Every offseason, every team turns over a portion of their roster through free agency and the draft. The Dallas Cowboys have already experienced some of that turnover as they said good-bye to players that had been on the roster for years in Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. David Irving was allowed to walk into free agency. There have been several additions to the roster to replace those guys, and with the NFL Draft coming, the Cowboys will continue to build the roster.
Each offseason, I like to take a look at which players are already a lock for the week one 53-man roster. In year's past, I've found that about 38-42 of the 53-man roster are spoken for before the team ever takes the practice field. This year I've got 39 players already locked into the 2019 53-man roster.
Obviously we can't account for injuries that can occur during the offseason training activities, minicamps, training camp, or preseason games.
At this point, Dak Prescott is the only quarterback locked into their roster spot. The team likes Mike White and Cooper Rush and both will probably make the final 53-man roster as the team heads into week one. However, depending on how the roster has to be constructed, it's possible the Cowboys only carry two quarterbacks into the regular season.
How he offseason and training camp goes will decide how many and which quarterback the Cowboys will keep heading into the regular season.
Running Back (2)
If there's a severe hole on the offensive side of the ball at the moment, it's at running back behind All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott.
If the Cowboys have plans on extending Elliott to a long-term contract, then they'll have to figure out a way to make sure Elliott's not getting 25-30 touches a game. At the same time, they need to find a running back who can be effective with 5-10 touches a game.
Darius Jackson is an option at running back for the Cowboys, but there are players in this draft that can help them this year and in the future. In particular, Rodney Anderson or Justice Hill or really good options for the Cowboys in the fourth round or later.
Wide Receiver (4)
The Cowboys have a lot of depth at wide receiver heading into the draft, but outside of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb, there really isn't a lock on the 53-man roster. Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson will all make a case for the roster, but depending on what they do in the draft, one or two of these guys could be off the roster.
Tavon Austin's role will be determined by how much they decide to use him in the return game. In 2018, the coaching staff seemed reluctant to give him 100% of the opportunities to return punts. The Cowboys don't run a ton of 10-personnel, so seeing four wide receivers on the field will be a rarity. Austin will need to make his mark on special teams to call for a roster spot for 2019.
Allen Hurns is only on the roster bubble because the Cowboys can get some cap relief by releasing him. If they don't take a wide receiver in the draft, Hurns will be on the roster. He's a solid depth piece on the outside and in the slot.
Noah Brown is a valuable piece because of his blocking ability in the run game and play on special teams. While Brown does have two years left on his rookie deal, he'll have to make some strides this offseason to be seen as more than just a blocking wide receiver and opportunities will be limited.
Cedric Wilson is everyone's 2018 pet cat, but a season-ending injury and the depth that they have on the wide receiver depth chart could prevent Wilson from gaining a foothold on the roster.
Tight End (3)
The only question at tight end this year is going to be whether they draft a player to add to the depth chart. Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz will make the 53 this year. Rico Gathers is still trying to find his way in the NFL and if the Cowboys draft one, it clouds his status on the roster.
This is a great draft for a team that needs a tight end. There are quality players that can be found in the first five rounds of the draft that can add some depth for the Dallas Cowboys.
Even if they don't draft a tight end, they still have a solid group that the Cowboys can win with. With Jason Witten in the fold for 2019,
Offensive Tackle (3)
The signing of Cameron Fleming to be the team's swing tackle for 2019 is one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. With Tyron Smith missing time each of the last three seasons, Fleming may need to play a role this season for the Cowboys to compete for another NFC East division title.
Look for the Dallas Cowboys to draft a player at some point to come in and compete with Fleming for snaps as the swing tackle. La'el Collins' contract expires at the end of the 2019 season so they could use someone to replace Collins in 2020.
I've seen some talk that there will be a competition between Connor Williams and Xavier Su'a Filo at left guard. That may be true. The Dallas Cowboys love to create competition, especially for their younger guys. However, the Cowboys want Williams to win the job. He'll get every opportunity to win the job in the offseason and in training camp.
