im found this quote “The talent here is solid, but aside from Heath, we still don’t know what we have in Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier” a little head scratching. What is it about Jeff Heath that makes Cowboys fans so sure about him??? Xavier Woods should of started from day 1, he’s the most solid safety they have by far. If Jeff Heath was released today, does he start on any other NFL franchise besides the Cowboys, I know the real answer but do y’all know?????

    • John Williams

      You know what you’re getting from Heath. He’s a player that can make some plays for you. He’s not great, but he’s a solid player here.

      I love Xavier Woods, have for more than a year now. I hope they give him a shot. If the rumors about Earl Thomas are true, he may not get a chance to be the free safety this team needs.

      I like Kavon as well, but he still has to prove he isn’t just an early down safety for them.

  • Chuck Wright

    Another good write up, I would argue for adding TE as a pressing need. Whitten is the only NFL quality starting TE on the roster today and this is likely his last season. And if I’m Dallas, I’m targeting 2 LBs this year.

    Solid point about a 1 Tech and Dallas not valuing the position, especially in round 1 (which likely knocks out VV and Payne from Bama). Good news, there are 1 Tech’s available through round 4 or 5. Derrick Nnadi or Tim Settle in Round 2, Phillips (Stanford) 2-3, BJ Hill/Fatukasi/Poona Ford/Shepard rounds 3-4 and PJ Hill or Kendrick Norton rounds 4-5

    Bowman would be an excellent addition but rumors fly he’ll retire before he leaves the West Coast. Hope not, a great fit.

    • EverybodyTalks

      Chuck,
      Hard to see your picture.
      If that is Gunny, may he rest in peace?

    • John Williams

      I would love to add a TE. As a Sooner fan, seeing 6-5 265 Mark Andrews with a Star on his helmet and running seem routes for Dak would be tremendous. Not sure if they’d do it, but I’d set my young QB up with as much talent as possible.

  • EverybodyTalks

    Really liked this article.
    It is a great look at our personnel. You have 43 total players listed in your article. Let’s see, 10 picks in the draft equals 53. If it were only that easy.
    Agree with Chuck Wright on getting 2 LBs – One early, one in later round. We also need a Free Safety. There aren’t many, especially that can be starters. Two, who might fill FS are Rashaan Gaulden and Shaquem Griffin. Griffin has great speed and can also play LB. Gaulden is classified as a CB/S. There are some great choices for DT and we need a good one. I’m not sure how Dallas will go with WR. We have 6. Can they be coached up by Sanjay Lal on route-running and getting separation?
    With a Run-1st Offense, I would like us get a Guard, that can start and grab another RB in the middle rounds. You mentioned Hines and he would be a great pick-up.
    There is the crux of the matter. Do we need a “Z” type WR, if we are a Run-1st Offense?..or…can we use the WRs that we have and get Zeke more involved in the passing game?
    Adding it up – G – 2LBs – DT – FS – RB – that’s 6 picks and use the rest to move up in the middle rounds or get future rounds.

    • John Williams

      Thatnks a lot. I think we can get to LB’s between the 3rd and fourth rounds who could come in and contribute on a rotational basis right away.

Dallas Cowboys

REPORT: Cowboys DL David Irving’s Accuser Retracts Claims Of Domestic Violence

Kevin Brady

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David Irving

After what was a rather crazy day which resulted in reports the Frisco Police Department were investigating Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving for domestic violence, the accuser has now retracted her claims.

https://twitter.com/DCBlueStar/status/988527577915674624

This retraction comes after the mentioned reports of domestic violence claims against David Irving earlier in the day. Irving was neither arrested nor charged for the incidents, though two separate allegations were made.

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms allegations made against Cowboys player David Irving were reported on April 22nd. At two separate times: 5pm & 10pm. Allegations made by girlfriend @wfaa

Irving has claimed through his own social media account that his accuser is an ex-girlfriend looking for retaliation over a breakup. Irving has already said he has changed the locks on his house in attempt to change behavior moving forward.

Whether or not Irving abused his reported ex-girlfriend is not for me to say, but it will be interesting to see how Roger Goodell handles the matter after she retracted her claims later in the day. As we know very well, the NFL can claim violation of the personal conduct policy even if the justice system pursues no charges.

And the results of both the Frisco PD's investigation and that of the league office will be intriguing over the coming weeks and months.


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REPORT: Cowboys DE/DT David Irving Suspected of Domestic Violence

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

[4/24/18 UPDATE: Irving's accuser has since recanted with police. However, the NFL could still investigate under their domestic violence policy.]

ORIGINAL STORY

Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving is under investigation by Frisco, TX police for charges of domestic violence, according to a report by Jobin Panicker of WFAA-ABC in Dallas.