Connor Williams struggled with strength in the first half of the season, but over the second half played better. Against Aaron Donald in the game against the Rams, Williams was able to control him fairly well. Williams is on an upward trajectory and should be your starting guard when the Cowboys kick off the regular season.
The question is going to be, how many guards do they carry on the 53? With Joe Looney's ability to flex over to guard in a pinch, he gives you the ability to go lighter at guard to carry an extra player at another position on the 53.
Of all the things that happened this offseason, including trading for Robert Quinn, getting Travis Frederick back is the most important addition from the 2018 season.
Joe Looney was good in 2018 and was a big reason the Dallas Cowboys were able to make the playoffs. As we saw in 2017, when the Cowboys were without one of their All-Pro players at another position along the offensive line, there are big drop offs from your starters to their replacements. From Frederick to Looney, there was a drop off, but he was good enough for Ezekiel Elliott to lead the league in rushing after playing only 15 games.
If Frederick is back, then Looney will be the backup. If not, then having Looney around for another season helps with the offensive line continuity.
Defensive End (4)
If there's a part of the depth chart that is pretty well settled at this point, it's the defensive end position. DeMarcus Lawrence got his pay-day and after surgery will step in at left defensive end. Robert Quinn, who the Cowboys are paying at least $8 million to in 2019 will be the right defensive end. Taco Charlton hasn't shown much in his career to this point, but the Cowboys don't have to make a decision on him until 2020 offseason when they have to decide on his fifth year option.
Dorance Armstrong had a really good preseason in 2018, but didn't really show much in his rookie year, but he has some very interesting skills that could help you at either defensive end spot.
With Quinn's contract only for one season at this point, it's not unreasonable to expect the Dallas Cowboys to draft a player to prepare for snaps at defensive end in 2020.
And that takes us to the biggest wild card, Randy Gregory. Currently expected to serve an indefinite suspension for violating the terms of the substance abuse policy, there is some optimism out there that Gregory could be around for 2019. But banking on Gregory for anything this season is likely a fool's errand. The Dallas Cowboys extended his contract to cover 2020, so the Cowboys are still hoping for big things from their 2015 second round pick. At this point however, he's anything but a lock to make the week one 53-man roster.
Defensive Tackle (3)
The Dallas Cowboys interior played well for the most part in 2018. There were only two games where they got beat up on the interior. The Indianapolis Colts game and the Los Angeles Rams game in the playoffs. They came at poor times in the season and that's why we're seeing the Dallas Cowboys look into the 2019 defensive tackle class.
Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins need some help on the interior in the defensive tackle rotation and that's why the Cowboys brought in Christian Covington who played defensive end in the Texans' 3-4 scheme. He projects as a 1-technique defensive tackle for the Cowboys, but could get some snaps as the 3-tech as well.
This draft class is deep in potential 3-tech defensive tackles in the second and third round, but given that it's also deep at wide receiver and tight end in the top 100, the Cowboys will have some decisions to make.
With these three and Tyrone Crawford and Kerry Hyder, the Cowboys have a nice group of guys who can play on the interior. They don't have to draft anyone.
Hybrid Defensive Lineman (2)
I know this isn't really a position, but with how these two guys have played, it's hard to categorize either as an end or tackle. We know that Tyrone Crawford has been solid for the Dallas Cowboys at both defensive end and defensive tackle. He's averaged five sacks per 16 games over the last five years. He's not a great player, but he's a player you need to have to win football games. A player that plays the run well and can make plays in the passing game.
Kerry Hyder is a really interesting player. In 2016, he had eight sacks before tearing his achilles in 2017. In 2018, Matt Patricia decided to play him at nose tackle in the Detroit Lions 3-4 scheme. Pro Football Reference has him listed at 270 pounds. Remember when we though Jay Ratliff was too small to play the nose at 290 pounds.
Hyder will likely get snaps at both defensive end behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn as well as some 3-tech snaps Maliek Collins and rotating with Tyrone Crawford.
Leighton Vander Esch
With the somewhat surprising return of Sean Lee, the Dallas Cowboys top four linebackers for 2019 is set in stone. Obviously injuries could change this, but if everyone's healthy, this is the group I'd expect to see leading the Cowboys in snaps for the 2019 season.
Joe Thomas is a valuable backup at WILL and MIKE linebacker and a good special teams player.
If there's a spot that there's a weakness, it's at the SAM or strong side linebacker position. Damien Wilson's departure for Kansas City leaves a bit of a hole there. Yes, he was bad in pass coverage, but he was a good run defender and blitzer during his time with the Cowboys. Those snaps need to be filled by someone. Perhaps this offseason, the Cowboys figure out a way to get Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee on the field at the same time.
They'll probably draft someone, because the Cowboys love to draft linebackers. Look for Chris Covington and Justin March-Lillard to compete for the fifth and sixth linebacker spots.
The only reason you don't see Jourdan Lewis' name out there is because he doesn't seem to have a home with Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard. Lewis is a veteran player that could become a trade asset during or after the draft if the Cowboys find someone willing to pay for their fourth corner. If he isn't traded, he'll definitely be on the roster fighting for a role.
Byron Jones had a nice first half of the season in 2018, but had some struggles at the end of the season. Chidobe Awuzie flipped the script on a struggling first half of the 2018 season and finished strong in the second half. Anthony Brown was solid throughout and continues to keep the more talented Jourdan Lewis at bay with his work in the slot.
It's possible the Cowboys draft a player at Corner with Brown coming free after the 2019 season, but they could also go into 2019 with this group and play very well.
Xavier Woods is going to be one of your starting safeties. George Iloka, Jeff Heath, and Kavon Frazier are each a solid rotational player. They bring a lot of value to your special teams unit. The thing that could upset the apple cart here is if the Dallas Cowboys spend a top 100 pick on the safety position.
They have plans to bring in several safeties for visits before the draft, which means they will probably draft one in the top 100.
Special Teams (1)
Afte the 2018 seasons they had, I don't think it's a guarantee that Brett Maher and Chris Jones are the kicker and punter for the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. Both players had good moments and bad moments for the Cowboys last season, so it wouldn't shock me to see them bring in some competition to push these guys for their roster spot.
L.P. Ladouceur, however, is as much of a guarantee as DeMarcus Lawrence is at this point. As long as he wants to play and he's healthy, the Dallas Cowboys are going to keep bringing him back. Nobody ever notices the long snapper until something goes wrong. When was the last time you noticed L.P. Ladouceur?
2019 Dallas Cowboys the Best Roster of the Jason Garrett Era
It's still very early in the evaluative process for the Dallas Cowboys' coaches and scouts, but all things point to this being the best roster during Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach. The 2014 and 2016 teams had the best finishes of the Garrett era, but on paper, this 2019 roster looks like a team that can contend for a Super Bowl with few glaring weaknesses on offense or defense.
It may be a stretch to suggest that this team is better than the 2014 Cowboys that went 12-4 or 2016 team that went 13-3. Both of those teams were a couple of plays away from heading to the NFC Championship. However, those team had holes and weren't nearly as deep as this 2019 squad appears to be. Neither team fielded a defense as good as the players the Cowboys will put on the field in week one.
In 2014, the offense was one of the best in the NFL, scoring the fifth most points at 29.18 points per game. They were seventh in total yards. Tony Romo had the best season of his career while DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing. Dez Bryant was prime Dez Bryant catching 16 touchdowns and averaging 15 yards per reception. And Jason Witten was still a great player for the Cowboys averaging more than 10 yards per reception. In his most recent seasons of 2016 and 2017, Witten's seen that number dip below 10 yards per reception.
2014 was the first season we saw the combination of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin on the field together and it provided a glimpse of what an elite offensive line could look like. Doug Free at right tackle and Ronald Leary at left guard were no slouches either. Though they didn't get as much positive publicity as the rest of their offensive linemates, they were effective in their own right and were a big part of the reason why DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo were able to have the seasons they had.