The following was tweeted from Panicker's account not long ago:

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms it is investigating serious allegations against Cowboys player David Irving. No arrests. Assault-Bodily Injury, Unlawful Restraint, & Assault-Impeding Breath and Circulation @wfaa

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms allegations made against Cowboys player David Irving were reported on April 22nd. At two separate times: 5pm & 10pm. Allegations made by girlfriend @wfaa

The veracity of the accusations are certainly not ours to judge, but other recent events on Irving's social suggest he is in the middle of a breakup with his girlfriend. Posts early this morning on his Twitter account appeared to be from an unauthorized user, and David later posted on both Twitter and Instagram that someone had hacked him.

Furthermore, Irving shared that he was already taking steps due to the volatile situation.

David Ja Rodd Irving on Twitter

@DCBlueStar Changed the locks yesterday

While personal lives should stay that way, Cowboys fans are understandably concerned after what happened last year with Ezekiel Elliott. As we saw then, Roger Goodell's "justice" system allows for just an accusation to lead to a suspension. There is no burden of proof on the accuser.

And as in that case, even if the police dismiss the allegation, the NFL can still pursue the matter under the personal conduct and domestic violence policies.

It would be nice to just say "let the process play out," but the NFL commissioner doesn't hold himself to that standard. Therefore, we have to report this as it could mean consequences for David Irving and the Dallas Cowboys no matter how legitimate the claims are.


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Jaylon Smith Practicing Without AFO Brace

John Williams

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Jaylon Smith Voted Cowboys' Ed Block Courage Award Winner 1

A lot of the talk circling the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL Draft is the need for the Cowboys to draft a linebacker as insurance to Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith's injury issues.

One of the questions, Sean Lee, will always be a question. When he's on the field, he's as good a linebacker as there is in the NFL. In 2016, he finally got in a near full season and rewarded the Dallas Cowboys with an All-Pro season that led the team to the playoffs. Talent has never been the issue with Lee. Keeping him on the field has been.

Jaylon Smith's question isn't his health as much as it is his recovery. The surgery to repair his ACL and MCL that he suffered at the end of his final season at Notre Dame was considered a success. There was a caveat, however, that there was no telling how much functionality would return because of the massive nerve injury that occurred.

Last year, Jaylon Smith actually played football games. No small step. In some games he made some plays and in other games, it was clear that he was still struggling with changing directions and running with receivers and running backs in coverage.

Time is Jaylon's biggest ally and another offseason removed from his injury should only help him get stronger and more confident in his recovering knee.

Lost in all of the Dez Bryant hoopla was a beautiful little nugget that Jaylon Smith teased Cowboys Nation with last week.

Jaylon provided a great look at his training regimen on the first day of team workouts and if you look closely, you'll see with a Clear Eye View that Jaylon Smith isn't wearing a brace, tape, or any other kind of support. On his knee or foot.

Jaylon Smith on Twitter

Focused vision, Determined belief, Earned dreams. #ClearEyeView

Remember that even after Jaylon was playing and practicing without a knee brace, he was still requiring an AFO brace to help with his foot drop.

Oh, how much one offseason can change things.

Mike Fisher, now of 247Sports.com, quoted Smith as saying, "I have more power and more flexibility now. And the dropfoot (issue) is fading. Absolutely!'' over on Scout.com, and there was this:

"As our colleague Bryan Broaddus has previously noted, it does seem that some of the testing is behind him, that the nerve is regenerating, that the repaired knee is stronger than ever and that more improvement is ahead of him. Smith's 6-2, 245-pound body is about as sculpted as is imaginable. His mind is sculpted, too, the result of his faith and his intellect and his personality and more. He suggests now that more improvement is inevitable, and that includes the medical improvement that is now, to him, simply "a matter of timing.'''

Mike Fisher - 105.3 The Fan and 247Sports.com

There is still a lot of hope around The Star and Cowboys Nation that Jaylon Smith can return to the All-American form that was projecting him as a top-five talent in the 2016 NFL Draft. If he's healthy and moving with better lateral movement and agility than he was in 2017, that's a huge step forward for Jaylon Smith and the Dallas Cowboys.

The progression of his knee and his confidence in said knee is going to be a huge determining factor in Dallas' plans to draft a linebacker. If they feel confident that he will be a more functional linebacker in 2018 than he was in 2017, then perhaps they could wait until day two or three to address the linebacker position.

We can't fully know their intentions as we get closer to draft day. How they address the linebacker position in the 2018 NFL Draft could give us an excellent indication of how they feel about Jaylon Smith's progression.

What we do know is that Jaylon Smith will never give up working toward being an elite middle linebacker. Let's hope he can realize his dreams. Everyone will be better for it.


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