At wide receiver, the Cowboys are better than they were in 2014 or 2016. In 2014, it was Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, and Devin Street. In 2016, the wide receiver group consisted of Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Lucky Whitehead, and Brice Butler. Heading into 2019, the Cowboys look to have one of the deeper wide receiver groups in the NFL featuring Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Three of the six wide receivers projected to make the roster have at least one 1,000 yard receiving season under their belt. Tavon Austin is as dynamic a player as you'll find if he can stay healthy and Michael Gallup and Noah Brown are young, but ascending players in the NFL.
In 2016, the NFL was taken over by the Dallas Cowboys rookies phenoms. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were the leaders on an offense that was led by Cole Beasley at wide receiver. Back in 2016, the Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott led Dallas Cowboys finished fifth in the NFL in points and yardage. Though Dez Bryant was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in 2014, he was a shell of himself in 2016. Bryant dealt with injuries during the season and was missing during the Cowboys biggest regular season win at the Green Bay Packers. Neither group had the depth that the 2019 team takes to Oxnard.
As good as that offense was, the 2019 group is going to be better. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are going into their fourth year in the NFL and are better players now than when they were rookies. Not only are they better, but they have better skill position players than the 2016 team did, which should help take pressure off of Ezekiel Elliott and the running game and make it easier for Dak Prescott to find success.
With a fresh perspective from Kellen Moore and some fine tuning of Prescott's footwork, this offense should be just as good as the 2014 and 2016 offenses.
The offenses in 2014 and 2016 stole the show for the Dallas Cowboys. The defenses, on the other hand, got by without much in the way of talent.
In Rod Marinelli's first season as the defensive coordinator, the Cowboys largely got by with their bend don't break defense. They were a defense that was good enough and was largely carried by their offense throughout the season. 2016 wasn't much different.
The 2014 or 2016 Dallas Cowboys didn't have elite pass rushers like DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn bookending the defensive line. If you recall, Jeremy Mincey led the team with six sacks that season before DeMarcus Lawrence came on strong in the playoffs against Detroit and Green Bay. Henry Melton was second on the team with five sacks. In 2016, Benson Mayowa led the Dallas Cowboys with six sacks and second on the team was Maliek Collins with five sacks. For perspective, in 2018, Lawrence had 10.5 sacks and Randy Gregory had six sacks.
The 2019 Dallas Cowboys boast six players who've had at least five sacks in a season in Lawrence, Quinn, Gregory, Kerry Hyder, Tyrone Crawford, and Maliek Collins. The Cowboys go two-deep along the defensive line with legit pressure players at every position.
Rolando McClain and Anthony Hitchens were the leaders at the linebacker position for the Cowboys. McClain was excellent in the 13 games he played for Dallas. In 2016, Sean Lee had an outstanding season, which culminated in a First Team All-Pro selection and Anthony Hitchens was good. However, as a unit, neither 2014 or 2016 had as much talent as the 2019 Dallas Cowboys do at linebacker with Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, and Joe Thomas. There isn't a better 4-3 linebacker group in the NFL than what the Dallas Cowboys are rolling out there in 2019.
At defensive back, the Cowboys were rolling out Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, and Sterling Moore as their starting nickel group. I'd easily take Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Xavier Woods, and Jeff Heath. Throw in Jourdan Lewis and the Cowboys probably have the best four-deep cornerback group in the NFL. Even if you aren't a big fan of Jeff Heath at strong safety, he's still a better option than J.J. Wilcox was in that 2014 season. George Iloka and Donovan Wilson provide significantly better depth than the 2014 or 2016 groups at defensive back.
Think about the roster as a whole. They have a perceived weakness at starting strong safety with Jeff Heath, but they were able to make the playoffs with Jeff Heath and the defense was one of the best in the NFL in 2018. The defense in 2019 should finish in the top five in scoring and yards against. They're going to be a disruptive group that constantly puts pressure on the quarterback and if they're able to create turnovers, they'll be the best unit in the NFL.
As much as we fight against it, this Dallas Cowboys roster heading into 2019, is the best they've had since 2011. The defense is definitely better going into 2019 than they were in 2014 or 2016 and the offense has a chance to be just as good as those two successful seasons.
On paper, they're a team ready to contend for a Super Bowl. After not making an NFC Championship game since 1996, the time has come for the Dallas Cowboys to turn all the hype into results. No matter how hard I try to manage expectations for the 2019 season, I can't help but think that this iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is on the verge of greatness.
Michael Gallup is Primed for Breakout Sophomore Season
Heading into the 2018 season the Dallas Cowboys had big questions at the wide receiver position with the departure of Dez Bryant. They elected not to go for the flashy names like Maryland's D.J. Moore or Alabama's Calvin Ridley, but instead took Colorado State Wide Receiver, Michael Gallup 81st overall.
Even without the hype of other bigger named receivers coming out of college, Gallup's resume was enough to impress Head Coach Jason Garrett. "There's a lot to like about him. He's big, he's athletic, he plays the game the right way. He's been a productive player for them, doing a lot of different kinds of things. We feel like he has real upside, too. A lot of qualities that you want in a young receiver, in a developmental receiver. But a lot of production, too. He had opportunities there and took advantage of them throughout his career," Garrett said.
Once the season started, however, it was apparent that it would take some time to build the chemistry and trust with Quarterback Dak Prescott. The lack of a true number one receiver wasn't doing the first talent any favors as he tried to figure out his role on the team. Gallup would be targeted just 15 times in the first 5 games, only registering 6 receptions. But fortunately for the newbie, help was on the way.
During the team's bye week in October, they acquired Amari Cooper from the Raiders in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, and it worked wonders for Gallup and his development. Weeks 11 through 14 saw him targetted 27 times. This was significant considering the Cowboys were in the midst of a 5-game winning streak after a 3-5 start. Prescott's trust and belief in Gallup were starting to come together as the team made a run at the NFC East crown and a playoff berth.
He would finish with 33 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. Once the postseason rolled around Gallup had firmly established himself as the team's second option behind Amari Cooper.
Gallup would make his first playoff start in the divisional round against the Rams in Los Angeles. Although the Cowboys season wouldn't survive this contest, one of the positives was the play of the first year pass catcher. He finished with 6 receptions for 119 yards, and a tidal wave of momentum heading into 2019.
There's a major change coming to the Cowboys offensive philosophy this season, thanks to newly promoted Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. The new puppet master of the offense has made it clear he's open to listening to suggestions from the players and staff on what they feel will take the offense into another orbit. "At the end of the day, work together with everyone. I think that includes the coaching staff, obviously coach Garrett and the rest of his staff. I think you also got to get some input from the players. It doesn't mean you have to go down those roads all the time, but I think it's important that when a player believes in something and they're pretty convinced on it, usually they find a way to make it work," Kellen Moore said.
With a season already under his belt with Prescott, and an open-minded first-year offensive coordinator willing to abandon the prehistoric ways of the Scott Linehan era, Gallup's development will only improve with each snap.
Unlike the beginning of his rookie season, Michael Gallup knows exactly what his role with the Cowboys is going forward. Amari Cooper is the main option, and with him drawing double teams regularly, the opportunities for Gallup to have a major impact in year two are endless. Not to mention, the added addition of Randall Cobb to the Cowboys passing game just made life even easier for him. Now teams not only have to roll coverage to Cooper, but the threat of Cobb in the slot creates a lot of one-on-ones on the outside for Gallup.
The size, speed, and athleticism are all there for this young man. Now, with a more innovative offensive scheme coming into play, and growing trust between himself and Dak Prescott, the 2019 season is shaping up to make Michael Gallup a household name.
Cowboys Late-Round Rookies Will Struggle to Make 2019 Roster
Being picked in the later rounds of the NFL Draft is no guarantee of a roster spot, but the Dallas Cowboys have had a good run lately of finding talent on Day 3. For this 2019 class, however, even talent may not be enough. The success of past drafts has loaded the roster and will make it hard for this year's late-round rookies to get through final cuts.
Starting with CB Michael Jackson and DE Joe Jackson in the fifth round, these newcomers may be hoping just to make the practice squad in 2019. The group includes S Donovan Wilson, RB Mike Weber, and DE Jalen Jelks.
Over the past few years, Dallas has found some significant contributors with their Day 3 draftees. Safety Xavier Woods and CB Anthony Brown, both 6th-round picks, should have major roles in the secondary this year. Geoff Swaim, a former 7th-rounder, was the starting TE last year before suffering an injury.
Another 6th-round Safety, Kavon Frazier, has been a solid reserve and special teamer for three seasons. RB Darius Jackson and TE Rico Gathers are also still here from that 2016 draft and competing for jobs. So is WR Noah Brown, a 2017 7th-round pick.
But also with these successes have come plenty of failed picks.
Going back to just 2017, only Brown and Woods remain from the five players drafted in those last two rounds. CB Marquez White and DTs Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell didn't last long, and only Ivie remains in the NFL (Kansas City) at this time.
This new crop of 2019 rookies has an even taller order than those past draft classes. They're up against the good picks from recent years, who still have youth and cheap contracts but also a few years of valuable experience. It's the best of both worlds for the Cowboys, but a daunting hurdle for this year's rookies to get over.
Of the players drafted in the 5th-7th rounds in 2019, RB Mike Weber has the best shot at making the 53-man roster. The Cowboys didn't keep Rod Smith or sign any other veterans to back up Ezekiel Elliott, creating open competition throughout the remainder of the depth chart.
One spot will go to 4th-round rookie Tony Pollard, who should at least be a gadget player and return specialist if not the primary backup. But Weber has a good chance of being the third man, competing with similarly inexperienced players like Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn.
The key for Weber may simply be staying healthy. Injuries were an issue for him in college and he already had his first professional scare with a knee injury during mini-camp, which thankfully came back benign. However, more missed time could have Dallas looking for a more reliable option.
One scenario which could hurt Weber's chances is the possibility that the Cowboys keep just Elliott and Pollard on the 53, then utilize fullback Jamize Olawale as an emergency third RB. With his proven offensive skills from the Raiders, Olawale could get them through a game in a pinch. Zeke's durability makes this an acceptable risk.
If that happens, Weber, Jackson, or Chunn will be hoping to stick around on the practice squad and be ready in case of an injury. It would still be a positive outcome for a 7th-round pick like Weber, but it's not the same as making the official roster.
The player with the next-best odds of making the team this year is Safety Donovan Wilson, who many considered a steal in the sixth round. With Kavon Frazier entering the final year of his rookie deal, Dallas might be willing to cut him loose and go with the younger player with a fresh, new four-year contract.
But even if the Cowboys like Wilson over Frazier, he's also got to worry about Darian Thompson. Taken in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft by the Giants, Thompson may have higher upside and has already been getting work in practice before Frazier, Wilson, or other safety prospects.
The situation is even worse for other rookies.
Michael Jackson has to hope that the Cowboys either keep more than four cornerbacks, which they didn't last year, or that Jourdan Lewis gets traded. He also has to worry about Donovan Olumba, who nearly made the team last year and is back with a season of practice squad experience.
Joe Jackson is also feeling a number crunch at defensive end, as is 7th-round pick Jalen Jelks. The Cowboys have loaded up at DE this year, adding veteran Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder to the returning cast of DeMarcus Lawrence, Taco Charlton, and Dorance Armstrong. There's also Randy Gregory still floating around out there, hoping for reinstatement before the season begins.
One idea I've seen floated is that Jelks could get converted to strong-side linebacker, in the mold of former Dallas roleplayer Kyle Wilber (credit to @KDDrummondNFL). This would make a lot of sense given Jelks' physical makeup and the opportunity at LB, where he'd be competing with Chris Covington for the sixth roster spot.
~ ~ ~
All of these players will have an opportunity. They weren't drafted for nothing; Dallas will inherently root for them after investing picks to acquire them. But a spot with this team, or even in the league, is far from guaranteed for any late-round rookies.
Will someone from this group emerge as the next Xavier Woods? Or will they join the many who spent only one or two offseasons with the team and then quickly faded from memory?
Every year's rookies face this question, but this 2019 group will have a harder time than most of avoiding the discard pile.
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